Dogs are rock stars in Paris. They are conversation starters and inseparable companions for over 300,000 dog owners here (that’s about one dog for every 7 people). Dogs are the real “social animals” in this fair city. They actually make people talk to each other. A recent magazine poll states that around 40% of the French consider their dogs more important than their lovers! Now that’s saying something.
I recently witnessed just how “social” dogs can be when I observed a French lady and a Frenchman tie their mutually cute dogs to a couple of shopping caddies outside a local supermarket. You see, it’s not legal to bring your dog into a food store and many customers just leave them outside.
(That’s actually not legal either; but like I said, dogs are rock stars.) The man and woman, who had just met, exchanged small talk about their dogs’ names. The bigger dog was named Charley, with a “y”, the man explained – as if the dog really cared about how its name was spelled. The smaller dog, the lady’s pet, was named Brigitte, after Brigitte Bardot, the most famous animal advocate in France. The dog owners instructed their pets to say “bonjour” to each other while they themselves exchanged flirty little glances. I definitely thought those two (the humans I mean) would hook up later on, once they had brought their groceries and dogs home, but, as fate and “social animals” would have it, that was not to be.
The man and lady separated in the market and went about doing their individual food business. Suddenly, from the outside, we all heard the crunching of metal against metal and a very angry male voice screaming obscenities in French. Dogs were barking wildly and the flirty pet owners ran out of the store to see what was happening. I did the same; I could sense something blogworthy was about to happen. I was right.
It seemed that, even though the dogs were tied to the caddies, the caddies were not secured.
So, once the dogs got through saying hello to each other as their owners had requested, they got a bit excited (just like their flirty owners had). One of them broke loose and the other followed. However, they were both still attached to their respective empty caddies. It was a hysterical scene to see their shopping carts rolling around haphazardly and hitting the side door of a new, black, shiny Porsche Cayenne SUV that was parked next to them. The dogs panicked as the car owner started screaming. So they moved more quickly and the metal kept screeching against the car. Quite a few scratches and a couple of good-sized dents made their appearance on that vehicle before the pet owners could get a hold of their dogs.
Charley with a “Y” and Brigitte were finally released from their caddies and under the control of their respective owners but not before considerable esthetic damage had been done to the Porsche Cayenne. The car guy now redirected his screaming to Monsieur and Madame; saying how they would have to pay for the damages. He was getting the forms out of the glove compartment to report this incident. Monsieur immediately said that Charley had nothing to do with it; it was all Brigitte’s fault. Madame glared at the jerk she was flirting with ten minutes before. She raised her voice as well. There was no way she was going to fill out any form. Accidents happen, that’s it. She pulled on Brigitte’s leash and ordered her to sit quietly (at least the dog listened to her).
This heated discussion went on for a while with the supermarket manager and a cashier joining in the argument. Car guy asked me if I could be a witness but, thankfully, I had only looked at the dogs and the owners before the side door smashing. I was in the market when the dogs broke loose. The angry man said he would call the police.
“Go ahead,” Monsieur answered. “See what good that will do you! You should have parked somewhere else.”
“The dogs should have parked somewhere else. You have no right to leave your unattended dogs on the public sidewalk!”
The three adults involved in this doggie disaster got nastier and nastier. Monsieur took out his cell phone to take a photo of the man and his car’s license plate. Madame took a photo of Monsieur’s dog; he did the same to her pet. Car guy took photos of his damaged side door and also of Monsieur and Madame. I didn’t manage to get a photo of anyone (I’m technically challenged).
In the end, the police were called but Monsieur and Madame went their separate ways with their pets before the officers of the law showed up. They were both enraged and went off in different directions. No cell phones numbers were exchanged and no groceries were bought. The closeness I thought they would have shared thanks to their dogs dissipated in the gray Paris sky. So, in this case, the Parisian dogs did their part as conversation starters. They just didn’t know when to stop.