In Memory of Julia: Dog park named for shelter animal advocate

Published 12:15 am Wednesday, June 21, 2017

LAPLACE — Jodi Luna marked the first anniversary of her daughter Julia’s death a year ago with a lantern release for family and friends at the St. John the Baptist Parish dog park.

It was a solemn occasion for Jodi and her husband Pete, whose only child was born with a heart defect and died suddenly from a brain abscess at the age of 11. Yet, the dog park was the perfect setting to remember a girl who loved animals and wanted to see them all find homes.

Julia Luna

“It was at the Thomas F. Daley Memorial Park,” Jodi explained. “While we were there, I was just thinking that I needed to get something with my baby’s name on it.”

Jodi’s desire comes true Saturday, the second anniversary of her daughter’s death, when the dog park is officially dedicated in memory of Julia Caroline Luna.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held at 1 p.m. at the park, located behind the St. John Parish Central Library on U.S. 51 in LaPlace.

Pets from the St. John Parish animal shelter will be on site and available for adoption from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Jambalaya will be sold, with the proceeds going to Froggy’s Mission.

Julia, whose nickname was “Froggy,” was a passionate animal lover who volunteered at the St. John Parish animal shelter and at weekly pet adoption events. One day she told her mother, “If everybody just adopted one, there would be none.”

“Adopt one until there are none,” became the motto for Froggy’s Mission, a community of volunteers helping shelter animals find forever homes.

Over the past year, Jodi and parish officials have worked together to put Julia’s name on the dog park, which opened last year as a place for dogs to run and play without having to be on a leash.

Jodi Luna’s dog Hope, a recent adoptee from the St. John animal shelter, clears a hurdle at the LaPlace dog park.

There are separate areas for big dogs and small dogs, as well as bags for owners to pick up their animal’s messes.

The ribbon-cutting was finally scheduled for earlier this month but had to be rescheduled due to a forecast for heavy rain on June 3.

Moved to this Saturday, it is now on what the Luna family calls their “angelversary.”

Jodi says it is the perfect date.

“People have been saying, ‘You know your daughter did this on purpose,’” Jodi said. “So many people that couldn’t come on the other date now are able to attend. It’s just amazing how it came together. She would be so excited.”

Those who knew Julia say the park is a perfect way to honor her.

“Julia was a dedicated volunteer to the animal shelter and did not meet an animal that she didn’t connect with,” shelter director Rachael Sance said. “The dog park dedication in memory of her is fitting for a little girl who loved animals more than anything.”

The St. John Parish Animal Shelter offers pet adoptions at 488 W. 2nd St. Adoption hours are from noon to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Adoption fees are $130 for dogs six months and older, $100 for puppies less than six months and $80 for cats and kittens.

All animals adopted from the shelter will receive appropriate vaccines, a general health exam, will be spayed or neutered, microchipped and tested for heartworm.

Call 985-651-7387, visit, email or visit their Facebook page for more information.

The shelter also has partnered with Petsmart in LaPlace to host adoption days twice a month.