Digital Civic Engagement Spring 2021: New Orleans parades its canine culture at Barkus 2011

Editor’s Note: The following series, “Crescent City Canines,” is a week-long series curated by Becca Langman as part of the Tulane University Digital Civic Engagement class, in partnership with ViaNolaVie.

We all know and love the eccentricity New Orleans is so well-known for. From the backyard crawfish boils to the Tuesday parades down Canal just because the sun rose another day to Mardi Gras (need I say more); unconventionality runs through the blood of this city. But this manifests in more than how we get down on the weekends, it also shows itself in how we treat others. Others, of course, being our canine counterparts. Dogs and people have the same rights in New Orleans culture. We dress them up for holidays, parade them around town, and bring them out to eat. They hold a special, integral piece of New Orleans custom. This week, we will celebrate the precious pooches of the Crescent City by spotlighting 5 archived articles. In this article, which was originally published on February 28, 2011, Katherine Peck depicts Barkus 2011 and explores New Orleans’ affinity for our four-legged friends.

Dogs on parade

Dogs on parade

Most people would agree when I say that people in New Orleans are crazy for their dogs. (Or maybe just crazy? But that’s digressing into another topic). This local dog-fanatic reality was evident as Barkus 2011 rolled (ambled?) through the French Quarter Sunday. Dogs of all shapes, sizes and breeds were dressed to the nines and paraded with pride.

The theme: A Broadway Tail. Adorable doggies were dressed from such shows as The Pant”om of the Opera, The “Hound” of Music, and the hilariously ironic Cats. One dog was costumed as a hippie from Hair, while Galinda attire from Wicked proved a popular ensemble. Another pooch was cleverly attired as Mrs. Lovitt from Sweeny Todd. A crowd favorite: the four pugs dressed as South Park characters. Not exactly a musical, but hilarious.

This New Orleanian quirk – its love of canines – is not a one-day affair (or parade). Consider, for example, Magazine Street’s Bridge Lounge, a magical place where one can enjoy the yummiest of mojitos with friends, dog in tow. Or check out the aptly named bar The Bulldog, where the outdoor patio welcomes both two-legged and four-legged patrons. And the gelateria La Divina includes water dishes for pets alongside the outdoor seating.

The Big Easy art scene has also embraced this doggish obsession. Artist Chris Menconi will create a ceramic portrait of your dog – and who wouldn’t want to decorate a mantle, kitchen counter, or mausoleum with a beloved pooch in clay? The continuing popularity of artist George Rodrigue’s Blue Dog also hints at our affinity for canine companionship.

Maybe it’s New Orleans’ laid-back lifestyle that makes us so canine-friendly. After all, ours is a city where people drive up to windows to buy dacquiris and where it’s socially acceptable to put Fido (Fideaux?) in a dress. We love costumes, we love color, we love frivoloty, and of course we love our dogs.

Anyone who turned out for Barkus knows that.

NOTE: I apologize to all cat people. As a dog person, I do not feel qualified to comment on New Orleans cat culture. I have heard, however, that the Krewe of Endymeow no longer parades. That’s probably not surprising, as organizing feline cooperation on the level of the canine Barkus would be like, well, herding cats…

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