On any given day around Amazon’s South Lake Union campus in Seattle, employees’ dogs are a common sight as they sniff and do their business and point their noses toward whatever food truck is nearby. On Friday, the dogs had a little extra strut in their step, as they took part in a Halloween costume gathering hosted by the tech giant.
Big dogs and little dogs and everything in between were dressed in a wide range of costumes during the lunchtime event, which was sponsored by Downtown Dog Lounge. Roughly 200 employees and half as many dogs roamed the Van Vorst Plaza on Terry Avenue North as vendors handed out treats (for humans, too) and pitched pet services.
There were superhero dogs (Batman, Flash, Captain America, Supergirl, Superman) and Star Wars dogs (Ewok, Bantha with sand person) and other pop culture dogs (Ghostbusters, Harley Quinn, Thing One). There were also little Seattle Seahawks dogs and plenty of dogs dressed as food items — namely, a taco and plenty of hot dogs.
Amazon also made a point of gathering a dozen or more dogs for a “lion’s pride” photo op, in which dogs were outfitted with furry manes so that they looked like lions. The effort was an homage to an Amazon Prime commercial in which a baby girl warms up to the family dog only after it is fitted with a costume.
Willis, a 10-year-old bassett hound, was dressed as a “tech bro,” according to his owner, Allen Rogers.
“As you can see he looks a little ashamed. He’s not totally crazy about it,” Rogers said of his dog, which was wearing a sporty L.L. Bean fleece vest, nerd glasses and even a blue employee badge. “He’s usually game for whatever. He’s pretty relaxed. He usually goes around the campus and stays with different people and everyone really likes him because he’s pretty low key and just kind of hangs out and sleeps mostly.”
Rogers has been with the Amazon business team for just over two years. Willis started coming to the office, about three days a week, after Rogers’ dog walker moved to Bellingham. He said he realized the cultural significance of dressing his dog as an Amazon employee, as Seattle grapples with growth and change spurred in large part by his employer.
“Meta,” Rogers said, laughing.
Kristy Bell started about a year ago as a finance analyst at Amazon and she said seeing all the dogs at work made her want one, too. On Friday, she was holding Finn, a 12-week-old puggle (pug-beagle mix) who she called “a true Amazon dog” and “team mascot” for her group. Bringing him to work, even when it’s not Halloween, is important.
“It’s made it so I don’t have to run home all day, especially as young as he is because he can’t stay at home for more than a couple of hours,” Bell said. “It’s one of the perks of Amazon. It puts a smile on everyone’s face. People come by the desk and if he’s not there [they say], ‘Wait, where is he?’ He makes us happy.”
Walking away from Finn and Kristy, I heard a voice ask, “What building are you in? Can I come visit?”
An orange and red Halloween carpet was rolled out and employees lined either side, oohing and ahhing and snapping pictures on their smartphones as 56 dogs showed off their costumes for judges from the Dog Lounge. The top three finishers were awarded pampering prizes.
Third place went to Amazon’s Caitlin Negliah and Talulah, her lab mix who was dressed as a peacock.
Second place was awarded to a small terrier named Simba, who was dressed as Donald Trump, complete with orange toupee and business suit. Her owner, Michelle Kurian, was dressed as Hillary Clinton.
The grand champ of the day was Charlie, a 5-year-old great Swiss mountain dog, who is used to carrying a heavy load for his owners, Blake and Melissa Dow. With a set of reindeer antlers perched atop his head, Charlie wowed the crowd by pulling a two-wheeled cart made to look like Santa’s sleigh, complete with blow-up Santa and presents.
Blake Dow has been a category merchant manager in the beauty and luxury beauty group at Amazon for six months, and he said the ability to bring Charlie to work did have some influence on his taking the job. The couple moved to Seattle from Chicago.
“It was a nice feature to be able to bring a dog to work,” Dow said. “At my old job we used to always have to have a dog sitter or a dog walker. I always felt bad and guilty leaving him home alone. And now he can come to work with me and it makes it a lot easier — especially if you’re going to work late nights in Q4.”
The contest was just another chance for Charlie to show off how much he likes to work.
“Charlie likes to do carting,” Dow said. “Normally you can fill it with about 300 pounds and he can pull groceries, he can pull stuff from the farmer’s market — he can pull whatever you want. It gives him a job and he surprisingly loves it. When you get the cart out he starts going crazy because he knows it’s his time to do a job.”