Famous Dogs of Arts and Letters in Paris

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Famous Dogs of Arts and Letters in Paris
Dog owners come in as many varieties as our trusty canine friends. No-nonsense dog owners keep their dependable dogs for hunting and sport. Some keep their status-symbol show dogs bubble-wrapped. Demonstrative dog lovers treat their pets to the best accessories, special diets and doggy daycare. Others keep a tumble-bumble menagerie of mutts. Our faithful friends are found on farms, in forest cabins or five-story walk-ups. In Paris, canines have always held a special place in people’s hearts. Today the city continues to have a high number of dogs per capita. Here’s a rundown of historical Parisian celebrities of arts and letters, and their four-legged companions – plus some other fur and feathers. Colette and Toby-Chien Colette The celebrated writer Colette was an aesthete of the natural world and a devotée of dogs. On her first day at her village school, she took with her two tamed swallows nestled in her pocket and the family dog Toutouque, a piglet-like bulldog who hovered over Colette like a nanny. Colette learned her love of nature from her mother, Sido. As a child Colette remembered her mother taking the hound Moffino to church with her, despite the priest’s objections. Sido’s door was always open to strays. When Colette’s impresario husband Willy forced his young bride into the role of ghostwriter, her cat, Kiki-la-Doucette and her dog, Toby-Chien, were there to cheer her through her loneliness. With a face like a squashed toad, the little black bulldog started a long line of dogs inhabiting Colette’s adulthood. The writer said, “I am not exactly sure what it is about him – his lovely dark velvety face, his white napkin of fur, his ears that go in different directions, or that soft nuzzling little snout. Toby-Chien figures in a number of Colette’s books and is the lead character in “Dialogues de Bêtes.” Colette, Willy and Toby-Chien. Public domain Toby-Chien and Colette were rarely apart; she took Toby and Kiki-La-Doucette with her when she traveled. Later when Colette was living on her own, and she and Willy were tussling over joint custody of Toby-Chien, she acquired another French bulldog, a female called Poucette, and Belgian sheep-dog called Belle-Aude. After living with a toxic boar of a husband for 13 years, Colette preferred the company of female animals from here-on-in. Colette’s friend, the writer Natalie Clifford Barney, said that Colette’s animals represented her bodily and in spirit. Bagheera and Ricotte were a dog and a squirrel that she and second husband Henry de Jouvenel kept during World War One. She smuggled them to the Front where Henry was stationed.

Lead photo credit : Sarah Bernhardt and her Griffon, Hamlet. © Getty Open Image

More in Alexandre Dumas, Colette, dogs in France, Gertrude Stein, history, Paris dogs, picasso, Sarah Bernhardt

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A freelance writer and amateur historian, Hazel knew she wanted to focus on the lives of French artists and femme fatales after an epiphany at the Musée d'Orsay. A life-long learner, she is a recent graduate of Art History from the University of Toronto. Now she is searching for a real-life art history mystery to solve.


  • Hazel Smith
    2021-11-29 03:39:22
    Hazel Smith
    Dogs and cocktails, if I'm not mistaken. Great minds, Barnaby.


  • Barnaby Conrad
    2021-11-26 02:44:17
    Barnaby Conrad
    A wonderful essay on dogs in France! You might be interested in the book I published in 1995: Les Chiens de Paris (Chronicle Books). Sincèrement, Barnaby Conrad