This Sunday, the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals will be holding its second annual Gatsby Dog Second Line Parade and Celebration in the New Orleans neighborhood of Algiers. Originally set for May 15, the event was moved to May 18 because of rain.
The event is named in honor of SPCA volunteer Kathy Lynn Honaker's Yorkshire terrier, Gatsby. As Honaker told the New Orleans Times-Picayune:
"Having the Gatsby Dog's unconditional love for almost 18 years was one of the true joys in my life. This parade is for everyone who has known that same love. It is to honor our canine friends and celebrate their lives. It is also to help the Louisiana SPCA raise much-needed funds to continue doing the great work of taking care of abandoned and lost animals," Honaker said.
"Second line" parades grew out of traditional New Orleans jazz funerals that were accompanied by brass bands. The "first line" included the family and friends of the deceased, while the "second line" was made up of those who came for the music. Nowadays second line dances are also held independently of funerals.
Last year's Gatsby Dog parade drew about 60 people and 70 dogs. All participants -- human and canine alike -- are encouraged to wear costumes. This year's event starts at 3:30 p.m. with second line registration at the Algiers Courthouse and drinks at the Dry Dock Café, followed by remembrances and the second line at Algiers Ferry Landing, and wrapping up with food, drinks and music at the Old Point Bar and Warren's Corner. A $5 donation is requested to participate in the second line, and the first 75 registrants will receive specially designed 2008 Gatsby Dog beads.
The Louisiana SPCA facility -- the only animal shelter in New Orleans -- was destroyed in the flooding that followed Hurricane Katrina and lost 80 percent of its staff in the displacement. Despite those devastating losses, the organization went to lead the largest animal rescue operation in U.S. history, saving the lives of over 8,500 animals with the aid of colleagues and volunteers from across the world.
On the storm's first anniversary, the organization held a groundbreaking for its new campus with the help of Lexie, the digging Golden retriever. It went on to celebrate the grand opening of its new 21,600 square-foot Animal Rescue and Care Center in Algiers on May 18, 2007.
"The amount of devastation suffered by our friends on the Gulf Coast was unprecedented," says Ed Sayres, president and CEO of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. "It's a triumphant story of recovery in the face of extreme challenges and a testament to the organization's undying commitment to improve the lives of animals, against all odds."
(Photo of Gatsby Dog courtesy of the Louisiana SPCA)