Monday, February 16, 2009


Yes, that is an imaginary horse transporting a real live dog (left). Her name is Camille (the dog, not the horse), and as you can see, she feels very regal overlooking the masses. Welcome to Mardi Gras. That's kind of what we do in New Orleans. We do imaginary stuff. So, every year, as part of the Carnival season, we have our annual Krewe of Barkus Parade. This year it happened on Sunday, February 15. It was quite a day -- chihuahuas in tutus, bulldogs in batman masks and capes (the theme this year was BatMutt: The Bark Knight); shepherds with question marks painted all over their bodies (ala "The Riddler"); terriers "driving" batmobiles, and humans costumed just like their mutts. Welcome to New Orleans.

Here's the best part: In addition to about 1,500 dogs parading through the streets of the French Quarter between brass bands and the usual Mardi Gras revelers, thousands and thousands of people lined the streets to salute the canine marchers. This has been going on since 1993. I remember the first parade -- there were probably 100 dogs and maybe 1,000 humans lining the streets. Times have changed: Barkus is a huge draw now, and what makes it so cool is how real it is for those of us who live here. We wouldn't miss it. We take time out from unemployment, rising utility costs, poison peanut butter, partisan politics, global warming, Brittany/Linsdsay/Paris, et al and all such real-world nonsense. We make room for dogs in makeup and gold lame', humans so fully costumed they believe they really are super heroes and little girls dressed like princesses who may just be creating their best childhood memories ever.

So, please don't tell us not to paint our dogs' toenails, or not to let them wear earings and boas once a year, or not to dress ourselves up like "The Joker," or not to waltz through the streets of the French Quarter with daschunds enclosed in giant hot dog buns -- we can't hear you. It's Mardi Gras. We're in another dimension right now. Let us be.

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