Dressed to the (ca)nines as Four-legged friends in fancy dress aim to be top dog
Seventy of man's best friends gave Stormont's two-legged bickerers a lead in paw-sharing at the weekend as they assembled for the election of new top dogs.
On a muddy enclosure called the bull-field in the shadow of Parliament Buildings, the MLAs - the mucky little animals - were dressed to the nines for a novel fancy dress competition on their special dog day afternoon.
And the non-partisan animal-lovers who regularly use the park to exercise their tail-waggers resisted the temptation to transform their pets into Union Jack Russells or Green, White and Golden retrievers.
Neither were there any cries of For Dog and Ulster and no renditions of Alsatian Once Again because this time it was terriers and not terrorists on the agenda at Stormont where there were pooches dressed as Ewoks, sharks, witches, ghostbusters, lions and even Sons of Anarchy bikers, not forgetting a Labradoodle in a WonderWoman costume, but there wasn't a Shih Tzu in sight.
One of the dog's real names was Eddie Murphy and another was supposed to be a Tom Cruise lookalike - although his combat trousers wouldn't fit.
The job of voting on the winners was unleashed on an independent observer - me.
Friends said I was barking mad to take on the job, warning me that over-sensitive owners who didn't agree with my choices might send me to the doghouse. Or worse.
But these animal-lovers were a happier and thoroughly more accommodating breed than might be found in the dog-eat-dog world of the Assembly.
Diplock style, I went about my judging duties without a jury or even a special adviser so beloved of the Stormont Executive and the dogs in the street know that can be ruff especially for someone who doesn't know a Doberman from a Doberlady.
Luckily I had boned up on the subject of doggies in Windows on my computer and I took my time selecting the 10 most eye-catching entrants in the separate sections for the lads and the Lassies.
Then their handlers took them for walkies in front of me and I whittled down the finalists down to two in each category, my first and deputy first monsters if you like.
Top of the pups among the females was Misty, a two-year-old Great Dane whose owner Julie Daurge had kitted her out like an angel, complete with a halo. The winner in the male section was the Incredible Hulk, aka Maurice, a Pointer cross who was bursting out of a pair of shorts.
He had been sprayed head to paw in a green non-toxic body paint by his owner Lara Waddell, the owner of the Healthy Hounds Nutrition company.
For organiser Jackie Mallon, the inaugural competition was so successful that she's going to run it every year along with a crazy Christmas jumper day for the owners and their dogs next month.
"The turn-out was amazing, the craic was mighty but more importantly we also raised a lot of money for the Assisi Animal Sanctuary in Conlig," she said.
Pamela Wilson, who owns Molly the WonderWoman dog, said: "The park is totally enclosed and it's safe for the dogs to run around on their own. Molly absolutely loves it. "
Jenny Hammond - whose miniature Schnauzer was a Halloween cheerleader - said: "She likes getting off the lead and having some exercise. And she enjoys the social aspect of playing with other dogs. That's very important in canine development."
Stephen Gracey, whose Chinese Shar Pei called Daisy got into the spirit of the day as a Ghostbuster, said: "This is a fantastic facility. At first I thought the dogs would kill each other but once they are free they seem to instil order in themselves."
And this, the cynic might argue, is more than can be said at times for some of the folks on the hill, not a million miles away from the Stormont dog park.