Kiba the Cosplay Corgi: A Q & A Panel with Nicole and Kiba
Kiba the Cosplay Corgi is quite the convention celebrity. He is adorable in cosplay and out, though his mom Nicole assures us that when he’s not working, he is a typical high energy Corgi. Nicole began dressing Kiba up when he was a puppy (doggy t-shirts, sweaters, etc). It wasn’t until 2013 that, on a whim, she decided to attend Phoenix Comicon. When she says “on a whim” she means it. The decision to attend was made a month prior to the Con! While there was no time to put together a cosplay for her, Nicole felt she could make one for Kiba. She ordered a green t-shirt from Amazon Prime, and ended up dying it “more green”. Using upholstery foam, and papier-mache she made a sword and with EVA foam she made shield. Thus Kiba’s first cosplay (as Link) was born. Given Kiba’s penchant for rolling on the ground, Nicole eventually replaced the sword with a metal one. She’s pretty sure Kiba can’t break that if he rolls on it.
Since 2013 Nicole and Kiba have been invited to attend Anime Expo in L.A. as guests. Her reaction was disbelief. The biggest anime expo in the U.S. reached out to her? Once their offer to have her and Kiba as guests was confirmed, Nicole was understandably excited. That excitement however was tempered by a somewhat dark cloud. Everywhere she goes with Kiba, Nicole is told dogs aren’t allowed inside, until she says Kiba is her service dog. Prior to the last Phoenix Comicon a friend of Nicole’s inquired about having Kiba appear as a guest since he would be a guest at Anime Expo. The response was that for liability reasons pets were not allowed in the convention center. Nicole received a copy of the email and contacted PCC, explaining Kiba was not a pet, but a service animal, and that they have attended Phoenix Comicon since 2013, and would still be attending in 2015. Nicole has by necessity, become well versed in the laws relating to service animals. She never got a response from the convention staff.
Adding insult to injury, Nicole said Phoenix Comicon used an image with Kiba in it, to promote PCC being at Second Friday in Downtown Mesa (one of several local community events designed to support and promote local artist and businesses). Kiba’s image was used without permission.
Since the image is her intellectual property and Kiba is considered her medical equipment, Nicole felt this was not cool. She said the picture was used in such a way that it implied Kiba was a guest. In fact she had many friends asking her if they were going when they saw the picture. She had not planned on attending. Nicole tried contacting the event staff to inform them she had not given permission for the photo’s use in general, let alone as an advertisement. Even worse there was no credit given to either Kiba or the photographer. In the end she did go, in support of a friend who makes dog collars (Crescent Canines, check them out online). They made Kiba’s Legend of Zelda leash and collar. She also went because it seemed like a lot of people were now expecting to see her and Kiba there.
As many cosplayers know, or are just learning, asking permission to take AND use photos is an extremely important aspect of the cosplay and convention community. Plus it is just the right thing to do. Please keep that in mind when grabbing your phone or camera.
Going back to Kiba being a service dog, what does that mean? Everyone has seen service animals in their vests, or scarves. Nicole shared some interesting information that most people won’t know. In Nicole’s words http://servicedogcentral.org/content/node/3 has “been super helpful”. This website has more information about service dogs and the laws in each state. Only dogs and mini horses/ponies are legally allowed to be service animals. No other animals are permitted. The reasoning is canine and equine intelligence, and the ability to consistently train any dog or small horse to perform the vital tasks of a service animal combined with obedience training, makes them ideal.
Mini horses? That question came up in the panel. Nicole clarified ponies (which are actually different from horses). Still the question of just how small were these horses came up. There is a place in Gettysburg, PA called Land of Little Horses (http://www.landoflittlehorses.com/). I had been there several times as a child. Though the website does not specify size, my google image search seems to verify my statement in the panel that these horses get very tiny; though not as tiny as I had originally thought. Still some of them are so small I am certain there are size requirements for a mini horse/pony to become a service animal.
Service animals are not required to wear a vest/scarf/bandana when working. There is no such thing as a “certified service animal” (with the exception of service dogs for the hearing and/or vision impaired because of the specialized training for these animals. (Note that certification costs between 5 and 10 thousand dollars). Service animal certification cards are something of scam. Nicole provided me with this link http://servicedogcentral.org/node/566. It clears up any confusion on the subject and explains the very real legal repercussions for passing off a pet as a service animal. Sadly there are people who would rather break the rules than play fair. In the end they are hurting not only themselves, but also people with genuine needs.
The only real, and thus legally recognized, proof is a Dr’s note verifying the service need. (Note it is possible that a training certification may be needed in court, but that would only verify a service animals’ training, not that is was indeed a service animal. Furthermore, according to Nicole, when inquiring about an animal in a public space, staff are only allowed to ask “Is this a service animal”? and “What service does the animal provide”? My best guess is the second question is to better able staff to assist the person in case of an emergency.
In order for a dog or mini horse to become a service animal they must complete basic obedience training before working in public. This includes “potty-training”. Bringing service animals to conventions presents further training opportunities. Nicole said that Kiba barked at Furries and anyone in armor (mostly the large, over-sized armor of the Halo and Transformer type). There will always be new experiences for service animals, especially at con’s; but they trust their people and with patience they will learn to accept the unusual – as long as Mom or Dad say it’s ok. Additionally, do not take a service animal to a big convention right off the bat. Nicole suggests starting small, not only with con’s, but also with the animal’s cosplay. Smaller con’s, or Farmer’s Markets, combined with doggy t-shirts are a great way to adjust. Nicole also suggested making sure service animals are therapy trained. This usually involves exposing them to the sights, sounds, and smells of nursing homes, and hospitals both (‘regular’ and children’s’), as well as schools.
Kiba was originally intended to be a pet, but due to his intelligence he was eventually prescribed to Nicole as a service dog. Kiba’s intelligence however has made life ‘interesting’ for Nicole. Since Kiba is always one step ahead, Nicole has to be five steps ahead of Kiba. It’s fair to say this must have resulted in some ‘interesting’ stories. Speaking of stories – Kiba and Nicole have actually seen mystery cosplayer D-Piddy’s face!!! Guess what…that’s classified, sorry. For Nicole’s part, her approach to cosplay and conventions is to be positive, have fun, and be supportive of others. That mindset has led her to meeting lots of amazing people, who are now her friends.
Her advice to cosplayers who want to make a name for themselves is to have business cards handy, and when asked to pose for a photo while in cosplay, share the cards with the photographer, or anyone who stops and asks about your creation. Reach out to smaller con’s and expo’s about being a guest – the worst thing they can say is ‘No’. Lastly don’t be afraid of people. Even the famous cosplayers are people under all the foam, thermoplastics, and makeup. If the situation warrants it (they are not eating or heading to the bathroom), say hi, and ask about their cosplay. Not only might you learn something, you might lay the groundwork for a future friendship; just make sure you are befriending the person, and not the fame. In Nicole’s words, “fun attracts cool people”. Judging by Kiba’s reaction to me, I’d say I made a new friend.