My Dog Was an Ugly American in France
French dogs attend etiquette school.
As dinner guests they are mannerly, polite, and congenial. This fact became evident the first time we dined at our local crêperie. A lump of black and brown fur that was more German shepherd than French poodle took up the space beneath a table beside his master’s hiking boots.
We shrugged. This is acceptable in France, though not normal for us Americans. Despite the enticing scents wafting from the kitchen, this dog lay head on paws, eyes clear and watchful without a peep out of him.
Since this crêperie, had proven itself hospitable we decided one evening to invite our loyal pup to join us. We were a tad uneasy as we entered with a dog but, sure enough, the waitress merely nods with a “Bonsoir.”
Folly is bouncing like a ping-pong ball at the excitement. Instead of lying quietly like French dogs, our American version’s tiny behind sits for a second before he rises again at full alert. We correct him a dozen times then tell ourselves that if he wants to exhaust himself by standing for an hour-and-a-half that's his problem. We, however, do not forget his presence and lavish small attentions on him, sharing a special table treat now and then. (Yes, stupidest dog parents ever.)
Folly soon starts to assume that, if food is not continuously forthcoming, he’s been forgotten and delivers a gentle nudge with a paw on a knee. Still nothing? A few more nudges. If the people above that tablecloth are too busy talking to notice, then a polite yip is designed to attract attention to the starving puppy who had eaten a mere two meals and four snacks so far that day. His paws begin wearing a hole through my jeans and he yips again. A couple across the room look over.
Quickly we request the bill and make a full retreat. Compared to mannerly French pooches, their American cousin, Folly, has failed the test. He will never dine out again.
[Edited excerpt from “Gone with the Wine: Living the Dream in France’s Loire Valley”]