The Crown Prince is about to get on his high horse. Literally. That’s how Triumph, a 55-pound bulldog, will roll in Sunday’s Mystic Krewe of Barkus parade.
The all-dog parade, with human escorts, lines up at 2 p.m. at Armstrong Park to begin the traditional route through the French Quarter, under the reign of a canine king and queen. Triumph, a member of the court, will be riding in a replica of a golden stallion on wheels. This year’s theme is “Game of Bones,” a twist on HBO’s medieval fantasy series “Game of Thrones.”
Triumph is not the king of this extravaganza made up of rescues and mutts and purebreds, but once a prince always a prince. When the canine’s human was named a Barkus co-captain for life, it was decreed that Triumph could not accept a royal nod higher that of a prince.
Two weeks before the parade, the bulldog with Westminster roots emerged from his lavender bath for an interview, sauntering past the papier mache horse in the parlor of his 1890s Faubourg Marigny home.
“He loves the Barkus parade,” said Triumph’s humans, Robert Ripley and Thom Beaty, both local realtors.
Triumph assented with a snort that only a dog with a charming underbite can deliver.
That telepathic bond between canines and humans is what the 26-year-old parade is all about.
Michele Carroll, of Houma, wrote the Barkus organization last month, commenting that the parade was on her dog’s “bucket list.” The 11-year-old golden retriever Dugan had recently been diagnosed with cancer and his enthusiastic participation on the sidelines at previous Barkus parades assured Carroll, a clinical social worker, that being part of this year’s parade was Dugan’s desire.
When you love a dog, you become fluent in dogspeak.
Even the creator of the official Barkus posters gets in touch with his inner dog when he begins to create art around the theme of the parade.
“I try to get into the same disposition as the dog I am painting. It’s an intuitive thing. I kinda morph into the role of a canine,” said Matt Rinard, whose miniature pinscher was king of Barkus in 2001, when the theme was "Saturday Bite Fever." His current muses are his dachshund and his French bulldog, The 2018 poster is Rinard’s 20th poster for the organization.
Barkus veteran Sarah Coker, who works at Canine Connection, knew her rescue would take to a parade the first time she participated because the 7-year-old beagle Miss Betty likes, well, putting on the dog.
Even though the beagle is reserved when it comes to people, Coker says, Miss Betty is a natural clothes hound; she responds enthusiastically to the command “Come put on your clothes!”
The krewe name Barkus is a parody of the human’s superkrewe Bacchus, where extravaganza is paramount. But put together a parade where it is hard to tell where the paws end and the feet begin, and it is like a dog-park parade of tulle and sparkle.
So strong is the camaraderie of Barkus that Donita Sather, a local hair designer in the film industry, is turning to the parade as a vehicle for finding her lost 11-year-old chihuahua, who disappeared from a client’s house off Esplanade two months ago.
Sather will be pulling a red wagon decorated in pink tulle with a poster-size photo of Sophie, a long-haired white chihuahua with amber eyes and a nose to match, last seen wearing a pink leather collar with a pink rhinestone heart. Sophie’s furry sibling Rico Suave will occupy the wagon.
“We want to show that Sophie is loved and missed,” says Sather, for whom hundreds of flyers and social media have not yet rendered results.
Shortly before the parade today, Prince Triumph will be awaiting his car and driver to deliver him to parade central, where he will don the regal collar (said to have once been worn by a king of Comus) his humans found for him at an antiques store in the French Quarter. And he will mount his steed like any royal veteran. Last year, Jay Z stepped out of the crowd to acknowledge the canine prince.
“Beyonce was on the balcony,” Triumph’s humans recalled.
It’s hard for dog people to contain their enthusiasm for Barkus, but are they right about how their furry children feel about it?
“When we turn onto Royal Street, and the spectators are five people deep, you can just see Triumph soak up the adulation,” said Ripley.
And as for Miss Betty, the beagle, “Once the crowd starting making over her, she warmed up to anyone who wanted to pet her. She never once tugged at her tutu or beads,” said Coker, who says the gauge for determining how people know their dogs like having their own parade is easy to read.
“If the person is having a good time, the dog is having a good time.”
MYSTIC KREWE OF BARKUS PARADE
WHEN: 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 4
WHERE: Starts in Armstrong Park at North Rampart and St. Ann streets
REGISTRATION: $60 per person with one dog; sign up in the park