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Observations on the Dogs of Paris,
March 14-19, 2004

Viewing the grand buildings and monuments of Paris and exploring the glorious art collections of the Louvre, the Musee d'Orsay and more formed the heart of my first every foray into the capital of France and nearby Fontainbleau. 

Dog watching was a sidelight.  Yet it too yielded interesting insights on the culture of France and its famous city, Paris.

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Paris (Eyewitness Travel Guides)

Over these few days, I walked -- with sister Beth and various colleagues -- from a small hotel on the rue d'Isly near the Gare St. Lazare to the rue de Rivoli and the River Seine at the heart of the city on our way to the Louvre, the Musee d'Orsay, Notre Dame and more. And then in the evening back north again.

Each time we walked a different route, taking us past beautiful churches such as La Madeleine north of le Place de la Concorde, an endless array of shops including the famous Fauchon delicatessen and sweets shops, the stunningly beautiful Opera Garnier and more.  And of course countless hotels, apartments, parks and cafes.

We often sat at outdoor cafes, blessed with a burst of glorious spring weather, drinking coffee or tea -- and people watching and dog watching.

The canines of Paris are, in the main, proper city dogs, very well suited to be apartment dogs, small in size and short of leg.   Small spaniels, toy poodles, papillons, wee terriers, French bulldogs and just plain small dogs were frequently seen as we traversed the boulevards and streets of this beautiful city.

A bit of reading on these small and toy breeds leads to an understanding that many were developed in northern European countries such as Belgium, France, Germany, and  Italy  -- but came into prominence in the royal courts of France, for example during the reign of Louis XIV.   Here they were favorities of the ladies of the court.

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The Complete

The dogs I saw on the streets of modern Paris accompanied their masters and mistresses with a perky air, reflecting the jaunty steps of people out enjoying the abrupt arrival of spring.  Temperatures had rocketed from a high of 39 F under gray skies a few days earlier to 70 F under skies blues and sunshine.

While some of these dogs were on leashes, many were off leash.  They would appear trotting toward us, seemingly alone amid the crowds of people, yet were followed soon thereafter by an owner with a coiled leash.  Clearly many Parisians trust their small dogs to stay out of the dangerous traffic-filled streets... and to come when called.  Perhaps there are food treats in their pockets, for luring their dogs back to get leashed again.

Not every dog was a wee one.  The first larger dog I saw was a pure white Siberian Husky, a female, well brushed and looking trim.  A striking Dalmatian and a Golden Retriever were also seen.  These larger dogs were typically on a leash.

What the dog owners we saw did not carry, however, were pooper scoopers or related gear, as Paris has not required people to clean up after their canines -- or at least until very recently. There are reports that in April 2003, Paris city fathers issued a requirement that people clean up after their dogs -- but judging by what I saw on the sidewalks, not all Parisian dog lovers are following the new decree.  It is still walkers beware on sidewalks and in the parks. You must keep an eagle eye on the places you plan to put your feet!

Apparently the reason the problem isn't worse is the city-sponsored poop patrols that clean up the sidewalks using motor scooters called caninettes at a cost of some $8.4 million a year as estimated in 1995. Another solution being tried is construction of sanitary spaces for dogs called vespachien that make cleaning up after one's dog easier. 

Still, the challenges in this matter are quite substantial, given the estimate that Parisians as a whole own some 200,000 dogs and lack their own local police to enforce the dog laws, large cities in France apparently required to use only national police.  And the fact that the city is seeing a considerable increase in the numbers of larger breeds of dogs.

Now, the dogs of Paris I observed were primarily the living kind.  However, one window in an antique shop on the rue de Rivoli offered canines of quite a different sort:   examples of the orange-brown pottery dogs of Han Dynasty China, with their tightly curled tails!  [See an example of Chinese pottery dogs here.  To learn more about them, see our guide to China in the Arts & Culture section].

While I came to Paris first for business and then for pleasure -- to see the arts of French painters, sculptors, stonemasons, woodworkers and more -- here were two of the very Chinese artifacts that place curled-tail dogs in northern China at least 2,200 years ago.  Many of these pottery dogs were placed in tombs to accompany their owners into the afterlife, providing evidence today for an early Chinese dog related to the spitz breeds such as the Chow Chow, Samoyed and even the Siberian Husky, given what we now know of canine mtDNA genetics. 

So my research on the early dogs of East Asia provided insights for understanding those unique pottery dogs in the rue de Rivoli antique store, and seeing them added a unique highlight of my tour of Paris!

More French Dogs:

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The Petit Basset
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Dogue De Bordeaux:
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Inventing the Louvre:
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Museum in 18th-
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See the Paris places visited or viewed while walking or touring:  
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Arc de Triomphe commissioned by Napoleon in 1806

Booksellers' Stalls on the Left Bank near Notre Dame

Bourse or Paris stock exchange

Church of the Madeleine and more on La Madeleine [in French], a structure resembling a Greek temple that Napoleon considered using to honor his army's victories before it became a church, and a photo of Madeleine Church

Notre Dame Cathedral -- construction of which began in 1163 on the Ile de la Cite in the River Seine in the heart of Paris, and more on Notre Dame de Paris, the world's most famous Gothic cathedral, and a site allowing visual exploration of the famous Notre Dame

Opera Garnier built 1862-1875, and more here:
-- Official Web site of the Opera Garnier

Place de la Concorde with the Obelisk of Luxor

Sainte Chapelle -- a beautiful Gothic chapel whose upper level has stained glass windows virtually from floor to ceiling, built in the 1240s on the Ile de la Cite. And:
-- History & Photos of Sainte Chapelle including its stained glass windows filled
   with light [in French]
-- Photographs of Sainte Chapelle including its tall stained glass windows

Tour Eiffel or Eiffel Tower, built for the 1889 International Exhibition of Paris

Museums:       [ Top ]

Musee du Louvre: home of famous art pieces such as the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, the Winged Victory of Samothrace, remarkable collections of artifacts from ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, and paintings  by French and other European artists, primarily from before 1848.  The enormous u-shaped building housing the museum traces back to a fortress begun by the French king in the year 1200 -- and extended and remodeled by other kings over time. For more, see:
-- Offical Web site of the Louvre [in French]
-- The History of the Louvre

Musee d'Orsay: home to French art from 1848 to 1914, including the much loved works of the Impressionists. A sample of paintings by Manet, Monet, Degas, Renoir and more illustrate what visitors can enjoy at this museum, once a handsome train station that opened for the World's Fair in 1900. For more, see:
-- Official Web site of the Musee d'Orsay [in French, English, Spanish]
-- History in Brief of the Musee d'Orsay and its famous artists

Musee de la Mode et du Textile: home to changing exhibits of French fashion and women's clothing designers

For much more on our tour of Paris, click here.

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Betty and Rita
Go to Paris

Dogs in Paris on the Web:       [ Top ]

Betty & Rita Go To Paris: images by photographer Michael Malyszko of his two Labrador retrievers in Paris -- and in Italy -- with famous landmarks.   Bravo!

Pippen & Paris Go To Paris: Laurel takes her chiens to Paris, and provides an
update on all issues canine in the French capital, including the notion that the dog
is the official animal of Paris plus a new "doggy bag" invention!    Fun!

Poncho Does Paris: Jill takes her beloved mutt on the trip of his life, and they live to tell about it! 

Dog Days in Paris:   Paris, long home to the famous lap dogs and toy breeds, is experiencing an invasion of larger breeds.... and other trends canine.

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Walking Paris : Thirty
Original Walks In and
Around Paris

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of the
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Paris in the Age of Impressionism:
Masterworks From the
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The Pocket Louvre:
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