Dog parade benefits animal welfare group

Thousands of people and nearly as many dogs flocked Sunday afternoon to North Boulevard Town Square for the Capital Area Animal Welfare Society’s Mystic Krewe of Mutts, a dog parade led by one of Louisiana’s most recognizable canines, Cane II, of Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers.

Wagging tails, dripping drool and sniffing snouts dominated the downtown landscape, while bagpipes, horns and other music mostly drowned out the underlying discord of yapping pooches.

Colorful tents populated the North Boulevard median, filled mostly by dog adoption and foster organizations soliciting potential pet owners, welcoming donations and enjoying the balmy weather.

“Today, we all come together for a common CAAWS,” said Mari Presedo, a Capital Area Animal Welfare Society volunteer leader helping to organize the event’s many festivities.

Hours before the parade rolled Sunday afternoon, judges picked the winners of this year’s contests, which included competitions for best costume, float and group.

Among the competitors who won or placed were Banner, an English bulldog riding inside a small camouflage wagon decorated to look like a tank; Scarlett, a dachshund perched below a mini-helicopter in a stroller converted to a “MASH” — mobile animal surgical hospital — unit; and Shakira, a white husky encased by a box decorated as a battleship and aptly named the “U.S.S. Husky.”

The parade’s theme, “Semper Fideaux,” prompted people and pets alike to don an abundance of military apparel such as the kind advertised by many contest winners.

The parade both honored soldiers and served as one of CAAWS’ largest annual fundraisers, said Presedo, a Blue Star Mother of Louisiana with a son in the U.S. Army who spent nine years in Iraq.

Many local and some national organizations set up tents and were selling dog treats, people food and other assorted goodies, mostly to raise awareness and money for dog adoption and foster efforts.

Yorkie Haven Rescue, a national Yorkshire terrier adoption organization with local chapters, offered an array of doggy dresses, bandanas, bow ties and diapers — not just for Yorkies but for all dogs.

Rescue.me, a Baton Rouge-area foster group, sold “Pup Cakes,” bite-size carrot cakes, for both dogs and people.

The group, which has about 65 dogs and 30 cats up for adoption, also sold po-boys to help raise enough money to care for its foster animals, said Candis Craig, a rescue.me volunteer.

Most organizations didn’t have dogs up for adoption at their tents, instead advertising pictures or guiding prospective pet owners to websites.

But at the tent for Companion Animal Alliance, East Baton Rouge Parish’s animal shelter, about a dozen puppies rolled around inside chicken-wire enclosures, grabbing the attention of many passersby.

Paula Shaw, the shelter’s assistant director, said it takes in thousands of dogs annually and that about 100 are up for adoption any given day.

“We’re going to save the most lives in Baton Rouge if everybody works together,” Shaw said.

Dogs of all shapes and sizes attended Sunday’s parade, ranging from massive Newfoundlands and Great Danes to dachshunds and Chihuahuas.

In between, Boston terriers, Labrador and golden retrievers, spaniels and many mutts trotted and walked either in the parade or alongside it.

A brown lab wore a red tutu; a white poodle had a yellow and purple flower painted on its backside; and a white boxer complemented a pink tutu with a pink hair wig.

At least one couple, though, partly bucked the trend.

“This is her kid, and this is my dog,” said Randy Leger, pointing first to Bonny Bruno’s 16-year-old Chihuahua, Precious, and then second to the red-tailed boa named Iris wrapped around his head.

Precious goes every year, Bruno said, but this was Iris’ first trip.

It was a new experience, too, for Harley, a 2-year-old Shetland sheepdog belonging to Phil and Kristin Muscarello.

“He’s never been around this many dogs before,” Phil Muscarello said of Harley.

With a green and purple bow tie around his neck, Harley, along with many other dogs and people at the parade, spent the afternoon celebrating the approaching Mardi Gras in companionship of friends, family and pets.