Confessions
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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.

 |  Nov 21st 2013  |   2 Contributions


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.

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Me and my favorite travelling companion, Pinch (who is followed closely by take-out coffee).

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.

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While Westies may not be one of the top 3 breeds in France, the French seem to really like the little white dogs. In fact, it's not uncommon to hear a French person say, "Ah, regarde! C'est le chien de César!" (Oh, look! It's the Cesar dog!) whenever they see one. Westies have become synonymous with the Cesar brand here. West Highland White Terrier by Shutterstock.com.

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!)

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When Pinch and I aren't travelling all around France, this is where you can find us. He seems to like these moments just as much.

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.

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"Look at the camera, Pinch!" Or not.

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.

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Posing next to Sainte-Croix lake (left), and next to the rapids that flow through one of Ardèche's many natural gorges.

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.

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Having fun in Bray-Dunes -- a coastal area of northern France on the Belgian border. You would think that I'm dressed for October, but it was actually July. Calais is far from the south of France, folks.

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.

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Along the Seine river in my western suburb of Paris. I have no idea what's going on in this picture. My friends from Canada were visiting, and I have a feeling this photo was a candid.

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.

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Brown dog against predominantly brown foliage means that I often lose sight of him and panic. Usually he is not more than few yards away, and my husband never fails to make fun of my helicopter pet parenting.

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.

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"The hills are alive with the sound of baaarking..."

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...

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Unfortunately, in most panoramic shots like the one on the left, Pinch becomes nothing more than a brown speck in the foreground.

...to ski stations perched high in the clouds...

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Please allow me to use my rudimentary Paint skills to add in this giant arrow. Without it, this photo becomes a game of "Where's Waldo?" starring Pinch.

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

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This path is about 10 minutes from my apartment, and this photo took me about 10 minutes to get. Anyone coming along at that point would have heard a tiny, English-speaking woman shouting at her dog to, "Sit there and stay! Don't move! Sit and look at Mommy!" Fortunately, we had the path to ourselves that afternoon.

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

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...to high-speed trains...

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If you take off the 300 filters my husband used, you'll see that this is a photo of me and Pinch on the train. He slept on my lap the whole time (Pinch, not my husband).

 ...to paddleboats!

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Why I didn't think to remove my husband's soggy gym sock before taking this photo is beyond me. My apologies.

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

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In front of the bastille in my favorite French town, Annecy, located in the Alps region. I'm giving my best Mona Lisa smile, and Pinch hasn't even bothered to look at the camera. Again.

(Followed closely by rides in the car.)

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Pinch is actually delighted to be going on a car trip here, but considerably less delighted by my good friend Rebecca's attempts at snuggling him. (We were on our way to Monet's house and gardens in Giverny!)

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.

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All dogs need energy for travelling and exploring. Here we have Pinch looking less-than-impressed next to a tin of Cesar brand dog food. Moments after this photo was taken, I opened up that tin and he was visibly much happier. Two paws up from Pinch for "Les Inspirations du Jardin" veal and carrots by Cesar!

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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