Barkus duchess sailed down the Mississippi River with owner

Sapphire is a heckin’ good girl. And on Sunday, she will make a heckin’ good duchess.

The furry first mate to Kelly Phillips will be honored as Duchess Sapphire in the Barkus parade when it rolls through the French Quarter on Sunday (Feb. 24). Phillips, 51, attracted national attention for completing a 20-month journey down the Mississippi River in January. He set sail on his boat “Shameless” after receiving a cancer diagnosis.

Phillips and Sapphire will arrive in New Orleans on Friday, Kelly said. A friend is helping them get to town, and the boat will stay behind. This will be Phillips’ first Mardi Gras experience.

Sapphire joined the ride as a gift to Phillips early in the journey. Phillips has called her “my little heater” and she’s also a little alarm clock, standing on his chest every morning and barking.

“She makes sure that I get up,” Phillips told NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune in January.

While in Memphis, Phillips had to go a few days without Sapphire, who became lost on land and made her way to a fifth-floor pet-friendly office building, WREG-TV in Memphis reported.

“She was the sweetest dog, she would literally smile at you,” Diana Sanders, an employee at the building who kept Sapphire at her home for a few days, told WREG.

Sapphire and Phillips were reunited after someone showed Phillips a photo of Sapphire on a lost dog poster, WREG reported.

“To see the smile on his face and on Sapphire’s face when they were reunited, it truly brought me to tears,” Sanders told the news outlet.

Sapphire’s bio on the Barkus website describes the pug terrier this way: “When she’s not helping her Dad navigate the mighty Mississippi, she enjoys naps in the sun, going for walks on the levee, and smiling at everyone she meets.”

She also loves Cheetos, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune reported.

Captain Terry Roncali gives Sapphire her favorite snack of Cheetos. Roncali will take Sapphire when she needs to be adopted. Roncali and his granddaughter made the journey to Venice to reunite with Phillips as the terminally ill man celebrated completing his journey down the Mississippi. Photographed on Saturday, January 26, 2019. (Photo by Michael DeMocker, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)

Captain Terry Roncali gives Sapphire her favorite snack of Cheetos. Roncali will take Sapphire when she needs to be adopted. Roncali and his granddaughter made the journey to Venice to reunite with Phillips as the terminally ill man celebrated completing his journey down the Mississippi. Photographed on Saturday, January 26, 2019. (Photo by Michael DeMocker, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)

Phillips and Sapphire have stayed on their boat in Venice since they celebrated the end of the Mississippi River journey there on Jan. 26. They’ll return to Venice on Monday, Phillips said via phone.

Once the weather warms up and Phillips can raise some money, he’d like to begin sailing the Intracoastal Waterway, he said.