Royal DisemBARKation

After the gangplank was lowered, her resplendent Highness was triumphantly carried ashore by one of her human escorts amid cries of “Hail Puffer!” The gold sequins on her ermine-trimmed red velvet cape sparkled in the morning sun.

A Royal DisemBARKation

Sonny Borey and co-escort Derek Franklin, holding the regally attired Queen Puffer in his arms, descending the gangplank from the John James Audubon riverboat

Following a Mardi Gras tradition historically reserved only for human royalty, Puffer, Queen Barkus X, arrived via riverboat at 9:15 a.m. last Thursday morning at the Aquarium of the Americas wharf, drawing bemused, admiring looks from everyone present. Foremost among her welcoming party: Barkus X, Jake, who was meeting his consort for the first time.

Apropos of the 2002 Mystic Krewe of Barkus theme, “Freedom’s Best Friend: Saluting Canine Heroes,” Jake, a handsome, full-blooded Golden Retriever, was attired in a stars-and-stripes cape. After the gangplank was lowered from the John James Audubon, her resplendent Highness, a Westhighland Terrier mix, was triumphantly carried ashore by one of her human escorts, Derek Franklin, amid cries of “Hail Puffer!” The gold sequins on her ermine-trimmed red velvet cape sparkled in the morning sun.

Tugging on his leach, a clearly excited Jake could barley wait to lay a royal kiss on his diminutive queen. Robert Ripley, one of the founders of Barkus, then proceeded to read from a proclamation, elaborating on the theme of the highly anticipated parade.

“Whereas, our captain seeks to honor our fearless canine heroes for serving the general good of humanity, police, fire and rescue departments nationwide will be celebrated by parading through the French Quarter totally clad in red, white and blue….”

Ending with a call to all krewe members and their human escorts to “assemble with mirth in Louis Armstrong Park,” Ripley presented a gift to Puffer’s proud owner, Sonny Borey. Jake barked approvingly, and Puffer shook off her tiara. The royal couple exchanged yet another smooch.

By virtue of the fact that she is always an SPCA adoptee, the queen of Barkus is traditionally a rags-to-riches story. And indeed, as recently as the spring of 2001 Puffer was homeless, having been adopted twice and returned to the SPCA twice because of a medical condition that required her to undergo surgery to remove her spleen.

“She sat in the cage for months,” according to her official biography, “hoping someone would give her the care and the chance she needed in life. Finally, she found salvation when she met her adoptive father, Sonny, who provided her with everything she needed.”

Including, as it turned out, a career as a canine thespian. As executive director of the Le Petite Theatre du Vieux Carré in New Orleans, Borey, who also serves as captain of the Krewe of Orpheus, last fall cast Puffer in a production of George M. “She loved it from start to finish,” he recalled in an interview. “In fact, when the show was over she was very disappointed. She thought every night she should be going back to the theater.”

Her inspirational story, which she dreams of one day retelling on stage, no doubt played a big part in her selection, from among a group of nominees, as Queen Barkus. According to Ripley, her royal fate was decided in a “secret ceremony very similar to the way the Pope is elevated in the Vatican.”

Derek holding Puffer as she goes nose-to-nose with her consort Jake, who is draped in the Stars and Stripes

King Jake was born on December 7, 1999 at Huntington Farms Kennel in Covington, Louisiana. In His Majesty’s biography, John Russell, general manager of the Ritz-Carlton New Orleans, recalls having “picked Jake out of a beautiful litter of puppies. We put each puppy on the ground and walked away. Jake was the only one who came running after me.”

In his first Barkus parade last year (theme: “Saturday Bite Fever”), Jake had the honor of serving as Grand Marshal. For Barkus 2002, he will appear in a genuine canine rescue vest, which Russell purchased via the Internet. “We’re real proud of him this year,” says Russell, since he’ll “represent all the rescue dogs in America that are so famous now, unfortunately.”

“Watching those dogs at Ground Zero—they were so tireless,” notes Russell, referring to the September 11th tragedy at the World Trade Center. “And they went in, some of them got trapped and had to be pulled out. They got cut up, but they never stopped working.”

While admitting that Barkus is “a lot of fun,” Russell is quick to point out that it serves a noble purpose, which includes providing financial support for the SPCA. “I think it’s important that we recognize what dogs have done for us,” he says. “They give you their love without any hesitation, no matter what.”

“Dogs bring us an awful lot,” he adds, “and it’s good that we can give a little back. And Barkus does that.”

Hail Barkus!

Following a Mardi Gras tradition historically reserved only for human royalty, Puffer, Queen Barkus X, arrived via riverboat at 9:15 a.m. last Thursday morning at the Aquarium of the Americas wharf, drawing bemused, admiring looks from everyone present. Foremost among her welcoming party: Barkus X, Jake, who was meeting his consort for the first time.

Puffer sniffing Jake's crown jewels

Apropos of the 2002 Mystic Krewe of Barkus theme, “Freedom’s Best Friend: Saluting Canine Heroes,” Jake, a handsome, full-blooded Golden Retriever, was attired in a stars-and-stripes cape. After the gangplank was lowered from the John James Audubon, her resplendent Highness, a Westhighland Terrier mix, was triumphantly carried ashore by one of her human escorts, Derek Franklin, amid cries of “Hail Puffer!” The gold sequins on her ermine-trimmed red velvet cape sparkled in the morning sun.

Tugging on his leach, a clearly excited Jake could barley wait to lay a royal kiss on his diminutive queen. Robert Ripley, one of the founders of Barkus, then proceeded to read from a proclamation, elaborating on the theme of the highly anticipated parade.

“Whereas, our captain seeks to honor our fearless canine heroes for serving the general good of humanity, police, fire and rescue departments nationwide will be celebrated by parading through the French Quarter totally clad in red, white and blue….”

Ending with a call to all krewe members and their human escorts to “assemble with mirth in Louis Armstrong Park,” Ripley presented a gift to Puffer’s proud owner, Sonny Borey. Jake barked approvingly, and Puffer shook off her tiara. The royal couple exchanged yet another smooch.

By virtue of the fact that she is always an SPCA adoptee, the queen of Barkus is traditionally a rags-to-riches story. And indeed, as recently as the spring of 2001 Puffer was homeless, having been adopted twice and returned to the SPCA twice because of a medical condition that required her to undergo surgery to remove her spleen.

“She sat in the cage for months,” according to her official biography, “hoping someone would give her the care and the chance she needed in life. Finally, she found salvation when she met her adoptive father, Sonny, who provided her with everything she needed.”

Queen Puffer, wearing a tiara and cape, aboard an elaborately outfitted royalty float ablaze with patriotic accoutrements.

Including, as it turned out, a career as a canine thespian. As executive director of the Le Petite Theatre du Vieux Carré in New Orleans, Borey, who also serves as captain of the Krewe of Orpheus, last fall cast Puffer in a production of George M. “She loved it from start to finish,” he recalled in an interview. “In fact, when the show was over she was very disappointed. She thought every night she should be going back to the theater.”

Her inspirational story, which she dreams of one day retelling on stage, no doubt played a big part in her selection, from among a group of nominees, as Queen Barkus. According to Ripley, her royal fate was decided in a “secret ceremony very similar to the way the Pope is elevated in the Vatican.”

King Jake was born on December 7, 1999 at Huntington Farms Kennel in Covington, Louisiana. In His Majesty’s biography, John Russell, general manager of the Ritz-Carlton New Orleans, recalls having “picked Jake out of a beautiful litter of puppies. We put each puppy on the ground and walked away. Jake was the only one who came running after me.”

In his first Barkus parade last year (theme: “Saturday Bite Fever”), Jake had the honor of serving as Grand Marshal. For Barkus 2002, he will appear in a genuine canine rescue vest, which Russell purchased via the Internet. “We’re real proud of him this year,” says Russell, since he’ll “represent all the rescue dogs in America that are so famous now, unfortunately.”

“Watching those dogs at Ground Zero—they were so tireless,” notes Russell, referring to the September 11th tragedy at the World Trade Center. “And they went in, some of them got trapped and had to be pulled out. They got cut up, but they never stopped working.”

While admitting that Barkus is “a lot of fun,” Russell is quick to point out that it serves a noble purpose, which includes providing financial support for the SPCA. “I think it’s important that we recognize what dogs have done for us,” he says. “They give you their love without any hesitation, no matter what.”

“Dogs bring us an awful lot,” he adds, “and it’s good that we can give a little back. And Barkus does that.”

Hail Barkus!

 

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