It was an idyllic setting for the blind date of the 2015 Mystic Krewe of Barkus’ king and queen: a French Quarter showplace patio, old brick with tropical plants, a wall niche with a stone water sprite.
Though truth be told, the participants weren’t nearly as eager as their humans about this first royal meet-and-greet before Barkus’ annual dog parade, which will roll and trot through the French Quarter Sunday afternoon.
King Andouille — aka Dewey — a 12-year-old, 15-pound wire-haired dachshund who enjoys eating tomatoes and playing with kittens — concentrated this sunny afternoon on chewing his squeaky stuffed teddy bear, barely glancing at Queen Ashley, a solid 55-pound black lab/pit bull mix, who wasn’t much interested in him, either.
Dr. Rose Lemaire, Dewey’s human, tugged on his leash until he and Ashley were just a few wet noses apart. A connection! Dewey curled his upper lip and bared his teeth at his queen.
Ashley, of undetermined origin and age — “OK, let’s say 8,” states her bio — remained in a sit/lounge pose, her front paws crossed in a ladylike position. She stared at Jon Renaudin, whose brow was furrowed with concern.
Like every queen of the 23-year-old Barkus parade, Ashley is a rescue. She spent eight months at the Jefferson Animal Shelter, playful and loved by the staff, watching countless other dogs find forever families. About a year ago, Renaudin was told Ashley needed a real home. Now.
He looked into the soulful brown eyes of this big black dog — BBD, as some call these animals that too often are overlooked by those adopting pets — and took her, heart worms and all, to join his two other dogs and a cat.
Lately, Ashley has been limping.
“I carry her upstairs,” said Renaudin, a fit 36-year-old animal advocate, who is vice-president of his family’s Pelican Ice Company, president of a media graphics company and involved in numerous volunteer projects.
It’s a love match between him and Ashley.
So is it between Dewey and Lemarie, 49, a veterinarian at Southeast Veterinary Specialists in Metairie, and her husband, Stephen, a dermatologist for animals. The low-slung black and tan Dewey has a brother and two cat siblings. A while back, his back legs stopped working right, and his human mom fixed them with surgery, her specialty.
Lemarie watched Ashley and her awkward gait. “It’s her knees,” she said. “The ACL is torn in both. It’s a common problem with pit bulls and labs, but I can fix this.”
Neither the king nor queen have to worry about getting tired on their parade route. They’ll be on floats — separate ones, which sounds like a good plan — as they lead 1,200 or so motley canines wearing wild assortments of costumes on a 15 block trek through the Quarter.
Humans can register their charges ($45, $55 day of the parade), at barkus.org, where official policy of the non-profit Wood Enterprises organization is to admit dogs “without regard to their social, educational or family backgrounds.” The “pre-pawty” starts at 10:30 a.m. Sunday in Armstrong Park, and the parade begins at 2 p.m.
Registration fees and other proceeds support various animal welfare groups and pet adoptions.
This year’s theme is “Bark Wars: Return of the K-9.”
King Dewey is wearing a royal purple cape and crown with rhinestones at the parade.
But Queen Ashley is going all out, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering Renaudin just designed and built a Superdome replica for the “Kitten Bowl” at the Big Easy Sports Complex to benefit the Jefferson animal shelter.
Dressing Ashley in her red and gold costume, Renaudin said she will be Queen Amidala of Planet Naboo, who, to educate those unaware of the finer points of “Star Wars” movies, is the mother of Luke Skywalker, aka “Luke Dogwalker” in Barkus parlance.
Renaudin and his 10-year-old daughter, Rylee, will be the Royal Guards of Naboo.
“May the Bone Be With Us,” proclaim the head dogs of Barkus.
Ashley’s royal gold headgear has red trim and gold flaps over her ears. The red collar (almost as big as the medical funnel collars dogs wear after surgeries) and red gown are trimmed with fake sable.
Queen Ashley looked somewhat baffled in her costume. So did Dewey in his cape and crown. When a newspaper photographer started moving around them, snapping pictures, neither was quite sure where to look, so Renaudin held Dewey’s teddy bear high, pushed its squeaker, and waved it around like a royal scepter.
Afterward, he knelt and hugged Ashley. Lemaire The Vet studied her again, and repeated, “I can fix those knees.” They set up an appointment.
Being queen of Barkus is the cat’s meow. But discovering a doctor is now in the family, royal or otherwise, may be the queen’s best perk of all.