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Pets on Parade
PETS ON PARADE
Hank would make the perfect Superman. Nikki may be dressed as a cat. Ella's mom isn't planning on celebrating Halloween, but admits to once dressing another of her dogs, a Chihuahua, as a taco.
All around Fresno, dog owners plan to purchase costumes for their dogs for the Halloween holiday, or to participate in one of several store-sponsored costume parties.
Many stores, including Petsmart and Target are cashing in on pet owners' willingness to humanize their pets. Costumes made especially for four-footed friends are popping up on shelves alongside getups for children and adults.
Costumes and clothing are only one portion of what has become a $35.9 billion industry, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association's most recent data. Pet owners spend big bucks on items like pet strollers, designer carriers, crystal-studded collars, luxury bedding and even jewelry for their beloved pets.
Costumes and clothing are the most visible of pet owner expenditures, but owners are also spending large amounts of money keeping their pets well-fed and well-heeled. Several stores around Fresno are exclusively devoted to supplying pet owners with all they need to keep Fido a happy, healthy and very spoiled member of the family.
PetSmart Inc. is the country's largest specialty pet retailer, with more than 860 stores in the United States and Canada. The company is trying to create a one-stop shopping experience for pet owners. The stores offer food, training, boarding, adoption services, grooming, health clinics, and of course, costumes.
In fact, PetSmart is sponsoring a "Howl-O-Ween" costume contest and photo event on October 24, according to Erik Buck, the Clovis store's general manager.
A customer in line at the PetSmart is asked if her "baby" will be in the contest. Tammy Rizor admits that even though she loves fussing over Ella, her 4-month-old Shih Tzu, who is sporting a pink hair bow, pink collar and matching leash and ID tag, her family doesn't celebrate Halloween.
But, Rizor admits, she has a denim jacket for Ella to wear and she has dressed up her other dogs, including a Chihuahua.
"I dressed him up as a taco. It was too perfect."
Further north, at the upscale Health Mutts store, located at the corner of Perrin and Champlain, Katie Weber is buying a sweatshirt for her mom's dog and a gourmet cannoli treat for her dog, Hank. "Hank just loves these."
When she is asked if Hank will be in the "Halloween Party and Doggy Costume Contest" Health Mutts is sponsoring, Weber excitedly asks when it is.
Hank already has his costume, and he is going to be Superman.
"It just fits his personality. He is a big baby. He is always carrying around blankets in his mouth and dragging them behind him. They look like a cape."
Hank is an American Staffordshire Terrier mix, and was a rescue dog. But the lack of a pedigree doesn't keep Weber from spending money on her beloved pet. "I try not to come here a lot, but I end up here once a month or so."
Weber says she has to be careful. She's a student on a tight budget, but she admits she has purchased sweaters and jackets for Hank to wear in the winter.
"He's an only child."
Down the street at the Dog Park, located inside Woodward Park, Courtney Clague and Tadd Patrick play ball with their dog, Nikki. Nikki is a pit bull/boxer mix who the couple says accompanies them everywhere.
They take Nikki shopping, to get coffee and run errands. They visit the park almost every day so Nikki can exercise. She gets special rides to the pet store to pick out her own presents.
Nikki also owns two cats. "She has kind of adopted them. They are her babies, and she's ours. Absolutely," said Clague.
The couple does not have any children, but plans on marrying and starting a family in three to five years. But until then, Nikki is their "surrogate baby," Clague said.
"She has her own pillow on our bed. She gets whatever she wants. I cook for her sometimes."
As to what Nikki will wear for Halloween, Clague said, "I'm not sure. She was a jester last year…maybe a cat this year since she loves cats, that would be funny, don't you think?"