Booth Pohlmann has had several successful careers: one as a creative makeup artist for high-caliber clients around the world and another as a mentor for at-risk youth in New Orleans.
While he was well-established in both fields and enjoyed them greatly, it may be his third career that will bring him the most pleasure.
Pohlmann now owns and operates the Bayou Ridge Animal Sanctuary and Preserve, a 12-acre spread near Goodbee and the St. Tammany/Tangipahoa parish line. The nonprofit effort is the result of a lifelong desire to rescue abused and disregarded animals of all types.
“When I was growing up, I wanted to do two things, and that was pay my mom’s electricity bill and take care of animals,” he said.
Pohlmann tends to at least a dozen animals at the preserve, including parrots, cats, dogs, pot-bellied pigs and a pair of goats. The focus of the sanctuary is on nontraditional pets that “no one wants to love or care for anymore.” The job requires at least four hours of work each day, he said.
But the Bayou Ridge Sanctuary and Preserve is far from the average animal shelter. That’s because Pohlmann, 52, brings his professional creativity to the project.
Imagine a barn draped in fabric left over from a wedding he planned. Inside the barn, two large pot-belled pigs roam freely underneath a chandelier with giant Christmas tree bulbs. One of the pigs sleeps on an upholstered chair in an adjacent room decorated with old luggage, books and more. Just outside, the goats walk within a fenced area that features wooden structures resembling Alpine huts.
Inside Pohlmann’s home on the property, parrots chirp in the living room, and Siamese cats languish in the bedroom. A litter of English bulldog puppies is in the handsome kitchen, with brass pots and pans hanging from the ceiling.
It’s all whimsical, but purposeful, Pohlmann said.
“I want this to be a last-chance place for animals; for the ones that really have no place to go,” he said. “They may be abused, they may be old, the ones that no one wants; that sort of thing. That’s my focus; to give them a safe place to land. Animals know when they are safe.”
Growing up in St. Francisville, Pohlmann had many pets, including horses, ducks and raccoons. Being blessed with a flair for the fashionable (yet also the practical), he merged his love of animals with his ability to create elaborate backdrops for weddings, gala parties and even sanctuaries for unwanted animals.
“It’s all the same energy,” Pohlmann said. “It’s all creative. Whatever your passion is, you have to tap into something.
“I think this place (Bayou Ridge) is beautiful. There’s something spiritual and soothing about it.”
To that end, Pohlmann has even grander plans for the property.
“I want to do cultural history gardens out here,” he said. “It can be a place where kids learn about where food comes from. It can be about where they learn about animals, that sometimes people are bad to animals. … I hope to raise awareness that animals are not disposable.”
Pohlmann said he is not accepting monetary donations for the nonprofit sanctuary but said he would accept in-kind donations of materials such as fencing to keep the animals on the property. He also seeks help from volunteers and interns to care for the animals both present and future.
For information, call (504) 715-7812.