Joan Delahoussaye scanned the throngs of people — many accompanied by dogs of all breeds, shapes and sizes — who were swarming all over The Shrine On Airline’s parking lot in Metairie. Some of the dogs and their owners were dressed in matching Halloween costumes.
“This is really awesome,” Delahoussaye said. “We have more people show up every year. It’s great to see so many people who not only care about their dogs but who also care about dogs that don’t have a home. I love doing this so much. I don’t think I could ever stop doing it. I’ve got at least 20 more years to go. I can’t quit now.”
The occasion for Delahoussaye’s joy was the 10th annual Howl-O-Weenie, which she and her husband, Harold, began as a fundraiser for the Metairie Humane Shelter. The event was held Oct. 27 at 6000 Airline Drive.
In 2008, the inaugural Howl-O-Weenie drew about 100 participants. This year’s event drew more than 1,000. The Howl-O-Weenie included a pet-and-pal costume contest, music and food. Various vendors were also on hand.
The Metairie Humane Shelter is a no-kill shelter for dogs, which the Delahoussayes began a quarter of a century ago. Since the shelter opened, it has found homes for more than 2,600 dogs. This year, 118 dogs have been rescued and placed in permanent homes.
“Our goal is to connect humans with pet companions that will be the beginning of a lifetime love affair,” Delahoussaye said. “It’s so exciting when you find the perfect match. When I see that happen, I can’t describe the wonderful feelings I have.”
Some of the dogs, such as Gypsy — a 2-year-old black and grey Chihuahua and terrier mix — that have been rescued by the Metairie Humane Shelter and found that “perfect match” with their humans were at the Howl-O-Weenie.
Kenner’s Jimmy and Kelly Gros and their 10 year-old daughter, Gracelyn, after encountering Gypsy, appreciate what Delahoussaye means when she talks about a “perfect match” and lifetime love affair between humans and dogs.
Gypsy, dressed in black and orange Halloween attire, snuggled in Kelly’s arms while Jimmy and Gracelyn looked on admiringly.
“I never thought I could love a dog this much,” Kelly said. “I’ve always been a cat person.”
Gypsy captured the hearts of the Gros family earlier this year when they stopped at Petco in Kenner to buy cat food. The Metairie Humane Shelter had several of their rescue dogs at the front of the store. Jimmy stayed in the car while Kelly and Gracelyn went inside the store to purchase the cat food.
“The moment we saw Gypsy we fell madly in love with her,” Kelly said. “I knew she was going to become part of our family.”
Gracelyn sprinted to the car to tell Jimmy to come see the dog that they were going to adopt.
“I said, ‘No,’ at first,” Jimmy said. “But I finally agreed to at least go inside and take a look at the dog. When I entered the store where the dogs were, Gypsy jumped on me. I knew then she would be coming home with us, and I’m so glad she did.”
Said Kelly: “We are madly in love with Gypsy.”
Added Jimmy: “I think Gypsy rescued us. She has brought unconditional love to our family.”
River Ridge’s Sherry Vitter and her 9-year-old granddaughter, Lucy, also found their “perfect match” at the Metairie Humane Shelter in March when they adopted Candy, a mixed breed Italian greyhound and Chihuahua mix.
“Lucy and I were looking for a dog when we visited the Metairie Humane Society’s website,” Sherry said. “We didn’t just want a dog. We wanted the dog that was right for us, and when we saw Candy we knew she was the dog for us.”
Said Lucy: “I’m glad that we could help Candy find a home. I don’t think dogs should be on the street and not have someone to love and take care of them.”
Joan and Harold Delahoussaye never grow weary of hearing people like the Gros and Vitter families tell their stories.
“People often ask me how we can do this,” Harold said. “It’s not easy when you take dogs off the street and they are scared, dirty and sometimes injured and full of worms. I can’t imagine the hell some of these dogs have gone through before they come to us.
“But later when you see them find the perfect home and know they are going to be loved and cared for, it feels so good. Joan and I can’t bring all the dogs we rescue home with us. We need people to adopt them and give them good homes.”
Lynn Perry, who operates Puppy Love Grooming by Lynn, has been a volunteer with the Metairie Humane Shelter for two years. She provides baths and grooming for the dogs when they are first rescued.
“I am a dog groomer, so this is something I can do to help homeless dogs,” she said. “Usually the dogs are scared at first, so it’s important that I touch and handle them with love. And when they look good they are more likely to be adopted. I love knowing that I’m helping them find a home.”
For some, the Howl-O-Weenie has become an annual family affair. Marrero’s Brianna Merriman was accompanied by her father, mother, husband, son and Stella, a 3-year-old yorkie.
“We came last year and everyone in our family had so much fun that we wanted to come back” Merriman said. “We have fun, and it’s also a good time for Stella to socialize with other dogs and have fun as well.”
The Howl-O-Weenie is also a place where dog owners can get tips about grooming, diet and training techniques from other dog aficionados.
Metairie’s Whitney Lacour brought her 2-year-old golden retriever, Parish, to the Howl-O-Weenie dressed as Wonder Woman.
“This is my second year to attend, and I was looking forward to it,” Lacour said. “You get so many ideas here about things you can do to take care of your dog.”
As the day wore on and more people and dogs kept showing up for the Howl-O-Weenie, Joan Delahoussaye said: “When this is over we will be really tired, but I’m so glad we are able to still do this. It’s fun to bring dog lovers together, and we know that what we are doing will also help save the lives of many dogs.”
The Metairie Humane Shelter is located at 6213 Airline Drive, Metairie. For information, call 504.451.2822.
Earl Hodges writes about people and events in East Jefferson. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.