The King of Gulfport

Eli, a 120-pound yellow Labrador retriever owned by Marc Walters of Tonawanda, NY, impersonates a friendly lion in downtown Gulfport recently. Walters said he bought Eli the lion mane on Halloween several years ago to entertain his nieces and it turned out to be a hit. The costume draws plenty of second looks, he says, and lots of people take Eli’s picture in his wild attire.

“He always loves attention,” Walters said. “He’s a people dog.”

Once, however, that the attention wasn’t so positive. Some folks who saw him from afar on Madeira Beach thought he was a real lion and called the Sheriff’s Department. “From 150 yards away, I’m sure you could make that mistake,” Walters said. An officer showed up, but it was clear he hadn’t taken the report too seriously.

When Eli’s not posing for pictures in Florida, the mane still comes in handy in upstate New York. “Especially up north when it’s chilly, it keeps his ears warm,” Walters said.

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