It’s carnival time! The parades are rolling, the king cake is being consumed, people are celebrating, and the carnival krewes are in full swing! (A “krewe” is the term for a Mardi Gras organization.)
This is the time of year that I miss New Orleans most. The elaborate floats, endless parades, Cajun cuisine, and festive folks gathering together in costume, and celebrating such a unique, rich culture is always feast for the senses. This is one of the reasons that I loved living in Louisiana and New Orleans for nearly twenty years.
Every year, one Mardi Gras parade stands out above the rest. It is one of my favorite parades, and one of the most famous parades during carnival season. In this parade, the krewe’s royalty take slobbering and wet kisses to a whole new level, and sniffing a derrière is a completely acceptable form of greeting a stranger. This parade is unlike no other because the king and queen are canines.
This all canine krewe – except for a few felines, and a miniature horse or two – makes up The Mystic Krewe of Barkus. This year (2014) Barkus rolled through the French Quarter with the theme DOGZILLA – Barkus Licks the Crescent City.
Barkus is a play on words and a reference to the Krewe of Bacchus, an extravagant parade named after the Roman god of wine that rolls a week later. The Annual parade has had 21 themes since its birth in 1992, including The Wizard of Paws, Jurassic Bark, and Tails from the Crypt, to name just a few. Membership in the Barkus parade krewe is open to all canines – regardless of their past.
Each year during Mardi Gras season, on a Sunday afternoon two weeks before Fat Tuesday, canines in costume sniff their way through the streets of the French Quarter, dragging their humans -often dressed in matching costumes- behind them. The human entourage tosses beads to the family friendly crowds that line the streets along the route and of course dog biscuits to canine bystanders. Every year the parade begins at Armstrong Park where costumed the canines strut and sniff their way down the traditional 15-block route through the Vieux Carré. The parade stops at the VIP Reviewing Stand at Good Friends Bar, where they toast the Royal Canine Court.
This famous parade incorporates music from many local bands including New Wave Brass Band – a supergroup with members from Rebirth Brass Band, Bonerama, and the amazing Roots of Music! If you would like to see a portion of the parade, you can view it here.
Just like every parade during Mardi Gras, there is a king and a queen, excepet this parade’s king and queen are canines! You might be wondering how they decide who they luck pups are. Well, usually the king ascends through the ranks, usually after being a grand marshall or a duke in Barkus parades years prior. The Queen is selected by a secret ballot and announced only weeks before the parade. This lucky canine queen is always a rescued or an adopted female dog. This year, “Dirk” is the king and Queen Barbie is the queen! Check out their rescue stories below.
Dirk’s rescue story:
Dirk he was left in a small cat carrier outside the Jeff Parish Animal Shelter on New Year’s Eve. He spent the night in that kennel in the rain and freezing temps, with the fireworks popping all around him. The staff found him when they arrived on New Year’s Day. He was emaciated, soaking wet and shivering in the back of his kennel. With lots of love and attention, he has blossomed in to the perfect pet. He loves dogs, cats, kids, humans and chickens. Dirk gets along with everyone and everything (not your typical chihuahua scared personality).
Barbie’s rescue story:
In September 2012, the Jefferson Parish Animal Shelter received a routine call for a stray dog pick up in Westwego. When the officer Brad Naquin arrived on scene, he was greeted by a petite, blue, female pit bull terrier that was literally missing her face. Her muzzle had been shredded and her emaciated body was battered with scars from repeated dog fights. ….. When Barbie arrived to the shelter, her injuries horrified us but we were awestruck by her outgoing, sweet, and mighty mouse type personality. Barbie had no reservations about trusting anyone. She was, in fact, inviting and engaging. She was either not ashamed or unaware of how she looked and whatever pain she may have been feeling, she wasn’t going to let that be the deterrent in making new friends. She even struck poses for the photographer, reveling in this newfound positive attention. ….
Her miraculous recovery began when the heroic staff at Southern Animal Foundation offered to take Barbie under their wing and thus her long, journey of surgeries, heartworm treatment, and healing began. The results post each surgical procedure were remarkable. Barbie was a canine plastic surgery phenomenon. After several months, Barbie’s broken face was restored, piece by piece. Her transformation exceeded all expectations. And during her journey, the heart of this dog was renewed.
Barbie is a survivalist. What she has experienced in her short life and the dog she has become as a result of her trials and tribulations is a marvel to us in the animal sheltering and rescue world. Barbie has been searching for her final wish to come true for quite some time: her own happy ending with a family. She is a charming, happy go lucky, bundle of child like curiosity. A wide eyed wonder intrigued by all things new and all things good. She is playful, can’t get enough of playing with tennis balls, and to date, has never met a stranger, despite her savage betrayal by mankind. Barbie also holds no grudges towards her fellow canines and gets along effortlessly with dogs which impresses us immeasurably. Read the rest of Barbie’s amazing and inspiring rescue story HERE.
- The King ascends through the ranks,usually after being a duke or grand marshall.
- The Queen is selected by secret ballot and announced only weeks before the parade, and is always a rescued or adopted female dog.
- Every year the Krewe of Barkus donates the proceeds of the parade registration fees, merchandise sales, and ball profits to worthy animal welfare groups.
- Barkus is the dog equivalent of the Bacchus parade.
Previous Year’s King and Queens
- Last year’s theme was “Tails and Tiaras: Here Comes Honey Bow Wow!”.
- Last year’s king was Jacques Miller Wallis. King Jacques even has his own twitter account, where he describes himself as “King Barkus MMXIII, Lover of all things New Orleans, especially Mardi Gras, oysters, jazz ,dining al fresco, and Audubon Park.
- Last year’s queen was the rescued Great Dane, Hattie, who reigned over New Orleans’ Barkus parade. Learn more about the beautiful Queen Hattie here!
- King Jacques Miller Wallis and Queen Hattie Warner had a pre-parade feast in the French Quarter at Galatoire’s, the grand dame of New Orleans’ historic restaurants. View their canine royal feast!
The Krewe of Barkus is a non-profit organization founded by Wood Enterprises and they love to give back to the animals. All of the proceeds from parade registration fees, merchandise sales, and the Barkus ball profits are sent to worthy animal welfare groups and homeless animals. The Barkus mission is to develop, foster, and promote programs to benefit abused, neglected, and homeless animals, as well as promote responsible pet ownership with public education.
If you do decide to make the trip down to the Crescent City for Mardi Gras, skip Bourbon Street and the other tourist traps. Go to the parades, celebrate the carnival season with the locals, and most importantly see the dogs on parade while supporting a wonderful cause for animals.
Laissez les bons temps rouler!!!
The Krewe of Barkus & Meoux Pet Parade: “Stars, Guitars & Animals from Mars” is another popular pet parade in Shreveport, Louisiana.
Photos courtesy Lake Charles & Southwest Louisiana C.V.B. and WDSU.