BR pooch parade paws downtown

Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD -- Cooper, a boxer, plants a wet kiss on Kate Clement, then 2, of Denham Springs, at the kissing booth at last year's CAAWS Mystic Krewe of Mutts Parade in downtown Baton Rouge.
Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD -- Cooper, a boxer, plants a wet kiss on Kate Clement, then 2, of Denham Springs, at the kissing booth at last year's CAAWS Mystic Krewe of Mutts Parade in downtown Baton Rouge.

Archana Banda and her 6-year-old spaniel were dressed like fairy princesses Sunday at the 2013 Mystic Krewe of Mutts Parade.

Banda, of Baton Rouge, donned a pink dress with pink fairy wings, a furry pink tiara and sunglasses. Her dog, a Cavalier King Charles spaniel, wore a fluffy pink dress and pointed pink hat.

Banda said the costume didn’t take her long to assemble.

“Unfortunately, just 20 minutes. I don’t know what that bodes for me,” she said with a laugh.

Banda and thousands of other dog lovers gathered downtown on North Boulevard for the 14th incarnation of the puppy parade, hosted by the Capital Area Animal Welfare Society.

This year’s theme was “Totally Paw-some ’80s.”

Banda said she has attended the parade the last few years and enjoys it because of the fun, dog-loving atmosphere.

“I love my dogs as much as I love children,” she said.

The parade is organized and hosted by CAAWS, which uses the event as its primary donation generator, CAAWS board member Denis Ricou said.

CAAWS usually hopes to raise about $10,000 to $15,000 through the parade, Ricou said.

The money, raised through parade entry fees and donations, goes right back to helping needy dogs, he said.

“This isn’t a money maker — this is a donation maker,” he said.

The dog-lovers and their owners gathered in front of the 19th Judicial District Courthouse before the parade kicked off.

Once it began, dogs of all breeds and sizes marched up and down North Boulevard between Fourth and Eighth Streets as their owners tossed beads to the thousands of paradegoers who lined the sidewalks.

Some wore bright neon colors, mohawks and other ’80s-style clothing to go along with the theme. Others wore traditional purple, green and gold colors for Mardi Gras.

Raising Cane II, mascot of chicken finger giant and parade sponsor Raising Cane’s, served as the parade’s grand marshal.

The parade is a way to celebrate dogs in a fun, family-friendly atmosphere, Ricou said.

“People pick up after themselves and their dogs,” Ricou said.

While the parade was the main draw, the festivities began well before the parade started.

Vendors parked on North Boulevard’s Town Square and sold food and drinks, and animal activist groups set up tents and offered information about their services.

The most enthusiastic of canine lovers competed in contests for best costume and best float.

Participants included “Mutt-donna,” a tribute to pop star Madonna, and a float dedicated to Michael Jackson called “Meat It.”

Mary Helen Blanchard, a costume contestant, pulled off a spot-on imitation of Cruella de Vil, the antagonist of the puppy classic “101 Dalmatians.”

Blanchard’s costume came complete with a black-and-white wig and fur coat. Her husband, Bill, dressed as her “henchman,” pulled a float loaded with beads that carried their daughter’s 2-year-old dog, Hazel.

Blanchard’s grandchildren wore white T-shirts with black spots all over them.

“I’m feeling probably a bit friendlier than Cruella,” Blanchard said.

Blanchard said she and her family have attended the parade for the last three years but were participating in the costume contest for the first time.

“We just think we have great costumes,” she said. “We just wanted something where we could dress the dog up and all dress up ourselves.”

Julia Sumner, an assistant professor in small animal surgery at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, served as a judge in the contests.

Sumner said she was impressed with the floats and costumes.

“I think it’s great seeing all the dogs and all the effort the people went through,” she said.