Big dogs and little dogs alike strutted across the stage Saturday during the pet fashion show in Portland’s Congress Square Park.

The event – hosted by the Friends of Congress Square Park – was filled with wagging tails, funny tales and dogs that mostly tolerated dressing up.

Mister Pemberton, a pug, sports a nautical style Saturday at Congress Square Park in Portland. Bonnie Washuk/Staff Writer

As the show got underway, each dog pranced across the stage as bouncy tunes filled the air, a playlist featuring songs like “Gonna Buy Me a Dog” and “Werewolves of London.”

Mister Pemberton, a 12-year-old pug, wore a nautical style complete with a sailboat bowtie and sunhat.

Sailor, a golden Lab mix, showed off a sporting camp shirt and a baseball cap that he tried to paw off. His costume was all about Vacationland.

Suzie Q, a small dog, sported a yellow and black bee costume, while her owner wore a beekeeper’s uniform.


“There’s so many dogs in the park, and Portland is such a pet-friendly city, we wanted to do something to be fun, silly, and have the community come out and enjoy the park in a fun-loving way,” said Genevieve Johnson, who serves on Congress Square Park’s advisory board.

The first pet fashion show was held last year on a warm August day. Given that most dogs are covered with fur, this year’s event was moved to May in the hope that the weather would be cooler and more comfortable, Johnson said.

When deciding what community events to offer, discussions of a pet fashion show brought out smiles in every conversation, Johnson said.

Saturday’s canine fashion show judges were Ell Stanton and Cat Bates. The judges said they were looking for dogs with personality and a fashion sense, Stanton said, adding with a smile that “judgment is a very loose term.”

No one dog was declared a winner on Saturday. “Everybody wins!” Bates said.

Some of the humans dressed to match their dog’s look. Shannon Norris of Buxton and her beagle wore matching white tops with navy stripes.


Waiting in the wings was Trinity, a Bernese mountain dog pretty in pink, as was her owner, Linda Bates of Old Orchard Beach.

Each wore a dress with layers of soft pink ruffles and lace. The look was all about “girl power,” Bates said. Her dog sat quietly while not only wearing a dress but also a straw hat and pink sunglasses. “She’s pretty good with it,” Bates said.

Trinity, 9, shows off her tricks. Sofia Aldinio/Staff Photographer

The first contestant to hit the stage Saturday was Acadia, wearing a tuxedo jacket with white and red cuffs on each paw. His costume was inspired “by the always-fashionable Bernese mountain dog coat,” announced Johnson, who served as the show’s emcee.

As each dog entered, turned around and exited the stage, a few details were offered about each pooch. For instance, Acadia has been known to eat Irish Spring soap.

“Next coming to the stage, we have Lady. Lady’s look is inspired by Lady’s own name,” Johnson said of the dog’s ladybug costume. Lady has been known to get on top of the refrigerator and eat a box of cereal, Johnson told the audience. “Lady knows what she wants and is willing to work for it.”

Other dog habits revealed Saturday included lapping wine from her owner’s glass and eating plastic cones.


Then there was October, an innocent, friendly looking black dog wearing a duck-yellow hat. His owner wore a yellow dress and yellow boots, paying homage to fowls. October’s owner is a vegetarian, but the dog is not: October has eaten some of the neighbor’s chickens, Johnson announced.

Playing with ducks is a favorite pastime for October, judges shared as his owner showed off her dog’s tricks. Sofia Aldinio/Staff Photographer

The show ended with the judges praising the canine styles, followed by a dog parade. All dogs in the audience were invited to prance in the parade, which numbered 30 or more dogs.

Leading the parade was Mister Pemberton. The senior dog was pushed in a stroller by his owner, Gina Figoli of Scarborough.

“He’s a cancer survivor and has three legs, but he does beautifully,” Figoli said. With his advanced age, “he gets to ride in style.”

In his striped sailor suit and sunhat, Mister Pemberton’s look was a nod to coastal Portland, Figoli said. He doesn’t mind getting dressed up, she said. “He’s used to it.”

One person watching the show pointed out that Saturday was National Dog Mom’s Day, which is the day before Mother’s Day.


Dog ownership is common in Portland. Nationally, dog ownership in 2022 grew to 44.5% of all U.S. households, according to Forbes.

At Saturday’s show, dog parents were happy about an event that was all about the dogs.

“I love it,” Figoli said. “It’s lovely to include the dogs as much as possible. A lot of the restaurants allow for dogs with outside seating.”

To many dog parents, they’re not just pets, she added. “They’re family. I want to go out and take my family. He’s my baby.”

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