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Human festivities scrapped, Rio's Carnival goes to the dogs

Francisca poses with her pet dog Eva during the annual dog Carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) -- Rio de Janeiro's Carnival festivities may have been canceled, but nobody told the dogs.

    Pet lovers from around the city gathered on Saturday for an annual event that draws dozens of humans with their furry, four-legged companions to compete for best costume.

    Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the street parties and traditional parades at the Sambadrome were canceled to avoid crowds, but the dogs had their day anyway with the "Blocao". The word is a mixture of "bloco" that refers to the traditional Carnival street parties and "cao" -- dog in Portuguese.

    Dozens of costumed dogs joined their owners for a Carnival parade inside a private club in the Recreio dos Bandeirantes neighborhood. The parade normally takes place along Avenida Atlantica bordering Copacabana beach, but this year Rio's mayor banned any public celebration.

    "The Cariocas (as Rio's residents are called) carry the joy of Carnival in their veins. We invited a restricted audience for a commemorative and distanced event that prevents Carnival 2021 from ending as if nothing had happened," said Marco Antonio Marinho, 66, who has been organizing the canine parade for 18 years.

    "In this pandemic, many people adopted dogs to cure their loneliness in isolation. Faced with COVID-19, we are together with our dogs," he said.

    Out on the parade floor were Boquino, a dog dressed in a clown costume and Cleo in a Snow White outfit, as well as a red-bedecked Sandy.

    For many participants, the pet parade was an opportunity to leave confinement for a moment and regain some of the usual Carnival joy.

    "I could not miss the parade today. It is a spacious, airy and very familiar place," said Francisca Freire, who joined the parade with a Yorkshire dog, Eve, dressed like a doctor in a medical apron, with a mask and stethoscope. Freire and her dog have participated in the pet parades for six years.

    "It is an escape from quarantine. Actually, the dogs are taking us for a walk," Freide added.

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