"You might say people are having a 'ball' with this idea," captain and founder of the Mardi Paws parade, Denise Gutnisky, tells PEOPLE

By Jen Juneau
February 12, 2021 04:02 PM
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Mardi Gras dog house float
| Credit: William Drake Matlock

As the Mystic Krewe of Mardi Paws says: Laissez les bone temps rouler!

The group — which usually puts on a parade on the North Shore, located across Lake Ponchartrain from New Orleans — has come up with a creative way to celebrate Mardi Gras amid the 2021 parade cancellations caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

"In response to those who are 'begging' for a safe way to celebrate this unusual Carnival season, Mardi Paws is hosting its first-ever Dog House Float contest," a release explains, adding that the goal of the event is, in part, "to spread good cheer."

It's also being held to draw "attention to the plight of the homeless pups at the St. Tammany Parish Department of Animal Services in Lacombe, the only open-admission animal shelter in the parish."

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Mardi Gras dog house float
| Credit: Hope Richard
Mardi Gras dog house float
| Credit: William Drake Matlock
Mardi Gras dog house float
| Credit: William Drake Matlock

In an exclusive conversation with PEOPLE, Mardi Paws founder and Captain Denise Gutnisky says, "For the past 26 years, dogs have dressed up and paraded through the streets of our parish in honor of Mardi Gras."

She adds, "But as you know, this is no ordinary year. So we taught an old dog a new trick and came up with the idea of turning dog houses into stationary floats."

Gutnisky says she was inspired to host the creative contest after seeing the popularity of the house-float craze in New Orleans this year, launched by the Krewe of House Floats.

"I saw that they had come up with this idea in New Orleans and of course, being a four-dog mom, the first thing I thought was, 'We need to put our own spin on it with dog house floats,'" she tells PEOPLE.

Mardi Paws Flagship Float #1
| Credit: Chopper Photography
Dog walking by "Jamaican Me Crazy" dog house float
| Credit: Mardi Paws

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For inspiration and admiration, Mardi Paws has their flagship dog house float on display at a local Subaru dealership, where they also hold pop-up adoption events every weekend.

"It's been a tough year for so many," Gutnisky continues. "We were committed to trying to bring some cheer to the community while raising awareness of all the unwanted pets in our parish's open-admission animal shelter."

"So far, nearly 100 dog houses have been entered into the contest," she adds. "You might say people are having a 'ball' with this idea."

Residents (and out-of-towners, too!) can decorate a dog house to celebrate "Mutty Gras" from now through Feb. 20, and enter to win prizes in both residential and business categories.