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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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!