Friday, October 30, 2009

Une Vie de Chien

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If you use Microsoft Vista on your computer, you had the option of choosing among several images when you set up your user account. I swear that one of the pictures – a smiling Golden Retriever – is a picture of Braise, who is staying with us while her family travels.

Braise and her 12-week old puppy Smokey came to stay with us earlier this week. Ellen read a request at “French Word A Day” ( for someone who would watch the dogs. Ellen was excited about the opportunity of having dogs underfoot and immediately replied. The owners were pleased that we lived so close to them and that we were willing to provide animal supervision for a week.

“A Dog’s Life” does not apply to the two visitors. Ellen walks them every two or three hours, mainly to prevent the accidents that come with puppies. They may not be used to city life or apartment life but they seem to enjoy their temporary accommodations. It is not because they are Golden Retrievers that they have received golden treatment. It is because they had the good fortune of finding Ellen.

Ellen is in her element even though she has been distracted by needing to care for one of our Deerhounds at home in Lansing; our dog has been in the local university veterinary hospital in Michigan. Our sweet older Deerhound developed pneumonia but luckily our dog caretaker noticed the symptoms and took her to the vet hospital. Since last Saturday night – why do dogs have emergencies outside of regular vet office hours? – Ellen has been in regular contact with the vet and the caretaker. I can report that Nellie’s temperature has dropped, she is eating again and will be released on Friday evening.) When we lived full-time in the states, Ellen and other volunteers worked for several years to raise funds to create a “dog park” – a place where people could walk their dogs off-leash. She has yet to organize a group here to do the same, but living in a country where people take their dogs to restaurants, stores, etc. it is unlikely that the idea would catch on here.

Braise is a perfect dog. She follows commands well and seems to live to please humans. Smokey has yet to find his identity but is very willing to show his power and courage by attacking shoes, books and anything else left close to his eye level. Smokey is also recovering from a serious, almost fatal, attack by other dogs but his recovery seems to be progressing well.

As soon as our friend Eliane learned that we were going to be caring for Braise and Smokey, she proposed that we bring the dogs to her house and stay there. Instead, we planned a picnic along the Ouveze River. Later, she took us to another river, the Toulourenc, where the dogs got to wade in the slower currents there. Eliane has called daily to get updates on our two visitors as well as to get updates on Nellie. I wish I could report to Eliane that the number of accidents per day has decreased for Smokey but c’est pas vrai (It’s not true). The dogs are a wonderful present for Ellen and their presence has caused Ellen’s French to improve by many more than a “…Word-A-Day.”


  1. Dear Ellen and Mark,

    Jean-Marc and I are so excited to read your update! What a joy to know that Smokey (as a Golden/water dog!) has had his river baptism! Braise, too, must have been in heaven in that river -- she just loves to swim.

    We are relieved to know that Nellie is doing better. Our best to you all and we can't thank you enough for your "golden" care :-)

    Amitiés from Jean-Marc and Kristi (recuperating from some sort of food misadventure, along with our kids, sister-in-law and brother-in-law. Signs here say "don't drink the water..." hmmm...) P.S.: so sorry about the potty accidents...

  2. Hi Mark and Ellen,

    I just discovered your blog grâce à Kristi Espinasse's FWAD. Thanks for posting pics of Braise and Smokey. It's good to know they are both doing well and enjoying their vacation as well.

    I'm glad that you could help out with the doggie sitting duties and were able to meet such nice folks as the Espinasses. My husband and I met them a couple of years ago when they were in PHX. We had the chance to taste their Rouge-Bleu wines there and have been addicted ever since.

    I look forward to following your retirement adventures in Provence! Keep on blogging...

    Sandy Maberly (who divides here time between Phoenix and Tulsa)

  3. How good of you to look after Braise and Smokey. I, too, found you from FWAD. I am a fellow Michigander living in suburban Detroit with my family of humans and pets. I wish your Deerhounds well and hope all of the ailing dogs recover soon. A special pat for sweet Smokey if you please.


  4. I'm another one who found you through FWAD and have read all your 2009 posts. Since reading blogs (and other computer stuff) AND watching TV are major addictions, I'll put off reading 2008 until after taking in a meal.
    From Northern Calif., near Yosemite.

  5. Coucou Mark et Ellen! Now that you are dog sitting in Provence, I think you have really arrived. I am so happy for you both. It is raining and cold here for Halloween so I hope the Provence sun is shining on you.

  6. Mark and Ellen,

    I found you via FWAD. Thank you for posting a Smokey update. He is looking quite good. My mother, sister, and I had our first vacation in Provence in September. We visited Kristin and Jean-Marc while we were there and saw the puppies just before they went to their new homes. Of course we were horrified to learn of Smokey's and Braise's trauma and have been following the updates. I am so glad they are comfortable in your care.

    We visited Vaison twice during our week in Sablet. We first went to the antiques fair and the one afternoon in the old village. How lucky you are to have 6 months a year there.

    I am thinking of your Deerhound and wish her a speedy recovery.

    Margaret -- Durham, NC

  7. Mark & Ellen,
    I did not find you through FWAD (What is that anyway?) but certainly appreciate this latest blog.
    So Sullivan! Didn't you say you had a group over for dinner shortly after taking Braise & Smokey in? I would expect nothing less than 10 people around a table or even gathering to eat on the floor if necessary - with multiple conversations and laughter.
    But who serves as MC? Is there a smoking jacket at hand? I'll be right over. Hey! Who needs snow on Halloween - especially 21 inches!
    Thanks for sharing and providing the picture. How neat to see you are gathering a following for your blogs. Wonderful!
    John & Arleen

  8. Mark and Ellen. What a great post to read today with the exception of Nellie. Sounds like she is on the mends. Off to work the Polls for the election tomorrow. Have a great day!

    John, Dave, Samantha and Lillian

  9. Chers Mark and Ellen et chers amis,

    I eventually drove back (shorter road) not via the motorway-fewer cars and less speed= more eco-friendly driving with a car filled with olive oil, lavender honey...

    It has been a real treat ( not trick) visit but I wish family matters will settle down for my brother and daughter.

    I do testify that the dogs were given golden care and even "taught" the niceties of John Adams and Abigail in the making of history of the USA at the very beginning of its foundations.

    It has been a really interesting viewing I appreciated a lot.

    Here is the reference of a bilingual editor should you be interested:

    Le livre sur la place
    Editions Oxalide
    J C Baudroux

    I also wish to tell you about a bilingual café in Nyons and a really active English-speaking community you may want to meet.

    I was very pleased to meet Margaret and Phil as British people involved in the respect of the English language and being aware of the damage
    done the use of the English language into French.

    I will update with a photo.

    Take great extra care!

    Mary Marie