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Felines and footballs: Vet's sports collection is prominently displayed

THIBODAUX, La. - A Saints season ticket holder in Lafourche Parish doesn't consider himself a Who Dat fanatic. He's not going to die after the team's loss to the Jets on Sunday, but some who visit this veterinarian's workplace might disagree.  

When cats and dogs and even some exotic animals in Thibodaux need to see a doctor, some of them go to the de la Houssaye Animal Hospital. Veterinarian Dr. Lonnie de la Houssaye checks Jay Bernard's black lab, Belle, for heartworms during their visit. 

Waiting for the results, Bernard noticed he's not in your average veterinary clinic.  Among the bottles of pet deodorant, books on cats and dog dental molds are football helmets and footballs - dozens of them.

"I actually counted a few days ago, just to keep an up-to-date list, and I think I'm around 120," said de la Houssaye.

He explained they're not just any footballs.

"Saints, Hall of Famers, LSU," he said.

It all started a few years ago with one football that has three signatures on it from one famous football family.

"It was the same year that the Manning's started their football academy - their quarterback academy here - the camp, and all three Mannings had signed a football and donated it to the Habitat for Humanity for an auction," said de la Houssaye.

Archie, Eli and Peyton Manning signed it. And de la Houssaye bid on the ball and scored.

"I had somebody call me the next day who was representing somebody else who said, 'we will double what you paid for that ball last night.'  I thought about it for a second and said 'nope, I've got it,'" he said. 

After that, his collection grew and fast. Black and gold memorabilia covers one patient room.

"It's gotta be signed or it's gotta be a picture of some sort or something real special," explained de la Houssaye. He showed us a pair of cleats Drew Brees signed.

"I have a Dempsey football, I've got Jim Taylor stuff, obviously Deuce McAllister, Drew Brees, Pierre Thomas, Colston, Henderson," he said. 

Fellow Who Dats may share some of what he has, but maybe not to the same degree.  A 1971 33 record with the team on it that's still in the wrapper and has never been played is an example, as is an old cookbook from NFL Hall of Famer Jim Taylor's wife. It features recipes from former Saints like Archie Manning and Danny Abramowitz in 1972.

"I wonder if Tom (Benson) has one of these?" asked de la Houssaye.

A graduate of the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, his extensive collection also includes LSU memorabilia, including a 1958 Tigers national champions pic and a rare watch.

"This watch right here is the watch that was given to all the players and the coaches when they won the championship in 2007," said de la Houssaye. 

He has no plans of slowing down with his collections.

"The flavor of the month is Jimmy Graham.  I gotta have something from Jimmy Graham," he said.

The only problem is, his staff says he's almost tapped out on space.

"I always tell him we have to build an extra room just for the stuff," said hospital office manager Tiffanie Prejean. 

For now, a tarpon mounted on a wall serves as an extra shelf, and it's a good thing because during our interview, de la Houssaye received another special delivery.  Enclosed in a postal package was another football.

"Mike Haynes, Hall of Famer '97 - who did he play for? I think Mike played for the Raiders. I believe, I'm not sure. But authenticity though, it's the real thing," he said.

Pet owners like Jay Bernard seem to enjoy it, and he explained, his buddy, Belle is a Who Dat dog.

"She's got a jersey at the house," said Bernard. And de la Houssaye gave him good news that Belle is heartworm free. Now Bernard and Belle - like de la Houssaye - look forward to the next Saints Sunday.


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