It all started late one August night. My best friend and I were reminiscing about past Halloweens and how we had so passionately enjoyed them. It was not two minutes later my 3 year old son and my 5 year old Rhodesian Ridgeback dog came flying into the room and my son was exclaiming that he had taught his dog a New Trick!
The trick involved my son walking around the room with a slobbery bedtime snack and the dog following him loyally. It was at this moment my friend and I looked at each other and said….Heeeeeey!!! Why not make a costume that involved these two cute as a button creatures? And so it began…..
The Rhodesian Ridgeback originated from Africa. The dog was bred to help the English hunt very large game. Lions to be exact. They were used as tracking dogs and as guard dogs for compounds. Nowadays the Rhodesian Ridgeback is used to lay on your leather sofas, steal snacks of the counter and to scare any stranger who dare set foot in the yard. So we thought to keep the costume symbolic to the dog, why not turn the hunter into the hunted and create the most live looking lion possible? And what good is a lion without his amazing Lion Tamer at his side.
It just so happens that we had entered our fearless Ridgy in a dog show that boasted one of the most sought after competitions. The Halloween Spooktacular!! The winner of this contest was given a giant black and orange ribbon and the bragging rights of having the best costume. Seeing how we weren’t really winning much in the show rings I was very excited to give this competition a shot. I NEEDED that ribbon!!
The idea was to create a majestic leader of the pride, male lion…easy right? After many googled photos we finally came up with a design idea. We were going to create a spandex suit that we could sew and hot glue a number of different wigs to. We bought nude spandex and about six blonde, brown, and auburn wigs. Some were straight and some were curly. The objective was to create a suit that the dog wouldn’t mind wearing but to also have it move with the dogs body so that it looked real. We started off with small pieces of the suit on the dog so he could get used to it and gradually worked it up to the finished piece. There were many late nights where my friend would take the suit home with her and actually use her Doberman as a model to work on the suit. Once the suit was complete we started to cut up the wigs and individually sew and glue the pieces on. Once the pieces were securely attached, my friend began shaping the hair to look like the mane. She spent hours teasing and back combing and scissoring and spraying the wig hair to resemble a lions mane. For the lions tail we used double sided tape and taped it to the tip of his tail and we let the rest of his body fill out the costume. It was incredible how he was transforming into a lion.
Then came the faux fur ears…which let me tell you……not as easy as it looks!! We cut out the shapes and used tinfoil in-between two layers so that the ear would hold its shape. I remember her and I sitting in a sea of wig hair and faux fur and I think we were on our 10th broken needle it was 2am and we were seriously looking at each other like What are we thinking??? My Ridgeback was so patient with us. Every 15 minutes we would be calling him over and trying to see if the ears were the right size or in the right place. We just held on to our dream that this lion dog would be something no one had seen before and that we would blow our competition away. Even the hot glue gun burns and needles threw the thumbs wouldn’t stop us. Lol.
The lion tamer costume was difficult because there were no patterns for this particular jacket. I had a friend of a friend help sew his jacket out of red satin material and I shopped around for the all the accessories. I got some very strange looks in our local shoe store when my SON and I were in the girls section looking for black knee high boots. As well as looking for white leggings that would fit a boy. All in the name of an amazing costume is what I kept telling people!
Now we knew the costumes would be amazing but the icing on the cake would be the dynamic duo actually pulling off some lion tamer tricks. My vision was to have the lion leaping through a hoop of fire and twisting as he landed…..My goal….We managed to teach my son to give the dog hand signals that told the dog to balance on a brightly decorated circus themed basket..and bark on command. Easy right? We practiced and practiced and there were days when it went absolutely flawless and then days where I thought this is gonna be a disaster.
The big day arrived and we were waiting in line for our turn. I knew that the judges would single out the best three and then the crowd would cheer for a winner. As I stood in the line up I was so nervous I thought I was going to vomit. My son was having a wonderful time answering questions and giving away our secret tricks….Aka….Making his lion bark loudly and laughing his head off. People were already starting to notice us and as we walked into the ring I can’t even tell you how loud the cheers were. It was like being on stage at a rock concert!! And we hadn’t even started our routine yet. The cheering got my son and his lion so excited that the lion started jumping straight up and down in the air. He was so excited that his taped lion tail BLEW right off into the crowd. When my son saw that his lion had lost his tail he dropped his dogs leash to go and retrieve it. Meanwhile the lion began visiting the people in the crowd which lead to my son chasing his lion around the ring. The crowd loved it! They were on their feet laughing and cheering as loud as they could. We finally made it back to the judges and started our routine but in all the excitement I think our lion had lost some steam so instead of standing on his bucket he decided to sit. At that point my son and dog were having so much fun entertaining the crowd it didn’t really matter. It was only moments later that we were awarded our coveted black and orange ribbon. As we left the ring with our ribbon we were surrounded by a crowd of people. Where did you get those costumes? How much did they cost? Can we get a picture with the two of them? Hahahaha…..Little did they know the blood sweat and tears that had gone into our amazing homemade costumes. The last two months of stressing and designing and injuries had given us what we came for. When I look back at being announced as the winners of the contest I tend to think it was more the mistakes then the practice that got us the title. An added bonus was that there was a professional photographer in the crowd snapping pictures of the whole thing.
It was without a doubt the best Halloween ever and I am so proud of my son and dog because they made it so much fun for us to make the costumes and without their patients and willingness I am not sure we could have pulled it off. I really hope that reading this and seeing our pictures will help you to experience our amazing Halloween.