I just spent the last week in France. I think, in my next life, I want to be a dog in Paris. They are the most pampered, adored creatures. Sitting in cafes and brasseries, they are ubiquitous. They seem quite used to their cosmopolitan routine, which involves getting groomed, selecting the jewel encrusted collar “du jour” and finding the perfect table on the patio from which to people watch. Or, more accurately, to be watched by people. And to be admired and fawned over. Parisian and tourist alike act as if they have never seen a dog before whenever they approach. The attention drawn by two identical, well-groomed Bichons, in particular, was remarkable. Americans stopped and commented, took pictures, cooed… I know for a fact that we have dogs just like them in the US! Behind the tourists is the Louvre, and yet they are fascinated by these two little dogs who frankly could care less about all the hoopla. They, clearly having been through this a thousand times a day, are accustomed to praise. And, the benefit of this early, consistent public socialization is evident. No dog fights or growling anywhere. Americans should take note. Well adjusted, socialized puppies make for polite adults. At least as far as I can tell.
Our travel continued on to Provence and the pattern continued, although the dogs were less well groomed and bejeweled. Provence is a more casual, rural area of vineyards, farmland and quaint villages. The dogs there were much like me, overheated and under groomed. At various points in my travels, I am quite sure, I smelled worse than them. Yet, they never seemed to mind. We spoke a similar body language. They were led around on a leash, and for a while I also was led around by two wonderful French bike tour guides who saw to it that I was well fed, entertained, and was well exercised. True, the dogs here did not get quite as much attention from tourists, but they were still clearly welcomed wherever they went. In fact, so was I. With only one exception, my interactions with the French were positive, and I was treated kindly, with patience, by those I encountered.
I came to realize that, Americans and French are actually very similar in their love for dogs. As I enjoyed meals, wine and conversation with my American tour mates, I was reminded of some of the amazing things we Americans do for our beloved pets. From fostering physically and psychologically needy dogs and finding them perfect homes, to costly surgeries and chemo when needed, to purchasing elaborate wardrobes and puppy day care fees, I learned a little about my new friends’ pets’ lives back home. We talked about our pets because we missed them. And, I suspect all the petting and attention in Paris may have been a bit about tourists being reminded of their beloved four legged ones and missing them as well.
So, I think I should rephrase my first line about coming back as a dog in Paris. I think many dogs do well living in the U.S., Paris, or in Provence. But if we are talking about the food and wine, I may have to go with Provence! Yet that is a conversation for another time…