We planned to leave in late April and stay through mid-May because Sky was due to come into heat in June, but things don’t always work out as you plan and at least now I know that I can still outrun an interested collie and a very interested bulldog, not to mention various other male dogs who thought at last their dreams had come true.  The day she first flagged, we went to two museums, figuring correctly that there’d be no other dogs checking out the art but our own.

She seemed to prefer little dogs with big ideas, Yorkies and Chihuahuas.  But we had left home with two dogs and decided to return with the same number.

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All in all, being in France with a dog in season wasn’t too bad.  Because of two previous such surprises, I had packed her pants, and she wore them in the hotel room.  Other than that, and a few sprints away from amorous French dogs (all of whom seem to be fully equipped), it was no big deal.  And since I am reading more and more about some health problems associated with neutering, I am willing to have the bother once every nine months or so to keep a dog, of whom I expect the world, intact.  I know many will disagree with me, but I have always found the leash and swift feet to be good birth control.

The French, not only their dogs, love dogs and integrate them into their lives in a lovely way.  As you no doubt know, dogs are welcomed in most restaurants in France, so it is not odd to find one at the next table.  The French spend a lot of time socializing and drinking coffee or wine at charming outdoor cafes, their dogs lying, as ours do, next to the table.  And no one raised an eyebrow when we stopped at the pharmacy or a pretty shop with two dogs in tow.  Going to a museum with a dog is not allowed, but despite the fact that France only has service dogs for the blind and the French are not accustomed to service dogs for other disabilities, we were allowed to go to museums with Sky and Monk. Sometimes it took a bit of talking, but in the end, we got to see the Mona Lisa, some splendid Renoirs and, best of all, a special exhibit of Van Gogh paintings which, for me, would have made the whole trip worthwhile had there been nothing else to do.

There’s something very special about seeing other places with your dog (and France is one of those places where it’s easy to do that, even if your dog is not a service dog.)  I always get a double thrill, seeing and experiencing a new place with my own senses and then watching the way my dog reacts, what she likes, what she notices.  Having dogs with us paved the way for lots of conversations we would not have had otherwise and that, too, made the trip richer for us.

Most emotional for me was the happy accident of reserving a table in a well reviewed restaurant and discovering, when we got there, that it was the same place we had gone with Flash, my previous service dog, in 2000. We were even led to the same table, in the window.  We couldn’t replicate this wonderful photo of him because the Musee Picasso is still being renovated.

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But we did manage to find other Picasso sculptures which paired up nicely with, in this case, a slightly bored dog.

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For me, and I’m sure this is true for many of you as well, there’s no experience that can’t be improved by having a dog along.  As wonderful as it was to be in beautiful Paris, everything was more beautiful because Sky was right there with me.

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