It startled me at first. There I was, minding my own business, when someone else’s business looked me directly in the eye. There she was, the most beautiful West Highland Terrier I’d ever seen, all dressed up. Literally. She was walking down the street in a dress that matched her collar that matched her scarf that matched her visor. Yes, you read that right. She was wearing a visor obviously made special for a small dog, as it had teeny tiny holes for her ears to peak through. Our eyes met and she radiated this powerful positive energy that led me to believe she was incredibly happy to be waltzing down Antoine Avenue covered in matching pink fabrics.
It didn’t make any sense to me at all. I guess it would be plausible for a dog to wear clothes to keep warm, but it was a beautiful 70 degree day. There is no need for extra layers upon an already warm fur coat. But I don’t think it was a coincidence that I happened to be living with Tiger (the black lab) and his litter of puppies. They took me in as part of the family after I misjudged Tiger as the big, bad dog in the neighborhood. (When in reality, he was gruff and pushy because he was a single dad trying to provide for his family).
I learned a thing or two about the judgment trap from my experience with Tiger. First impressions aren’t all they are cracked up to be. Its never fair to judge a book by its cover. So why would it be fair to judge a dog by its clothes? Fashion is an art form, and no form of self expression should be off-limits for us canines. (Or our people for that matter).
I say this now, as the proud owner of a small assortment of doggie sweaters, T-shirts, and turtlenecks. I occasionally sport a timepiece people call a watch. I even have a classy blue Body Glove swimsuit top should I ever feel the need to don it. I say this as a dog who now feels naked without my collar, lost without my identity. I say this as a believer in all things artistic. All things joyful. All things alive.
Next to my collar, my favorite animal accessory is my green scarf. It was a gift from my dog groomer Mary, who gave it to me at about the same time I started this blog. It’s threadbare, dirty, and falling apart so mom doesn’t let me wear it anymore. But it wears itself on my heart. Symbolically speaking, green is a color of renewal. Rebirth. Life.
I get it now. It’s not about matching pink outfits or visors with holes for doggie ears to poke through. It’s not about how many collars you have or whether you have that sweater in enough color variations. Sweaters, T-shirts, and timepieces aside, a the art of self-expression never goes out of style. “Fashion fades,” as fashion icon Coco Chanel put it, “only style remains the same.”
To read the story of how I met and befriended Tiger: http://wileyschmidt.com/2013/03/14/forget-first-impressions/