NEW ORLEANS – Some came to the jazz funeral memorial march with photographs of pets lost in Hurricane Katrina's floods or aftermath. Others came with just their memories.
Earl Madona and his fiancee, Maggie Smith, brought a giant dog mask and two stuffed animals to symbolize their three dogs, two of them lost in the floodwaters.
They were among about 100 people who gathered Sunday night on the Esplanade Street median for a 10-block walk to a memorial service at St. Anna's Episcopal Church. Some marched with their dogs.
"It's just a nice way to pay tribute to all those that were lost so horribly, you know, all those that suffered," said Gail Langos, who was walking with her dachshunds, Merlin and Muffin.
Madona, an offshore cook, and Smith, a house painter, took turns wearing the big brown head, which bore resemblance to Scooby-Doo. Smith said they inherited it from friends who didn't return to the city after Katrina.
Madona said the costume piece looked like his Doberman, Phideaux (pronounced "Fido"). The flat-nosed blue stuffed animal represented his red-nose pit bull, Blue, while a small black stuffed dog was for Smith's Chihuahua, Baby, which died before the hurricane.
Madona said he had to leave by bus for Houston, and couldn't take his pets. Smith stayed through the storm. She said she rescued her neighbors' dogs, covering their paws with duct tape to keep their claws from breaking the rubber raft a neighbor had left. She kept one of the dogs.
John Clark of Arabi and friend Mary Horaist of Kenner carried small sunflower bouquets and photographs of their 15-year-old dogs. They took both of them out of New Orleans, but both died afterward.
Clark, personnel director for St. Bernard Parish, had to have Katie-Raz euthanized after the power went out in Bogalusa and she went into respiratory failure.
"I promised Katie that when she would die, she would die looking into my eyes," he said.
Horaist had been nursing Fred through kidney failure with subcutaneous fluids even before the storm. Power outages, downed trees and phone failures left her unable to reach a veterinarian from the blueberry farm in Poplarville, Miss., where she had taken refuge.
Before the march began Sunday, the Rev. Bill Terry of St. Anna's Episcopal Church spoke briefly with members of the Treme Brass Band. "You know what to do," he told them. "You've done it a million times before."
Later, he told the crowd: "We're New Orleans. This is how we mourn."
Jazz funeral marches traditionally start with a dirge for the mourners' sorrow, then move into an uptempo celebration of the loved one's life and salvation.
This time, the march stepped off to a slow rendition of "Just a Closer Walk With Thee."
There was a bit of silence. The drums rattled briskly, and the band swung into "Just a Little While to Stay Here."