We Have a Halloween Pet Costume Problem

Say what you will about the economy, but Americans came up with $350 million to transform our Pomeranians into sillier-looking Pomeranians last year.

Right on cue, I woke up yesterday wondering if I might have a problem. Yes, the signs have been there day in and day out, week after week, month to month. But every year, it’s Halloween that really makes me look around my living room — at the cardboard and spray paint and hot glue guns and industrial-size tub of glitter — and think, “Hm.”

I devoted Sunday to drawing up plans for Murphy’s Halloween costume, and I’ll spend every night this week putting the finishing touches on his top-secret get-up. I’ve set aside one evening for tailoring, one for mobility troubleshooting, and another for rebuilding the portions that Murphy will inevitably maul during his many fit sessions.

Murphy, you see, is a dog. Murphy, unlike myself, has very little interest in what he’s being for Halloween this year or who wins the office costume contest.

The good news — well, for me, anyway — is that I’m not alone. Last Halloween, Americans spent around $350 million on pet costumes. Say what you will about the economy, but somehow we came up with $350 million to transform our Pomeranians into sillier looking Pomeranians for one night. $350 million. That’s a lot of raptor dogs.

But as big as that number is, I suppose it really shouldn’t be a surprise considering the way we treat our animals the rest of the year. Which is to say, not really like animals at all.

Just two generations ago, the Weymouth family’s dogs slept in the barn. Murphy, however, spent last night on a Tempur-Pedic mattress, curled up in organic cotton sheets purchased specifically for his sensitive skin. I realize I’m the weirdo who takes my shih tzu to an acupuncturist, but I’d like to point out that the doggie acupuncturist not only exists, but is quite busy and received a glowing recommendation from the doggie daycare (which also exists and occasionally has a waitlist). How many of us are willing to pay spa prices for grooming? Judging by the fact that I have to book Murph’s appointment a week out, we have issues, Philadelphia.

And it’s not enough that we love our pets — we need other people to love them, too. After L&I swung through my nook of South Philly over the spring, the coffee shop hung an extremely apologetic “No dogs allowed” sign on the door. The convenience store across the street was less adorable about it, but they knew they’d have to at least explain themselves when Fluff-Face, God forbid, wasn’t invited inside. Of course, these signs aren’t much of a deterrent when $30 will get you a “therapy dog” harness. (Am I saying my neighbors are con artists? Not quite. I’m just throwing it out there that if anyone needs therapy, it’s that yappy throw pillow you’re calling a Maltipoo.)

I’m self-aware enough that I’ve looked around the crowded small-breed dog park and wondered what void we’re filling. That when I strap Murph into his car seat, I pause for a second before handing him his favorite chew toy. Is it that modern life is so isolating and uncertain that we look to our pets for comfort and connection? After so many years of consumer Kool-Aid, were the Harry Potter dog costumes inevitable? Or are they simply a symptom of our crippling addiction to Facebook likes and Instagram snuggles?

At some point, I might take a good, hard look at my life and address these questions. In the meantime, I’ve decided to adopt another dog and focus on his Halloween costume instead. Elmer took his “rufferee” outfit for a trial run at a doggie parade over the weekend, and although it needs a little fine-tuning, I think we’re just about there.

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