My Rouses Everyday, January | February 2018
I used to be famous. I coulda been somebody. I coulda been a contender. Instead, my dog stole the show.
She always stole my thunder. Took away my spotlight. And anyone can tell you: She was, and still is, much prettier than me.
The date is Feb. 2, 2007. The Barkus parade in New Orleans is getting ready to roll. Thousands of folks are gathered in Armstrong Park, and thousands more are lining the streets of the French Quarter. I’m thinking they’re here for me. But no.
I’ve got the Pulitzer Prize. I’ve got the New York Times Best Seller. But nobody is paying attention to me. Nobody is making a fuss over me. Nobody is calling my name. Nobody is scratching my belly. And not a damn soul tells me I’m adorable.
But everyone is making a fuss over my dog, Luna Biscuit. Everyone. She is the Queen. The Queen of the Mystic Krewe of Barkus 2007. I’m just the guy who holds her leash. Fills her supper dish. Pays for her shots and grooming. And scratches her belly when the masses are at bay.
Barkus, the original New Orleans Mardi Gras canine parade, was founded in 1992, where all great Carnival institutions are conceived: in a barroom. Born of a 12-pack and a clever idea, the krewe’s name is a play on the name of the famous New Orleans super-krewe, Bacchus. But instead of a bunch of masquerading rich folks tossing baubles and beads from floats to the crowds assembled in the streets below, Barkus is a gathering of costumed four-legged friends trundling through the streets of the French Quarter and generally making a spectacle of themselves.
Some parades throw rubber dog poops to their crowds. Barkus delivers the real deal.
The King of Barkus is traditionally a purebred, with papers and lineage and all that fancy dog show stuff. The Queen is always a mutt, a stray, a rescue dog. That’s my Luna Biscuit. It’s French for Moon Pie, sort of. Biscuit for short.
Biscuit was discovered in an open field out near Lafayette, La., in the days following Hurricane Rita — more than three weeks after Katrina had laid waste to the rest of South Louisiana in the fall of 2005. She was one of thousands of strays rescued in those weeks and months after the two storms, hauled off to a temporary shelter and, after failed efforts to locate her owner, scheduled for the euthanasia line.
During those frantic times, nobody had the means, time, energy or money to actually save all those pets. The temporary emergency “shelters” back then were, in large part, death factories. Many lost and unclaimed animals had to be put down. It took the work of heroes to save the blessed few from their morbid fate. One of those heroes was Meredith McLanahan.
Meredith is one of the “true believers.” A dog rescuer. You know the type. Driven beyond reason. And she was a friend of mine.
Meredith was out in Acadiana helping with pet rescues when she spotted Biscuit on the euthanasia line. Biscuit was hard to miss. She had a soft, beautiful mane, the looks of a yellow Lab, a spirited disposition and the most magical eyes you’ll ever see.
Biscuit is heterochromatic, meaning that her eyes are different colors. Like David Bowie. The condition in humans is usually the result of a childhood virus, whilie in canines, it is a rare but natural optical quirk, affecting about one out of every 100,000.
In 2007, Biscuit came to the attention of the Barkus folks. She had all the qualifications to be Queen: Stray, pretty, docile and willing.
The theme of the 2007 Barkus parade was “A Street Dog Named Desire.” Biscuit’s name and picture were published in the paper. She was feted with lamb chops and oysters at Galatoire’s Restaurant on Bourbon Street. (I was served an iced tea, sweet.)
On parade day, a team of young and sturdy animal shelter volunteers pushed us through the streets of the French Quarter in a rickety wooden float. Thousands of revelers hailed Biscuit. Me and my kids sat, starstruck. Biscuit scratched behind her ears. We waved to the masses. But everyone called her name.
It’s a family memory etched forever in our minds. And there was never a Queen so deserving.
Biscuit is old and chunky now. Slowed by time. But she’s still my spirit dog, the one with the omniscient eyes, incandescent stare, indefatigable mischief and uncompromising loyalty.
She taught me a long time ago when we used to cuddle ourselves to sleep together that life is bigger than me. Much bigger and better.
She taught me the meaning of unconditional love.
Man’s best friend, indeed.