parade625feb82010Watching dogs dressed up in feathers, tutus and sequins apparently never gets old. In its 17th year, the annual Beggin’ Pet Parade attracted thousands to the Soulard neighborhood on Sunday.

“A lot of it is for the love of dogs,” said Paul Skelton, 42, of Barnhart, who has attended for the past eight years with Miki, his cinnamon-colored chow. Skelton always wears his neon green wig, while Miki sports beads and a bandanna around her neck.

“It’s a little monotonous,” Skelton admits, “but every year, you see different people and different costumes.”

Such as the four pugs dressed up as Dorothy, the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man and the Scarecrow from “The Wizard of Oz” and riding in a small float decorated with a yellow brick road and rainbows. Or the “Avatar”-inspired theme by pet owner Lauren Bennett.

Bennett, 29, of St. Louis, decorated a wagon with moss and painted leaves, ribbon-wrapped tubes and silver twine to make it look like the alien jungle from the movie. Her three dogs were costumed in capes, feathers and an extra pair of legs to resemble the sci-fi horses and wolves. A Barbie doll that Bennett painted and outfitted to look just like a Na’vi rode atop the back of one of the dogs.

“It’s the artist in me,” said Bennett, who painted her face blue and wore a wig of black braids. For the past nearly 10 years, she’s been dreaming up parade costumes for her two dachshunds, such as race horses, flowers and grapes. This year, with a new Spitz mix added to her family, she had three dogs to work with. “It’s fun,” she said.

It’s the third year for the Love family from Wentzville to attend the parade dressed as Thing 1 and Thing 2 (with the addition of Thing 3 and Thing 4) from Dr. Seuss’ “Cat in the Hat.” They usually march with their dog as Thing 5 but instead decided to bring their new black and white cat, C.C. He was, of course, the Cat in the Hat.

“He thinks he’s a dog, so we thought, let’s give it a shot,” said Kelly Love, 40. “He loves it.”

The Love family keeps returning each year because of the friendly atmosphere, with everyone petting and talking about their dogs, and even welcoming the occasional cat. C.C. received lots of attention, including a lick by a Great Dane.

“Everybody here is here for the same reason. You already have this in common, and that’s kind of an ice-breaker,” said Ken Love, 42. “You get to chat with different people every year, and that makes it really enjoyable.”

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