“No pooping,” a middle-aged women tells her Pomeranian as she parades into the ballroom of the King Edward Hotel to the tune of Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family.” Behind her, a succession of dogs dressed up as Elvis, Diana Ross, Marilyn Monroe, and more follow. It’s the annual kick-off event for Woofstock, North America’s largest festival for dogs and dog owners. The theme is “Doggie Doggelganger [sic] Celebrity Look-Alike High Tea,” and accordingly, a few dozen dog owners have dolled-up their pooches to look like their favourite celebs. And just like backstage at any other decent celebrity shindig, the guests of honour spend most of the time either growling at or licking one another.
Since 2003, Woofstock has invited man and their best friends to the St. Lawrence Market area for two days of dog fashion shows, walk-a-thons, dog trick contests, and more. “There isn’t anything like this in the U.S.,” Woofstock founder and organizer Marlene Cook says of the event. “It’s for the household dog. Almost 40% of households in the U.S.—and Canada’s getting up there—have dogs. And they love their dogs like crazy.”
The love was apparent on Sunday, as pups were treated to gourmet dog treats and bowls of “tea” (actually beef broth) dished out by the King Edward’s hotel staff. All the half-surreal, half-despairing doggie dress-up wasn’t just for the sake of a photo-op (though plenty of, er, “pup-arazzi” were in attendance). In addition to kicking off next weekend’s Woofstock, the fashion show served as a fundraiser for the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund for Pets, an initiative that sets up shelters for pets should natural disaster strike.
Some owners assumed their dogs were celebrities in their own right, and didn’t dress them up as anything in particular.
The main attraction of the event was a doggie fashion show, hosted by Canada’s top Marilyn Monroe impersonator (obviously). Dogs dolled up like Bob Marley, Nicole Kidman, Liza Minnelli, Michael Jackson, Beyoncé (accompanied by her owner, wearing a custom t-shirt that read “All the single doggies”), Minnie Mouse, and more, took the stage for their fifteen seconds of fame. A doting house-husband in a tuxedo hauled out a miniature piano for a small dog dressed as Billy Joel who, tragically, left the stage just before “Uptown Girl” began playing over the ballroom speakers.
As far as Torontoist is concerned, best in show was a West Highland white terrier made up like Lady Gaga. How does one dress their dog up to look like Lady Gaga? Easy. Just wrap it in a garbage bag, string some Christmas lights around it, and plop a blonde wig on its head. Boom! It’d take the entire writing staff of SNL as well as the combined powers of the editorial boards at The Onion, Cracked, and Crazy to come up with a better way to caricature Gaga fittingly.
Gaga Pup’s charms were not entirely lost on the attendees, either. He—yes, the Gaga dog is a male, “Just like Gaga,” quipped the proud owner—made it to the final round of the doggie fashion show, accompanied by an Elvis, a Paris Hilton, and a dog dressed up as, according to the owner, “the princess from Avatar.” (One of the funnier parts of the event was faux-Marilyn consistently referring to this blue-clad pooch simply as “Avatar,” as if the dog were dressed as the movie itself.) In the end, Elvis won, sending others packing with their tail between their respective legs. “Marilyn” then regaled the winning pup with a faithful rendition of “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend,” responding to the wishes of everyone in the room who had unknowingly yearned to see a Marilyn Monroe impersonator serenade a dog dressed like Elvis. Weird.
Woofstock takes place next weekend, June 12 and 13, across the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood. Check out their website for more info.
Photos by Miles Storey/Torontoist.