Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) marks the last day before the privations of the Lenten season begin. The holiday is celebrated in many places, including Rio de Janeiro and Quebec City — but one of the best-known places to celebrate is in New Orleans, LA. Because Easter (and thus, Ash Wednesday) are movable holidays celebrated on different dates each year, the Carnival season in New Orleans sometimes begins right after New Year’s and culminates on Mardi Gras.
Traditional Mardi Gras parades are sponsored by social clubs called krewes. Some krewes meet year-round — not only to plan the Mardi Gras festivities, but for social service functions as well. Each krewe sponsors its own parade, which snakes along a prescribed route around the city or one of the suburbs. Bands play, costumed marchers dance, and float riders toss beads and souvenirs to the crowds.
Mardi Gras in New Orleans isn’t just for people. The dogs get their own parade! The Krewe of Barkus is an official licensed Mardi Gras Krewe, founded in 1992 when Thomas Wood crowned his dog JoJo McWood Queen and Captain-for-Life of her own krewe. The krewe was granted parade status in 1994. Since that time, the Krewe of Barkus has expanded to include hundreds of dogs and their owners. Funds raised by krewe memberships, parade registrations, merchandise sales, and donations go to help a number of shelters and rescues, including the LA/SPCA, Looziana Basset Rescue, the Jefferson Parish Animal Shelter, and others.
The Barkus parade takes place two Sundays before Fat Tuesday proper, beginning and ending at Louis Armstrong Park on North Rampart Street just outside the French Quarter. Led by the King, Queen, Duke, Duchess, and Captain-for-Life, costumed dogs of all breeds (and mixtures thereof) walk, are carried, or ride on floats through the Quarter, accompanied by bands and people throwing beads, biscuits, and other goodies to the crowds along the parade route.
My favorite travel buddy Jody and I have been to three or four Barkus parades since 1996, and have caught our share of beads, biscuits, and dog toys. The most unusual throw I’ve ever caught (I think in 2000) was a large Milk-Bone covered in glitter. The Zulus (the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club, one of the historic krewes for people) traditionally throw decorated coconuts from their floats, and it’s considered a very big deal to catch one. Maybe the glitter Milk-Bone is the Barkus equivalent of the coconut.
This year’s parade theme was “A Broadway Tail.” Previous themes (mostly movie-related) have included “Jurassic Bark,” “A Fistful of Collars,” and “Raiders of the Lost Bark.” The Krewe of Barkus website, NOLA.com and multiple other New Orleans websites show pictures of the costumed dogs and floats from this year’s parade.
September is AKC Responsible Dog Ownership Month. Not only will you find RDO Days events taking place all over the country, but this year, you can even participate online as well. You can share your “acts” of responsible dog ownership, whatever you perceive them to be, through Facebook, Twitter, email, YouTube, or Flickr. Whatever. Sometimes you just have to get away from the computer and go do something.
I will be offering Canine Good Citizen (CGC) tests at a Meet the Breeds event on Sunday, September 19 with my Distraction Dog Extraordinaire, Dinah Moe. Offered by the Vacationland Dog Club and the York County Kennel Club of Maine, the event takes place from 9-4 at Tractor Supply on Route 1 in Scarborough, ME. Participants at the event include various local breed clubs (including the Bearded Collie Club of Maine, thankyouverymuch), obedience clubs, rescues, and other groups of dog lovers. One of the obedience clubs will offer a rally course that anyone can try — so if you already do rally, come on by and get some practice in. If you don’t, come by anyway and see what I’ve been raving about on one of my other dog blogs. We expect the local press to drop by, including Downeast Dog News — plus you never know who else might show up. Last year, a photographer from FetchDog came by, looking for models. They ended up hiring one of my friend’s puppies to model some doggie products for the catalog and website.
The CGC test costs $15, but the rest of the event is free, and of course your well-behaved dog is welcome. We don’t usually have vendors or much of anything for sale at this event, though some of the rescues might have fundraising items available. The obedience clubs will have their fall class schedules available.
If you want to take the test, just drop by with your dog and bring the following stuff with you:
- Plain buckle, snap, or martingale collar. No prongs, chains, halters, or harnesses, please. It’s OK if the collar has tags on it.
- 6-foot plain leash. Don’t bring a Flexi — which is probably good advice for all areas of the event, really. I will supply the long lead for the exercises that require one. Yes, a 4-foot leash is fine is you use that. It just has to be a plain leash.
- Your dog’s brush or comb.
- If your dog has an AKC registration or PAL (formerly ILP) number, you can bring that to add to the signup form. You don’t have to have it to take the test, though.
The test itself consists of ten exercises. You can read about them here beforehand, if you need to decide whether your dog is ready.
Even if you don’t plan to take the test right away, stop by and say hello if you’re in the area. Dinah and I hope to be busy with testing and chatting up people curious about the Bearded Collie breed, but we love company. We have lots of CGC schwag, too — brochures, detailed training guides, AKC pencils — and maybe even other goodies, too, if AKC delivers on its offer to send additional stuff to the host clubs.
Don’t live near southern Maine? That’s okay. There are RDO events going on everywhere, including multiples in various parts of the State of Maine. Just check the calendar and come on by!