Winter Woofstock Holiday High Tea has become the annual way to kick off North America’s largest dog festival with absolute elegance.

Dogs gathered in the Imperial Ballroom for trays of freshly baked dog cookies, a fashion show and eagerly lined up to meet Santa. There were several pups dressed as reindeer, some pulled sleighs laden with wrapped gifts, a few wore puffy red velvet dresses and one Yorkie, named Princess, came gowned as Holiday Barbie.

I had spent the bulk of the morning tearing apart my basement trying to find Rocky’s satin red Santa cape but after ransacking countless cardboard boxes and stubbing my toe twice on weird tools I decided that he would instead wear his dapper tartan jacket. Good enough.

We walked the red carpet into the grand room and witnessed a scene like no other. Chandeliers hung from the ceiling and dogs lay strewn across tables set with white linen. There were about 25 round tables set for tea and at each table sat six dogs. There was a pomeranian that looked like a puff of fluff you could blow off the table and two great danes the size of small ponies. CityTV was quick to push a mic towards any Shitzu who appeared eager to share and several dog owners were dressed to match their festive pups.

There was a fashion show that went on for over an hour. (Only one pup pissed the catwalk.) The enthusiastic MC introduced each model with a short bio. “This is Macy. She speaks both Mandarin and English and enjoys shopping with her mom on Saturdays.” It felt a bit like a pageant; some owners took the costume contest very seriously.

Rocky didn’t partake in the fashion show but did pose for a photo op in the Chanukah photo area. He is part Jewish. (And the line for Santa was too long.)

Proceeds from the event went to the WSPA (World Society for the Protection of Animals.) Dogs left with a most generous gift bag that included eight different types of treats plus Slurp’n Fresh oral hygiene solution and UV coated, anti-fog Doggles (Swimming and sun goggles for dogs.)

All of this was just a hint of what is yet to come when Winter Woofstock kicks off on November 17th. Beyond a gazillion exhibitors, festival highlights include Breakfast with Santa, Weiner Dog Race, Running of the Pugs and a highly anticipated Ms. and Mr. Canine Canada Pageant.

Winter Woofstock
Saturday November 17 – Sunday November 18
10am – 6pm
Direct Energy Centre
Admission: New 2 Day Pass $10 at the door or $8 in advance online at

~ Jen McNeely

Photos by Becca Lemire (Click to Enlarge)