1. I will help any animal in need regardless of breed or species, and
2. People shouldn’t dress their dogs up in people clothes.
I never fathomed that these two ideals would be at odds with one another. And then last Halloween happened.
I took a moratorium on fostering when Tucker joined my life so we could spend time building our relationship. I don’t regret that decision in the least, but as I was coming up on one year without being a part of the rescue community, it was starting to really eat away at me. The only way I contributed was by attending dog-centric fundraising events with Tucker. I enjoyed those a lot, as did Tucker, but it didn’t feel like I was doing enough.
Last October, in my search for something for Tucker and I to do one weekend, I found Pet Orphans of Southern California was having a Halloween party in which you could bring your dog, but dog costumes were mandatory.
I don’t like dressing myself up let alone a dog in costume. But it was for a good cause and maybe Tucker would enjoy himself. Holding as close as I could to my standard of not dressing up dogs in clothes, I put together a costume for Tucker that was accessories only: a hat, a scarf, and a pair of glasses--Where’s Waldo.
It turned out better than expected, and Tucker didn’t seem to mind wearing the items—especially since he got lots of chicken for doing so.
I sent this photo to my friend Carolina in San Francisco, whose beagles wear hoodies on a regular basis. (She and I differ on our stance about canine fashion.)
I had no doubt that there was a market for a calendar featuring a pit bull dressed up as classic literary characters. That night at a human Halloween party, I showed my friend Amy who had done Tucker’s glamour shots a year earlier (back when I was under the delusion of just fostering him) the Waldo photo and asked if she would take the photos for the literary calendar. She was totally in.
And then she added another level to it.
Her Chihuahua/Jack Russell, Odie, enjoyed playing with Tucker, and what if the two of them were in some of the shots together? As my friend Ben said, “My guess is any photo of a pit bull and a chihuahua together where the pit bull isn’t eating the little dog is excellent publicity.”
And so began making into reality a simple yet brilliant idea first expressed in a text message. Keeping the literature to public domain only for legal purposes, Carolina, Amy, and I came up with a over a dozen options. I then set to work producing the scenes. After fifteen years in Hollywood, the first thing major I produced isn’t a movie, but twelve photo shoots that involve dogs in costumes. Not exactly what I expected for my life.
Since we were all volunteering our time, we had zero dollars for the budget. I hunted on craigslist for fabrics and invested in a sewing machine. I was trying to keep most of the costumes to accessories still—capes, hats, scarves. Not only did I feel it stayed more true to my principles, but it stayed true to my crafting abilities. I’m pretty sure my seventh grade Home Ec. teacher would be shocked to know I pulled this off at all.
I failed a number of times, and even gave up on some concepts when they didn’t come out right. I was measuring and making on the fly. Each new cape or jacket or hat took many hours as I made them through trial and error rather than set patterns. Given Tucker’s proportions, even his everyday harness had to be custom made. He wasn’t fitting into any store-bought items. Even the wire-rimmed glasses were hand-made using copper wire. The only real dog accessory product straight out of the box is featured in the Frankenstein layout: Doggles. You can buy these UV-protector glasses for your dog too!
I honestly thought I could get it out for Christmas 2014, but by mid-November reality set in. Despite having all the time in the world since I was unemployed, I didn’t have all the talent and skill in the world. I also was always trying to find free or close-to-free props as much as possible—which meant making them myself or utilizing an old product in a new way.
Carolina offered support from up north with ideas, props, and my favorite contribution: her laughter, which was always a sign that we had hit the mark. Amy and I alone set up the locations and wrangled our stars. In hindsight, it would have been easier to have a third person there, but not only would it have been difficult to find someone to help, as independent women we generally believe we can handle it all ourselves.
The boys were amazing. Shoots with just Tucker were a lot easier since Odie was a distraction for Tucker and while Amy had the lens in her hands, it was up to me to direct their attention.
Since I had broken my principle about dressing up dogs, I set in stone another rule: if anyone at any time stopped having fun, the project would come to an end. If Tucker or Odie no longer considered treats and attention worth putting on poorly-made custom costumes for, then we would stop doing it.
Luckily, morsels of chicken outweighed minutes in silly costumes, so we did all twelve scenes. We only did two or three at each session to not burn them (or us) out. We never pushed the dogs beyond their means, and always let them be in control of breaks and play time. It had to be fun, or it wasn’t worth doing.
It took a whole year—mainly because I had a seven month gig in the middle, but also because I had to make costumes and then arrange times in Amy and my schedule to fit in the photo shoots. Once Amy did her finishing touches on the photos, I laid out the designs, chose the quotes, and hired Patterson Graphics in Burbank to come up with a grid design and manufacture and package the product.
Since Amy is on the Board of the Volunteers of the Burbank Animal Shelter and The Animal Protectorates (TAPS) is the rescue I do 99% of fostering and volunteering for, profits from our Amazon.com sales will be split between the two organizations.
Retail price is $13.50, and I’m wholesaling to non-profit rescues for $5 (the cost to manufacture) so they can make the most amount of profit from it at their holiday events and fundraisers.
Because I chose to professionally manufacture them in bulk rather than do a print on demand from a stand alone website, I could have a lower price, but I had to make quite a few of them. I feel like I signed up to sell too many boxes of Girl Scout Cookies. However, the quality of the finished product far exceeds anything we could have gotten on line. If we sell every single calendar we will raise between $3500 and $8500 for rescues (depending on the price they sell it at and and the venue where people buy it.)
I think that’s worth compromising my morals about canine fashion.
And honestly, although it was a lot of work, it was a lot of fun. I think it shows in the end product, but you be the judge. Here it is, the most ridiculous, hypocritical thing I’ve ever done to help animals:
Since they’re in stock and Fulfilled By Amazon (I’m not shipping them directly), they’re eligible for Amazon Prime and ready to ship today.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, pick up Dog-Eared Classics, and please leave a comment on Amazon to let everyone know what you think. The more comments we have, the better. It’s already been the #1 New Release in Dog Calendars on Amazon; let’s make it the #1 Dog Calendar for the entire holiday season!