Confession: I Spent Most of My Tour of Europe Sniffing Out Cool Dog Things

Here's a roundup of dog toys, signs, stores, laws -- and, uh, poop -- I found on a five-country trip.

Sassafras Lowrey  |  Oct 8th 2013


The suitcase is out, the dogs know I’m leaving. Mercury has crawled into it several times in an attempt at being my stowaway and Charlotte is making sad faces. OK, I’m only going to be gone for two nights reading at a bookstore in Atlanta, and my partner is going to be here, so in all actuality the traveling is going to be much harder on me than it is on the dogs — lets face it, I’m not very good at being away from them.

Everywhere I go I’m on the hunt for dogs and interesting dog things, it’s one of the strategies I employ to make my time away from my own dogs easier. I’m also really fascinated about what life with dogs is like in different communities and cultures. Last year at this time my partner and I left the dogs (in the hands of a very capable sitter) for 11 days (the longest I’ve ever been away from them) to go on a joint tour in Europe — my novel had just been released and my partner is a performance artist. We visited five countries in 10 days with events almost every night. Our days were packed but I didn’t let our hectic schedule keep me from documenting the doggie-related sights to be seen, so today I share some of my favorite canine finds with all of you!

I kept a little smashbook all through Europe and had a page devoted specifically to dog finds. I had started the trip thinking I was going to catalogue every dog I saw in each city. As you can see, that quickly became unreasonable, and I resorted to highlights! It’s broken down city by city and includes the dog poop I stepped in in Paris (and had to wash off my tights in a tiny bar where we were performing), a dog playing fetch on cobblestones in Amsterdam near a canal, the prevalence of certain types of dogs in the London park, and my inability to find anything but cat magazines while in Paris.

This was one of the biggest culture shocks for me. Right next to the underground bar where I was reading there was a “dog food store,” which, as you can see, looked like what we here in the states would think of as a butcher counter. In talking to dog owners at my show I learned that many dogs in Germany eat meat as opposed to commercial kibble. They were also almost entirely off-leash everywhere in the city, but unlike dogs in America, they had outstanding recalls. I was also lucky because my host for my reading brought her lovely little French Bulldog Bear to the event, and another little dog also came with his people, so I was able to get a bit of doggie love.

This was a surprise dog find! Going into the London Tube stations, the turnstiles where you swiped your ticket included this great little sign about how all dogs must be carried while riding the tube!

We were in Kensington Garden to find the Peter Pan statue when we saw benches, which seemed to have been “sponsored” for lack of a better word as memorials to people who had passed, a few with names/inscriptions that made it seem like they were about dogs. There were LOTS of dogs playing in the grass and near the pond, I wasn’t sure what the leash laws looked like but it was so nice to see dogs playing and having fun (London was about a week since I’d seen my dogs). I also couldn’t resist taking a picture of this very, very fancy dog poop receptacle in the park, which I found very beautiful.

A few blocks away from Kensington Garden we stumbled upon a little pet shop! I was thrilled because I had been trying desperately to find dog toys to bring home from each city and it was proving harder than I had expected it would. it was a cute little shop and doggie daycare with a sweet staff. It was nap time at the daycare and all the dogs were tucked into little dog sized couches with blankets up to their chins, it sounds made up it was so sweet. What wasn’t sweet was this sign on the door, which served as a HUGE reminder to me about the breed specific legislation that has taken place in the UK and how justifiable the fears are of folks in the states that it could happen here as well. I can’t imagine the horror that owners of those breeds must experience living in the UK as their dogs are being legislated against.

This was a  funny sign, I found it on a day spent wandering different downtown Amsterdam neighborhoods. You don’t need to read Dutch to get the hint that these residents do not want your dog pooping on their doorstep!!! 

I didn’t succeed in finding Charlotte a toy from every city we went (Mercury is quite indifferent to toys) but we did pretty well! At this point our dogs have amassed quite an impressive start to their international toy collection! This is Charlotte with her grunting Christmas roast pig from London, her Schnauzer in a beer barrel that everyone thinks is from Berlin but is actually from Amsterdam, and her deep grunting sheep, also from Holland.

Do you find yourself dog watching when you travel? Have you brought home souvenirs for you pups? What are some of your favorite things you’ve found or brought home?

About the author: Sassafras Lowrey is a dog-obsessed author based in Brooklyn. She is the winner of the 2013 Berzon Emerging Writer Award from the Lambda Literary Foundation, and the editor of two anthologies and one novel. Sassafras is a Certified Trick Dog Instructor, and she assists with dog agility classes. She lives with her partner, two dogs of dramatically different sizes, and two bossy cats. She is always on the lookout for adventures with her canine pack. Learn more at her website.

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