Why I Love Having a Dog in Paris

Why I Love Having a Dog in Paris
  I have a very pretty flatmate who tends to attract attention wherever she goes. Even in our native Australia, my pretty friend could not sashay unconcernedly down the street, as is her wont, without unwittingly soliciting the attention of the local male population. A graceful brunette with long wavy hair falling to her shoulders, subtly lit with copper lights, and the face of an angel, my friend Cherry strolls by, her head in the clouds, all oblivious to the attention she was drawing. But whereas in Australia, with the more reserved males of her native Australian (read: Anglo-Saxon) culture, this simply meant half laughing/half teasing comments called out in passing; here in Paris it is a different story. For the amorous Latin males in the romantic City of Light, it is all soft calls, blown kisses, and murmured endearments–and all from complete strangers. Really, if I received half the attention she does! Not that my dear friend has anything much to say about it. Nothing in fact. My friend is a rather beautiful… Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. If Paris was an enchanting place in my pre-doggy-owning days, it is even more so now. Let’s be honest: Parisians are not world renowned for the openhearted warmth displayed to foreigners, and indeed any inconnu. And yet, since Cherry has been with me, I find that my perception of my neighbourhood has changed. I find myself now frequently in my local little park, in eager conversation with other women–yes, who would credit it?–with Parisiennes that I hardly know! I have been accepted into a veritable Mothers’ Club with casual meetings on a daily basis, where we talk enthusiastically about the achievements and idiosyncrasies of our pups, not our children. I found that it was not difficult to become on first name terms with the Club–first names of our dogs that is. We even tutoie–but again, only the dogs. In Cherry’s home stamping ground of Boulogne Billancourt, the local Council have designated a variety of small plots of land throughout the town, to serve as public conveniences for their canine citizens. Clearly signposted as such, these are small areas of perhaps 1-2 metres square, sometimes grassed, sometimes not. A signpost in the middle of the plot clearly depicts its intended use, not to mention handily serving as the ah, first area of relief for the local male canines. While I applaud the Council’s efforts, these small squares of earth and lawn do become rather pungent; it has to be said. I find it interesting to reflect on the differing solutions arrived at respectively by the French and the Anglo-Saxon cultures. I have met many in the non-French world who do not find it unreasonable to consider themselves personally responsible for their dogs’ leavings. I find that the notion of every person picking up after their dog, with the result being that there isn’t a dirt problem an entirely logical one. However Parisians beg to differ and their attitude may have complex origins. Is it simply a matter of their belief that it is not their job? Or indeed, that they are taking someone else’s job? (I have been berated by a young Frenchman who when seeing me pick up after my dog, told me that I was taking work from Council employees!) In any case they find it difficult to accept the concept of personal responsibility. My own belief is simply that the average Gaulle would not stoop to scooping–it is entirely too demeaning a task and would fly in the face of the notion of Liberty so dearly fought for in the Revolution. Times are changing however. In the 7th arrondissement for example, probably Paris’s most exclusive area, many streets are now adorned with signposts which read “j’aime mon quartier, je ramasse!” This comes with a small descriptive diagram in case you should be in any doubt as to what it is that the quartier-loving citizen should be picking up. Even in Canine Convenience-Conscious Boulogne, I have recently encountered more than one dog owner stooping to their civic duty. And “tant mieux.” Because I feel that one result of this unwillingness, has led directly to a sadly less dog-friendly side of Paris. Many of the little pocket handkerchief-sized parks that dot the city, and are such pleasant little oases of green amongst the busy streets, have entrance gates that bear a depiction and forbidding words, alas known only too well to every person out strolling with their canine companion. The stylised picture of a dog, enclosed in a circle with a slash through it and the caption–meme tenus en laisse–assure the would-be frequenter of the park that not even dogs on leads are welcome. This is a shame. They are often the only green areas to be found in the quartier and many seem to be off limits to dogs. I fully understand a Parisian’s need to be able to frequent these pretty little parks without running the risk of accidental contact with extremely unpleasant substances, but there is another answer besides banning the dogs. If each dog owner would take complete responsibility for their dog, there really would not be a problem! Dogs are genuine members of our society, and no more so than in Paris, so it seems disappointing that they are banned from many of the beautiful little squares of leafy green that nestle among the Paris streets. If ever I should regret the wider open spaces of Cherry’s native Melbourne, I need only to think of two words which describe two of the favourite pastimes of perhaps any city dweller–words that assure me that in Paris, Cherry and I are both living an optimum lifestyle from a canine point of view. The words are “shopping” and “food”!! The fact that almost entirely without exception, dogs are welcomed in any café or restaurant, throughout the city, and in all shops other than those serving or selling food, more than makes up for her lack of rights in those little pocket handkerchiefs of green. Socialising in Paris with a dog is a joy. Cherry can go shopping in the morning. stop for lunch at a café and dine out with her friends in the evening, round the evening off with a late night digestif in a convenient bar, and be…
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