Last week, I saw an opportunity pop up on the Disney Parks Blog that I could NOT resist:
This special event was to be the first of its kind – an early morning soiree of canines from all over the Sunshine State, including a special walk down Main Street, U.S.A., a light meal, a “Doggie Dance Party,” and a little jaunt around the park! To enter, interested participants had to submit a photo of their dog in a Disney-themed costume, as well as proof of immunizations, neuter/spay, and good health.*
I sent in Dug’s information that very afternoon (entries had to be received between 8/22 – 8/24) and hoped for the best! The official verbiage originally stated that applicants would not receive confirmation of acceptance until 8/28 (Thursday) but thankfully, we heard a little early (8/27, Wednesday afternoon) so hubs and I had time to make arrangements for travel!
Instead of leaving in the middle of the night from Sarasota for the 5:30 AM start time, we decided to drive up to Orlando the afternoon before. Of course, it was still an early and dark morning, but Dug and I were too excited to sleep, anyway!!
We headed out from the condo around 5 AM, so Dug had his breakfast super early (which he was happy about) then we headed out to Walt Disney World! We were given instructions to park at the Contemporary Resort, then to take the walkway over to the Magic Kingdom to check in with our documents (publicity releases) at the Guest Relations Windows.
Upon our arrival, there were already quite a few four legged friends walking around, which made a fun, yet pretty surreal experience. Having visited the Magic Kingdom endless times before, seeing fluffy friends was definitely different!
Hubs and I were not quite sure how Dug would react at this event – for one, it was a new place, and very early in the morning, and for two…well, there were 100 other dogs for him to interact with! That was definitely something he had never experienced.
Thankfully, a majority of the other dogs seemed to be in the same situation as Dug (either still walking up, or just generally easy-going) and he was nice to just about every other dog he encountered (he only barked at one dog, and I think it’s because that dog was covered in jingle bells and it frightened him.
Once we arrived at Guest Relations, Dug was able to truly take in the Walt Disney World experience, as he had to wait in his first queue! 🙂 He was very well mannered and even met a few new pals waiting in line with their owners! By the time we reached the front of the line, handing in our forms, and confirming with ID. we were given stickers to wear, and ushered over to the front entrance area, to await the 6:30 opening time, wherein a small impromptu welcome show took place (and we were greeted by some Disney dogs – Goofy, Pluto, Dug, Stitch and Bolt!) and we were able to enter the park!
Since it was still dark out at this point, it felt even more dramatic and magical as we crossed under the train station and headed into Town Square, and to the special “Green Carpet” for the dogs to walk! Cast members, film crews, and fellow participants in the event (four legged and otherwise) all were grinning ear to ear to see such a gathering!
Dug was excited to sniff everything, and he even “tested out” the little fire hydrant relief stations that dotted the green carpet, which made us laugh. Everyone traversing the path seemed to be in a great mood, despite the early hour, and although hubs was not exactly ecstatic about the pumping bass of “Who Let the Dogs Out” (which, as expected, would play no less than 6 times in the course of the event) I definitely caught a smile forming in his lips as he saw Dug enjoying himself!
Once we reached the end of the green carpet, there were snacks set up around the Hub (doggie treats to the left, and human snacks to the right, as well as endless amounts of doggie bowls of water!) there was music playing, and people mostly took advantage of the time to snap tons of fun pics in the quite-empty park.
After a few sips of coffee, we found a nice spot to sit near the Partners statue, and hung out with a cute Pug nearby that was dressed like Percy from Pocahontas (so cute!!) and relaxed a bit until the awards ceremony. The winners were announced (#1 winner was a dalmatian dressed as Cruella DeVille!) and after that, the Disney dogs made their way out and it was time to boogie!
Dug and I made our way to the dance floor, and cut a rug with the likes of his namesake, Dug, as well as our favorite Experiment 626 (Stitch!!) and we even got some great pictures with them! That was definitely one of the highlights of the morning!
After that, it was time to assemble for the walk around the park, which was to begin at the Adventureland Bridge. When we had first arrived, we had received word from a Cast Member that there were a few fun photo shoots planned throughout the walk, including a Pirate Dog one – all we had to do was walk toward the attraction as the group moved their way past the Magic Carpets of Aladdin and the Enchanted Tiki Room.
Once we left Adventureland, much of the doggie walkers had made their way out, so we were treated to a near-empty park! Dug led the way through Adventureland, past Liberty Square and the Haunted Mansion, through Fantasyland, and eventually, through the castle, which was flanked with all the fairy
dogmothers godmothers of the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, who were oohing and aahing at each pup! It was beyond adorable!
Walking through Cinderella Castle, seeing the park wake up with hubs and Dug was an incredible experience! Through the years, back from my first visits, to my Cast Member days and to the adrenaline-filled sprints through with runDisney, it was hard to beat the feeling of seeing my two favorite guys happily pass through the iconic arch and set their journey back to the front of the park.
On our final walk down Main Street, U.S.A., many dogs and their owners were posing for a few more fun pictures along the way. Dug was still happily wagging his tail, and sniffing the curbs of the pups that had walked before him. Cast members on both sides of the street were bidding farewell and smiling; it was just a joyful feeling!
Passing under the train station again, after we were handed little goodie bags and a poster, I heard someone call out my name – it was Rose, my first Disney trainer from my college program where I had worked at Main Street Entrance Merchandise! We chatted it up for a few minutes, and then posed for a picture – that was definitely a great treat 🙂
Walking back to the Contemporary, I remarked to hubs about what a special experience this was, and how lucky we were to be picked! As we learned from the bag that we were handed on the way out, footage from this would be material for an Animal Planet Special of “America’s Cutest” on October 18 – so who knows if this was a one-time thing, or something Disney plans to continue?
No matter the future of #DisneySide Dog’s Day, we are so glad that we were able to take part, and we look forward to seeing if Dug made it on to the TV show! It was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of morning, and though the early morning wake up call was truly for the dogs, it was worth it to see all those wagging tales enjoy the Magic Kingdom like never before!
Now, for some quick Q+A from comments/tweets/messages I received over the past few days…feel free to send in your questions/comments too, I’d be glad to answer as many as I can:
- Did you have to pay to attend? This event was free of charge, though limited to the 101 dogs (plus their owner and one guest. We were not provided any compensation for travel, or additional ticket media for the parks.
- Were dogs able to go on any attractions? No attractions were open, but any building facades were available for photo fun! I saw a few people have their doggies try and lift the sword in the stone, or look stern in front of the gates of the Haunted Mansion!
- Was the weight limit (70 lbs for dogs) enforced? Why was there a weight limit? Though I can’t say for sure, I’d say that the limit was probably put in place just to maintain general order – the vast majority of doggies were smaller breeds – lots of dachshunds! The biggest dogs were dalmatians (like the costume winner) or a few dogs that looked like labrador mixes.
- What were some of the best dog costumes? Other than the costume winner, there were definitely a fun array of dressed up dogs! One couple wore their runDisney attire, and even had their dog in an “in training” tech tee, and a WDW Marathon medal – that was adorable! Some other favorites? Percy the Pug, princesses, a Tinker Bell (complete with wings), and a Simba!
- Do you know why this was only available to Florida residents? I am guessing for this one it was legal reasons (we had a waiver that probably had to convey certain legal stipulations for publicity/advertising) but the other reason I can imagine is the short notice for travel.
- Will they have the event again? This I am sure no one knows yet, but I do think it was quite successful! The only issue I can foresee stalling a repeat would be the irresponsibility of a handful of dog owners who unfortunately did not clean up after their pets on the walkway back to the Contemporary! That was a bummer!
- Did Dug have fun? I sure think so, although it’s pretty obvious who, in our group of three, had the MOST fun 😉
Thank you AGAIN to Disney Parks and the Disney Parks Blog for this special experience! Dug gives it TWO PAWS UP!
Would you attend a special Dog’s Day? If you were in charge, what other special events would you plan at Walt Disney World?