Photos by Ryan Bradford
What is this life?
Author's note: This article contains numerous, unintelligible sounds. The following are brief explanations about how they sound.
GWHAAAHA: The extreme of when you can't even. This is the sound you make you're so far from even-ing that any less even-ing would mean you're insane.
SUHUP: The sob-like sound of when you can't understand how such beauty can exist in the world.
SKOOAWEE: When you squee so hard you piss a little.
PUEHEW: The sound of when cuteness kills you dead.
There are times when I wish I were a real journalist. During these troubling political times, it seems that solid, hard-hitting reporting is the only thing preserving our collective integrity. More than anything, I want to fix the damage we have done. Even though I cringe whenever the term "The Media" is thrown around by a non-journalist I'll still say that we, The Media, have fucked up during this election cycle, and that our curiosity with Donald Trump has played a big part in his frightening ascent.
But sometimes I just want to write about a dog costume competition. San Diego Art Institute's Howl-O-Ween Dog Costume Contest, to be exact. I'll change the world, like, another day.
Anyone who's familiar with this column knows I'm a card-carrying Cat Person, but having grown up in a household containing no fewer than four dogs at any given moment, my primordial, lizard-brained love for them emerges whenever they're around. I always make it a point to visit dog beach whenever my wife and I go to Coronado, despite feeling like a childless pervert who hangs out by the playground. The fact that I'm going to see some dogs wearing costumes...GWHAAAHA.
Plus, one of the judges is CityBeat Arts Editor Seth Combs, a name that instills more dread than perhaps any other San Diego writer. If you've been in a shitty band, he's made fun of it. He's also pretty much responsible for the acerbic tone that we revel in over here at CB HQ. But he's a straight shooter with a critical eye, which is crucial in a city that chills on politeness.
Based on his notoriety, inviting Seth to judge an adorable dog costume contest might seem like launching a Simon Cowell bomb into a feel-good parade, but Seth is a big ol' softy when it comes to animals, and we spend many hours per week showing each other cat memes.
Judges Seth Combs (center) with Ginger Shulick Porcella (left) and Tess Faulk
I arrive a few minutes before the contest starts. There's a large circle of chairs and PA system set up on the gallery floor—a very haute couture arrangement for a dog show, which I sort of imagined would be in a barn for some reason. I find Seth walking the perimeter, looking at art. We spend a couple minutes talking before the first dog arrives, and we quickly drop the conversation to pet it.
Its name is Cassius Clay—a massive bulldog that seems to own the two kids accompanying it, rather than the other way around. Cassius wears a dress. "He's a big princess," one of the kids says. She also says that Cassius will wear his tiara once the competition starts. A very progressive costume, I think. Especially for such a beast of a dog. I hope he wins!
One dog in and I've hit a fever pitch dog-wuv mania.
More dogs arrive. They're wearing sweaters (SUHUP) and little dinosaur costumes (PUEHEW); some refuse to wear their costumes, shaking them off harder than a Taylor Swift song.
A harried couple tries to affix a jet pack and a cap with blond side ponytail to Emmy, a huge Great Dane, who is not having any of it. "She's a '70s TSA flight attendant," Emmy's owner says. Her husband made the jetpack and cap in his 3D printer.
A woman dressed as a lion-tamer places a platform on the ground and her little lion-dressed pup jumps on it. At her command, the dog stands on its hind legs (SKOOAWEE). Cassius Clay comes over and licks the lion-dog's genitals.
I ask Seth if he's going to be the harsh Cowell character in the group. Seth looks at a dog across the room, affects a fake British accent and says, "You are terrible."
The competition starts. The dogs are being judged on cuteness, originality, personality and energy. Owners take turns bringing their dogs into the middle of the circle while the judges read the dogs' bios. Cappie, the first contestant up, is dressed as a Chia pet with a matching box! GWHAAAHA.
"He looks super excited!" Seth says into his microphone, and yes, Cappie is shaking his leaves for our enjoyment.
The couple sitting next to me has dressed their German Shepherd as Donald Trump, complete with a little wig and I'm like PUEH—wait. The woman wears an orange jumpsuit and holds a Hillary Clinton mask. When it's their time to present, she puts on the mask and the man unfurls his big Trump flag, I think what is this life?
"It's taking a lot for me to not say anything about that dog grabbing.." Seth says, trailing off. We laugh, but it's a reminder of how the insanity of this past year has bled into even the most innocuous events.
Trump dog wins an honorable mention, but it's Cappie—the excited little Chia pet—who takes home first place. If I was a real journalist, I'd be able to apply some super smart analysis to this, to apply it to the larger world, but right now, I'm too busy SUHUP-ing over Cappie.
Cappie, 1st place winner