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.”