Monday, January 18, 2016

Gearing up for Mardi Gras

Oh, because it's carnival time... If you're from New Orleans, you not only know what that means, you're likely singing the rest of that phrase in your head right at this moment. If you're not, you're about to find out just what you've gotten yourself into coming to this strange place with the crazy weather, where people live for any opportunity to dress up. In costume, that is.

Yes, that time has come again. The holidays are finally over, King Cakes are on the shelves, and all over the city people have started scrounging around thrift stores and garage sales (if they weren't already) looking for all manner of items and garments to incorporate into their 2016 Mardi Gras Costumes.

Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, whatever you choose to call it, the period between Epiphany (Twelfth Night) and the beginning of lent (Ash Wednesday) has been celebrated in some form or fashion for hundreds of years, and New Orleanians take this particular party very seriously. Naturally, our pets are not exempt from this annual festival of spectacle.

In fact, twenty-three years ago, Mardi Gras went to the dogs. That's when the Mystic Krewe of Barkus was conceived one fine autumn day in a French Quarter bar. The almost all-canine carnival club parades through the French Quarter with a different theme each year. (This year it's "From the dog house to White House.")

King Barkus 2016
Photo borrowed from the Barkus Facebook page

There are two other canine krewe parades in the metro area; the Krewe de Paws of Olde Town in Slidell, and the Mystic Krewe of Mardi Paws in Mandeville, though technically Mardi Paws will roll on Valentine's Day 2016, five days after carnival. It isn't all just fun and games; all three krewes are dedicated to fundraising efforts, and anyone can register their pet and walk as an escort in the parades. (Click one of the krewe links for more details.)

Just as with humans, not all animal krewes hold a parade. Such is the case with the Krewe of Endymeow. The annual Bal Masque (marking 14 years this season) is by invitation, but to snag one you merely have to email a photo of your furry feline family member in their "finest Mardi Gras regalia." Your pet might even be chosen for the royal court!

If you're stumped for your pet's costume this year, take a look at these photos from our Because It's New Orleans Pinterest board:

Unfortunately, the rest of Mardi Gras overall is for humans only. A 2015 blog post from specifically mentions reptiles not being allowed within 200 feet of a parade, and not along the parade route either two hours before or after a parade rolls. Dogs are also not allowed within 200 feet and can not be on the route one hour before or after a parade. It doesn't mention other animals, but we can assume these rules extend to all pets. Besides, why stress them out with the huge crowds and craziness?

It goes without saying that Fido and Fluffy need to be kept away from the king cake, but there are other potential dangers pet parents need to keep in mind and be sure that kids are aware of. Many Mardi Gras throws present a choking hazard, and according to the Pet Poison Helpline, glow jewelry is poisonous to cats.

There's a lot of partying and drinking that goes on this time of year so be sure no cups are left sitting around with alcohol in them, and ask guests to be mindful as well. If you're prepping for your costume or organizing your supplies for a parade, be sure not to leave loose items around that pets might get into. Also, if you live on or near a parade route make sure your dog gets a walk well in advance of parade time!

Have a safe and happy Mardi Gras!

Helpful links:

2016 Mardi Gras Parade Schedule

Will Biting Into a Glow Stick Make My Pet Sick?

Having a Pet-Friendly Mardi Gras

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