Have Dog, Will Travel: How My Little French Dog is Living “La Belle Vie”

My dog has seen more of France than most French people, and I've always got my camera ready to capture the memories.

Crystal Gibson  |  Nov 21st 2013


I’ve had a dog almost as long as I’ve lived in France. I came to Europe in late 2005, just after finishing a 4-year university degree back in my native Canada, and have been here ever since. And as soon as I found a decent sized place to live, a job, and had my husband’s OK, I got the dog I had always dreamed of having. I named my Dachshund/Miniature Pinscher mix Pinch, and he instantly became an integral part of my life.

And there are certainly worse places to own a dog than France. Dogs seem to be tolerated and even welcomed just about anywhere, and I’m still surprised — even after 8 years — where I’ll find someone with a dog (and where I won’t find dog poo). I’ve seen dogs in restaurants, at shopping malls, on every kind of public transportation imaginable, inside the pharmacy and the bakery. I’ve even been in the waiting room of my doctor’s office and a woman came in and sat next to me with her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in tow.

Indeed, the French love dogs, and according to this 2012 study, there are around 8 million pet dogs in France, and approximately 25% of French households have un chien. And just what kinds of dogs do the French prefer? Well, the Labrador Retriever, Miniature Poodle and Yorkshire Terrier have all continued to occupy the top 3 spots in the last few years.

Living and travelling with a dog in France is pretty easy, and since Pinch is small (roughly 15 pounds), it’s been very simple and practical to include him on family trips all over this beautiful country. My husband and I have taken to planning our vacations to include the dog whenever possible, and I’ve not come across a campground or hotel yet that would not accept Pinch. (But even dog-friendly places usually require you pay an extra fee for Fido, so be warned!)

So just where has Pinch been? Let’s take a look:

Here we are on the Côte d’Azur in the south of France. He seemed less concerned with sitting pretty for a nice photo with me in front of the colorful mediterranean-style houses than checking out someone else’s dog a few feet away.

And one of my favorite areas of France is l’Ardèche — a French department in the southeast that is full of beautiful lakes, rivers, forests and gorges. Pinch is not a fan of swimming, nor does he particularly like water, so any photo ops meant me having to pick him up and hold onto him for dear life.

When I lived in the north of France, we’d take him to the beaches of Calais and let him roll around in the sand. He only tried eating it once and then never did it again.

I lived in Paris for a couple of years, and never brought Pinch to pose in front of the Eiffel Tower. Crowds, noise and traffic make him anxious (I can empathize), so we’d stick to walking along the Seine river in our quiet Parisian ‘burb.

Of all the types of terrain Pinch has explored in his 6 years, he seems to love forests the most. I suppose I would, too, if I were a Terrier.

He’ll also never say no to an afternoon romp in the middle of nowhere. Luckily, I currently live in the middle of nowhere, so he has many opportunities to just run around like a crazed gazelle with stubby legs.

And now that I live in the Alps, Pinch has been able to come on many alpine hikes with me. He’s been to mountain tops…

…to ski stations perched high in the clouds…

…to walking paths surrounded by mountains in the valley where we live.

 He’s also been on many kinds of French public transportation. From ferries…

…to high-speed trains…

 …to paddleboats!

But Pinch’s favorite means of transportation has always been cradled in my arms.

(Followed closely by rides in the car.)

I love exploring France, and I love it even more when my faithful sidekick, Pinch, is with me. We’ve travelled thousands of kilometers together, shared unforgettable memories together and I’m sure there will be many more exciting adventures for us to come. Together.

All photos by moi, Crystal Gibson (or by my husband, Max, as per my insistent request).

About Crystal Gibson: A child-sized Canadian expat in France who is fluent in French and sarcasm. Owned by a neurotic Doxie mix, a Garfield look-alike, and two needy Sphynx cats. An aspiring writer and pet photographer with a love of coffee and distaste for French administration, she can be found blogging over at Crystal Goes to Europe.

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