The idea of cleaning up after dogs does not seem to have caught on here. Although Bordeaux isn’t as bad as Toulouse (which our friends blame on the Socialist mayor) there's enough dog shit on the sidewalks here that you have to pay constant attention to an area no more than about 6 feet in front of where you're walking. On top of all this, career panhandlers that are always accompanied by two or more huge dogs inhabit every French city we've ever been to and Bordeaux is no exception. They congregate in busy pedestrian areas and are probably using these dogs for sympathy from the easily touched but it seems to me that cute lap dogs would be more effective than a breed that reminds you of the unpleasantness of 1940-44. Needless to say, these things leave log-sized turds all over the place and it never fails that the instant my guard drops I’m skating on brown ice.
Like Americans and their kids, there doesn’t seem to be any place a French person will not take a dog. Unlike American kids, most of the dogs we’ve encountered have been well behaved and obedient. Many of the shops have a resident dog and it’s common to pass a café or pub where a basket at the end of the bar contains a sleeping cat.
Last Sunday we drove to a little town that was holding its annual vide grenier, or emptying the attic – a yard sale. (Incidentally, the shit French people are trying to get rid of doesn’t look any better than the shit Americans are trying to get rid of.) Stopping for lunch in a little restaurant in Cadillac (no mention of the car that bears it’s name) we found most of the tables around us had small dogs beneath them. All of them sat patiently waiting for whatever it is dogs wait for, although one of them would occasionally bark at dogs passing on the street outside. Other than that we didn’t hear a peep out of them. After he’d eaten his lunch, the guy with the occasional barker gave it his plate to lick, which wigged us out a bit since you’re never sure how well the dishes get cleaned. This same guy had also helped his tablemate drain a bottle and a half of rosé so this dog was probably used to a slightly longer leash when his owner’s judgment is impaired.
I’ve had a strained relationship with dogs the past few years, in part because I’ve lived next door to a family of douchebags who sometimes had as many as six barky dogs running around. When we first moved in, the old guy across the street was already so fed up he had taken to shouting "Shut those god-damned dogs up" through a bullhorn. The first time I asked for a little consideration, what I heard was, “It’s only for a couple of minutes, it’s what dogs do.” Sorry is never a word in these types of people’s vocabulary. All in all, I think I’ve seen enough here to feel that France may help put me back on dogs again.
Before I go much farther, I should probably make some kind of disclaimer to the effect that, at this point, the conclusions and opinions about my new home are all subject to the possibility that I could be completely full of shit. I’ve heard people who’d spent a couple of weeks outside the U.S. make broad, sweeping pronouncement about the places from which they’ve just returned-places they probably experienced from the comfort of a tour bus or for a couple of hours near where the boat stopped. So everything I say in these early days might be subject to later revision but I think I’m right about the dogs. Now, if someone could just get their owners to use pooper-scoopers.
In France, a dachshund is called a teckel and this one was just sitting there outside a shop watching the world go by.