Pooches preen in costumes at dog park Halloween

STAMFORD -- In the spirit of Halloween, Boris, a lively beige pug with doleful eyes, arrived at the city`s dog park on Saturday morning wearing a black and yellow bee costume.

His owner, Donna Mazzola, who wore a black shirt dotted with pumpkins, said it was among the few left at the store. The outfit seemed to suit him.

"With the fat face, he kind of looks like a bumble bee," Mazzola said.

As it turned out, the competition was stiff. More than 50 dogs showed up for a Halloween costume contest at the city`s first off-leash dog park at the corner of East Main Street and Courtland Avenue. The colorful parade featured several bugs, a princess, a peeled banana and Darth Vader.

The roughly one-acre park opened in the summer. Led by city Reps. Eileen Heaphy and Art Layton, a nonprofit group called Dog Friends of Stamford raised about $28,000 to pay for fencing, fountains and other features.

On Saturday, the group hosted its first Halloween for dogs. The tradition has already swept other places like New York, where Brooklyn residents last weekend held the seventh annual "Howl-O-Ween" costume parade and contest.

In Stamford, the prize in the big-dog category went to Susy, a high-energy Labrador-mix who held the distinction of being able to run sprints across the park, all the while keeping her fake eyelashes intact. They were part of an elaborate ladybug costume put together by her owner, Henry Carillo, and his wife.

Among the smaller breeds, Lily, a silver-gray miniature schnauzer, won for coming as Snow White.

As befitting a princess, she accepted the award while comfortably nestled in the arms of her owner, Besnike Krasniqi.

Despite the overcast and somewhat muddy conditions, there was a steady stream of participants for the event, which started at 10 a.m.

Set against an idyllic backdrop of yellow and orange autumn leaves, residents mingled with one another, taking pictures and exchanging high-pitched cries of "That`s adorable!"

"Every time I come it`s always really crowded," Mazzola said. "It`s really brought a sense of community to Stamford for people who are dog people."

Staff Writer Elizabeth Kim can be reached at elizabeth.kim@scni.com or 203-964-2265.