Crazy Dog People

I have a confession to make: crazy dog people always frightened and confused me. You know the ones that speak to their pets in baby-talk, carry photos of Fido in their wallets, or dress their poodles in pink parkas? Honestly, they just used to freak me out. Don’t get me wrong, I have always liked dogs. I just never really bonded with a dog, not on a human level anyway. I mean, you can’t take your schnauzer to the spa or your Newfoundland to Nordstrom’s, can you? Dogs are not allowed in hospitals, grocery stores, movie theaters, or the local Panera Bread Company. This is America, not France.

Although the canine-crazy French might disagree with the finding, according to the Coalition for Living Safely with Dogs, “most recent estimates indicate that there are more than 60 million pet dogs in the U.S., more per capita than any other country in the world.” If that is the case, why don’t we revere Rover the way our French counterparts do? In Paris, they even have special street and sidewalk cleaners called moto-crottes that suck up offensive offal.

During a recent visit to Normandy, I observed locals sipping coffee in cafes, bingeing at bistros, and buying bread at their local boulangeries with their dogs in tow. That’s right, French Fidos and Fifis are allowed into hotels, restaurants, department stores, and even supermarkets! While enjoying an impossibly fluffy omelet at a charming hotel on Mt. St. Michel, I watched in awe as an older, dignified woman in a Chanel suit and baroque pearls perched her pampered pooch (a bichon frise, of course) on the upholstered chair opposite her, tucked a napkin in its collar, and fed it tiny bites of chocolate soaked croissants. She even fed her furry friend a portion of her omelet. I noticed the manager, an educated, polite man named Cristophe, standing in a corner, watching the woman and her dog, a vein throbbing at his temple. I should tell you that this particular hotel is known world-wide for its omelets.
Later, I asked Cristophe, who was born and raised in France but attended school in the United States, what he thought about the French custom of bringing pooches into public places.

“I think eet ees desgusting!” he cried. Cristophe spent the next ten minutes ranting and raving about the ridiculousness of allowing Rover such free rein. “The old ladies, with their little dogs, stroking them like so.”

I was stunned. Frankly, I thought all Frenchmen believed in equality, fraternity, and liberty for their canine citizens. It occurred to me then that Cristophe might be in the extraordinarily low minority of Frenchmen who simply do not like dogs.

“Do you have a dog, Cristophe?”

In typical French fashion, the manager elevated his chin and looked down his nose at me with a mixture of indignation and disdain. I have come to realize that it is a culturally-specific affectation that is mastered and managed by Frenchmen from the time they can walk.
“But of course,” he cried. “I have a…how do you say, puddle-ee.”

“Puddleee?” I repeated, confused. “Oh, you mean a poodle?”
“Oui. Oui. A puddle-ee.”

It was sometime after my return from France that fate intervened in the matter of a mongrel. A mongrel that would soon be named Molly Muffin. A mongrel that would worm her way into my heart.

Unhappy with the sedentary and solitary lifestyle of our Great Pyrenees, Porthos, my children made an impassioned and thoughtful appeal for a pup with some pep.
They had a solid business plan. They would split the cost of the dog, with the money coming out of their savings accounts. They would help pay for her food out of their allowances and they promised they would even draw up a feeding and walking schedule. Although I was impressed by their negotiating skills, I was reluctant to agree. Did we really need another dog? What was wrong with the one we had?

“Porthos sleeps all of the time,” my daughter politely argued. “He’s too big for us to walk, and he looks at us like were crazy when we throw a ball and tell him to go get it.” Valid points, I grudgingly conceded. So, it was a cold, wet Sunday afternoon when we drove out to a farm to look at a litter of Schnoodles. I was less than happy. I knew that, despite my progenies fervent pleas, I would do most of the work for this second dog. I think I even sat with my arms crossed and my lips pursed. What is a Schnoodle anyway, I wondered.
My son beamed with delight as he held an armful of the tiniest puppies I had ever seen. There were three boys with kinky black fur, one girl with curly brown fur, and one girl with crazy, wavy white fur and the dearest button-like eyes. I tried my best to remain unmoved, though one of the curly haired boys did tug at my heart a little when he decided to take a nap on my feet. In the end, my children chose the “white sheep” of the bunch, the girl with the wild wavy coat and piercing, soulful eyes.

She likes to play fetch, insists on following me from room to room, prefers my pillow to all other sleeping arrangements, makes a high pitched whine that sounds eerily like Bruce Lee, and truly believes that the magpies that live in the trees in our backyard are her mortal enemies. Despite all of my efforts, I have come to adore this dog. I love the way she makes a bee-line to my office the moment she comes inside the house; the way she sits patiently on my lap as I compose articles; the sassy way she saunters up to big dogs, clearly letting the world know that, despite her size, she won’t be pushed around. And, I love the way her white curls look as if she is having a perpetual bad hair day.

Thanks to a nine-pound schnauzer poodle mix I have become what I once feared: a crazy, baby-talking, photo-toting, dog lover. I have also learned a valuable lesson: to keep my heart and mind open to love, in all forms, and from all places. Molly Muffin, the mongrel with moxie, has reminded me that there just might be a cosmic design that draws certain souls together so that they might learn and draw comfort from each other.


Anonymous said...

Well, Leah, I'm here! I kinda feel about my guinea pigs the way you do about your dog. We don't let the piggies out of their cages, mainly out of habit. Noah was 3 when we got them and we feared for their lives if we let them out. However, now that he's six and in school all day, I could have one of the babies on my lap while I work!

Living in Germany, we saw women carrying "Taschehunds" (purse puppies) in the stores, on the bus, in restaurants. We just kept saying, "You'd never see that in the US." We were in a restaurant one time and this huge German Shepherd or something was lying on the floor between our table and the next one.

Now, though, I do see some women with little Taschehunds in our malls! I am surprised they're allowed!

Anyway, nice to be at your new home!

Wine and Cork said...

Welcome to the land of flappy kissing owners! :-) I knew you'd eventually join the dark side... hee hee hee...

Saretta said...

Hi Leah, your blog is lovely. You are a wonderful writer! Compliments! Thanks for stopping by my blog, too!

ps. I'm a cat lover myself, but I do have 2 big old dirty dogs (plus a rabbit and a hamster!)