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Bag That Dog!

photo: the doggie bag

The original Doggy Bag, containing Pippin or Paris.

Paris Life – No 32

by Laurel Avery

Paris:– Friday, 2. January 2004:– If there is an Official Animal of Paris, it's got to be the dog. With an estimated one dog for every three people, the French are especially fond of pooches, which is another one of the things that I find attractive about living here. When I was planning my move from the U.S, I would never have considered leaving my two beloved little dogs behind, Pippin, and Paris – yes, that's really his name!

As with most administrative things in France, importing dogs from the U.S. is not hassle–free, but at leastphoto: j'aime mon quartier, je remasse they are not required to be in quarantine once they arrive in the country. They have to be examined by your vet within ten days of departure for France and up–to–date on all necessary vaccinations, a list of which the French consulate happily provides.

Then, after your vet has filled out, signed and stamped all the paperwork, you need to go to an official USDA government veterinary office to have the vet there certify all the paperwork with their official seal on all pages.

Don't be picky – pick it up!

One of the best things about owning a dog in Paris is that they are welcome in so many places. Unlike in the U.S., where you need to leave your dog at home or in the car when you go about your daily errands, you can bring Fido into most places here without a hassle, including shops and most restaurants. They are not allowed in food stores and some higher–end restaurants, but some stores have areas in front where you can 'park' your friend on his leash while you shop.

The most common complaint, which is entirely justified, is that there are too many dog droppings on the sidewalks of Paris. The nearly 200,000 dogs living in the city produce approximately ten tons of droppings daily. Hôtel de Ville officials estimate that only about 60 percent of these droppings are cleaned up by their owners – of which I am one. I never go anywhere with the dogs without some plastic bags in my pockets. Over 600 people every year are hospitalized from slipping on doggy doo–doo, or 'crottes,' as it is commonly called.

Despite stiff fines – up to 450€ – if you don't 'remasse' after your chien, very few people actually receivephoto: au chien qui fume a fine, as there are only two 'dog merde police' per arrondissement. As a dog owner I am as incensed as anyone by people who do not clean up after their animals, especially the person with the doberman who chooses to relieve himself right in the middle of the sidewalk.

Like owners, dogs are allowed to smoke in cafés.

The most difficult thing I found about owning a pet in the U.S. was finding an apartment that would allow dogs. No such problem here. There is a law stating that a tenant has a right to keep a domestic animal in a rented apartment, unless it is considered dangerous or barks incessantly, bothering your neighbors.

You can also transport small dogs – though the RATP doesn't clearly define what they consider a 'small dog' –on the Métro and buses as long as they are in a 'sac.' Now I have been on both the Métro and bus and seen dogs there who would make Scooby–Doo look like a chihuahua, but they just sit quietly at their owners' feet and don't create any problems, even when a tiny speck of a dog enters the same carriage and sits down right next to them.

However, when getting on the bus with my two dogs a couple of weeks ago, one which is about 20 pounds and the other only about 14 pounds – small by anyone's standards – the RATP official told me they had to be in a sac, which I did not have with me at the time.

So I just picked them up in my arms and proceeded onto the bus. The official still insisted they be put in a sac. This seemed rather absurd. Are they afraid of the dogs shedding on my fellow passengers or something? Afterphoto: super marche chien hassling me for a couple of minutes during which I showed him that I obviously had no sac to put them in, he was nice enough to settle for me holding the dogs in my arms for the duration of the journey without issuing me a fine or throwing us off the bus.

Supermarché parking lot for chiens.

This adventure inspired me to come up with a great new invention for people who wish to travel with their canines around town. 'The Doggy Bag.' It's just a small soft duffel bag with holes for legs, head and tail, with handles, that zips along the top. Just before stepping onto the bus or Métro, zip up the bag, lift it up by the handles, et voila! Chien en sac!

Doggy Bag, text & photos, Laurel Avery © 2004

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