How's Bayou? Swamp Dog's Madewood escapade
First there was the disconcerting news that Swamp Dog is a she, not a he.
Ever since I'd seen the iconic photo of Gerald and Crystal Talbot's feisty terrier Shiloh, staring bemusedly from a weathered pirogue as "Swamp Dog," I knew that "he" would be the perfect boyfriend for Miss Clio. When I learned the photogenic canine lived just down the road in Napoleonville, wedding bells began to ring. But with the little gender problem, it was not to be.
At least, I thought, they could be friends.
It brought back painful memories of Clio’s fling with Mr. Lucky Dog, who spent several months after Katrina at Madewood with his guardians. I was so certain they had a sure thing going – the chases around the grounds of Madewood, the playful fights at the food dish, the little nips -- that on one of my outings to pass time at the Houma Target store as we waited to return to New Orleans, I bought them a designer dog house by noted post-modern architect Michael Graves.
It still sits in the box, a victim of their broken vows. Mr. Lucky never called after he returned home to the North Shore.
The hoped-for friendship thing was dashed at Swamp Dog’s recent journey to Madewood for a meet-and-greet with Clio, to be followed by a joint photo shoot.
On that idyllic afternoon, with rays of the setting sun streaking the front lawn as Gerald walked his bounding, leashed terrier-mix across the grass, I called Miss Clio out of the house to meet her visitor.
In a flash, the skittish Swamp Dog lunged for Clio’s throat. No piker herself, Clio bared her teeth as Gerald dragged his charge away. I swept Clio up in my arms and headed for the safety of the front porch.
Both sides faced off. C’est ne pas bon, as our Cajun neighbors would say.
Shortly after Hurricane Katrina, Thibodaux photographer Robin Bell and her business partner, Jennie Alexandry, needed a photo of an old pirogue for the upcoming Mandeville Wooden Boat Festival. Their friend, Gerald Talbot, had just the thing: an aging turquoise-blue pirogue that was headed for the bonfire. Gerald tied the tired little boat to a massive cypress stump, and Shiloh – whom he’d found wandering along a gravel road outside the town in the aftermath of the storm – swam out, then hopped into the boat to be closer to her new dad. The engaging, if forlorn, canine cried, barked and begged – standing up in the boat, beckoning at the three across what they later christened “The Magic Swamp.” In that instant, she became Swamp Dog.
The same strong will reappeared on the front lawn of Madewood, with a territorial imperative. So we left Swamp Dog lounging on the front lawn as Clio began her shoot. Spilling across a table in the parlor were the customized dog biscuits that Madewood guest Michael Alberts had made for her, complemented by a regal-looking bottle of Chambord liqueur. Queen that she is, Miss Clio was not amused.
She fidgeted and shot nervous looks at me, Robin and Jennie, who marshaled the skills of Garrision Keillor’s sound-effects man – whistles, bird calls, animal noises and lots of gutteral clicks to keep our subject focused. Robin bent down, over and around to get the perfect angle until she had the perfect shot, Cocktails and Cookies.
Then it was time for Clio to move to a rear-gallery encounter with a huge mint-julep cup that I’d bought at a recent Aldler’s jewelers clearance sale. Almost as tall as she, the frosted cup failed to attract her attention until Dad showed an interest in it and Jennie obliged with wild whooping sounds to keep Clio focused.
Then it was time for casual shots of a boy (me) and his dog (Clio) walking into the sunset. And some soulful shots of Swamp Dog that you can see at Robin and Jenny’s Swamp Dog and Friends gallery on Royal Street in the French Quarter. As the name suggests, Shiloh is not alone in the stylishly-rustic gallery space. There are photos of other canines as bartenders in great New Orleans watering spots, a project known as Lounge Hounds, Shiloh at her best sucking down a daiquiri at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, and the pirogue that started it all.
And Clio, she’s ready to be the Chambord doggie -- for a lifetime supply of treats, of course.
How's Bayou? the secrets of remaining sane while running an upscale B&B on Bayou Lafourche, is written weekly for NolaVie by Keith Marshall, a former Rhodes Scholar and graduate of Yale and Oxford universities who now juggles his time between Dixie Art Supplies in New Orleans and Madewood Plantation House in Napoleonville.
How’s Bayou? the secrets of remaining sane while running an upscale B&B on Bayou Lafourche, is written weekly for NolaVie by Keith Marshall, a former Rhodes Scholar and graduate of Yale and Oxford universities who now runs Madewood Plantation House in Napoleonville.