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Chloe in Paris: An early report on visiting with a small dog

A while back I wrote a post about the phrases you might want to master ahead of time so you can chat with French dog owners. One of the things we like most about traveling with Chloe is the way it creates opportunities for friendly encounters with people we wouldn’t ordinarily have a reason to meet, and I wanted to be prepared for our upcoming trip to Paris. Time passed by, and a Dog Jaunt reader wrote in that she and her husband, visiting Paris and the châteaux of the Loire, had been disappointed in that regard — so Walter and I arrived in Paris with altered expectations.

I agree that walking Chloe around Paris is not quite the same as walking her around Seattle or New York — I’m no ethnologist, but it’s clear that while an American’s default expression is a smile, a French person’s default expression is neutral (which to us is alarmingly dour). We’d noticed that on previous trips, but Christie’s message was a timely reminder of that important cultural difference.

In Paris, I do not typically catch an approaching dog owner’s eye and smile, as I do at home, but more often than not our dogs have met and sniffed and invited each other to play (or not) — no cross-cultural issues for them! — and the other dog’s owner has then cooed over Chloe. Less often, they’ve followed up with a few words to us, but the ones that have have been as friendly as their U.S. counterparts. On several occasions, a dog’s owner has hustled his or her pup past Chloe, but my impression was that the owner was either in a hurry or wasn’t confident that their dog would be friendly — and that happens at home, too.

Coffee with Chloe in Paris

So far, in short, having Chloe along has had its usual effect on our travels. One powerful example of The Chloe Effect occurred on our first morning, when we presented ourselves at a bar for an urgently-needed coffee. The bartender gave us what we ordered, and moved the sugar bowl to our part of the counter, all without any change of expression. From his point of view, none was needed — we asked for coffee, and he provided it. When he came around the counter to do something elsewhere in the bar, however, he bent over Chloe and spent a solid minute patting her and twirling his finger temptingly around her nose (which she thought was swell, so she licked him). He was, in reality, a total marshmallow of a bartender, but we would never have known that if Chloe hadn’t been at our feet — we knew he wasn’t actually mean, or even grumpy, but it warmed up the morning to see him messing with Chloe.

Since then, we’ve had happy encounters with several terriers and Bichon/Poodle fluffballs, as well as a couple of unleashed spaniels. A senior gentleman with a 5 year-old Cavalier agreed today that Cavaliers are the finest dogs ever made. A MinPin urged Chloe to play — unsuccessfully, since Chloe has no room in her head for anything but pigeons. A senior, handicapped lady on the bus saw Chloe in her carrier, observed that Cavaliers are super-sweet, and tried to get me to take her seat. A pair of ladies walking by came completely unglued over her — I now know that “trop mignonne” is French for “too cute.” One of our waiters followed us out of the restaurant to say good-bye to Chloe and gave her a wine cork to play with — he was a goofball to start with, but we wouldn’t have known quite how much of a goofball if Chloe hadn’t been with us.

As I said, Christie’s comment was a good reminder of important cultural differences between Americans and the French, and saved us from the disappointment we’ve experienced on past trips (before we adjusted, and toned down our own smiles), but I’m happy to report that, with Chloe, we’re meeting a variety of Parisians in a way we wouldn’t have on our own.

13 comments

  • cate

    Isn’t it fascinating how someone with a pet seems somehow more approachable , I think it goes to prove that people with pets are considered nicer and almost everyone loves a cute dog:) Loving your tweets too, sounds like it’s a great trip!

  • [email protected]

    Let’s see pictures!

  • Thanks so much, Cate! Will soon be posting praise for your ID tag, which has solved some problems on this trip. Hi, Rod — thanks so much for the nudge — we did, in fact, have a photo (forgotten in the haze of jetlag), and I’ve just added it to the story. More to come!

  • JackPDB

    Cultural differences be damned — cute is universal, I think. How would you rate Paris as a dog-friendly city? In most of the USA, you wouldn’t be able to get your dog in the doors of a coffee shop unless it was a service animal; the impression I get of many European cities, and of Paris in particular, is that dogs are a much more visible and accepted social presence (viz. the archetypal French cab-driver with his yappy bichon-frise in the front passenger seat). Germ of truth, or pernicious stereotype?
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  • Totally true, Jack! As you can see, Chloe’s joined us in a bar for a morning coffee, and since then she’s joined us inside at two restaurants (one casual, one elegant). Only one cafe preferred that we eat on their patio with her. She’s not allowed in grocery stores, but nearly every shop we’ve visited has welcomed her (the one that didn’t was packed with small boxes of dollshouse furnishings, so weren’t particularly eager for her to be in there either). We always ask, because we can’t quite believe it’ll be okay for Chloe to accompany us, but it’s my impression that it’s so accepted that people don’t usually ask before walking in. We’re loving it, and Chloe is behaving beautifully (touch wood!).

  • Deborah Flick

    Well, we probably do smile too much! Mostly I love that you can take Chloe into bars and restaurants. That in itself says a lot about the French that is favorable.

  • Sonja

    TRUE! When we travel – be it the US, Italy or anywhere else … having Monte with us changes everything! Thank you for this blog – we are off to Puerto Rico in May and then Florence (with a pit stop in Paris) in September – all your Paris info will be helpful!

  • Sola

    Hello, We do have a cavilier King Charles which we brought from Paris to Houston . He travelled in cargo and was so traumatized 16 hours later. We do not want him to experience the same thing. The information provided here might need so me updates even United and Continental pet policies. Although there is no written restriction, and that the online operators will give you the same info as the one in the Internet , you cannot travel with a in cabin pet to / from most destinations in Europe (including Paris) .
    Air France allows pet but max 6 kg, my dog is 8. Could you please let me know what was your itinerary to Paris ? Many thanks for your help.

  • Hello, Sola — I have been hearing, more and more, that United is making it very difficult to travel abroad with an in-cabin pet. For us, it was easy — we have United miles, and we traveled on United, with Chloe under my feet, from Seattle to Dulles to Paris, and then back again. That was three years ago now, though. I’m about to start planning another Paris trip, and once again we have United miles, so I will soon be coming to grips with United’s current policy. Might Lufthansa work for you? Or Delta? SAS? Swiss?

  • Emily

    This post really makes me smile because it reminds me of my experiences too! I had lived in France for 2 years before I got my Cavalier puppy (she is French!). She (named Hobbit) is now 5 months old and ridiculously adorable. In the 3 months we have had her, I’ve spoken with more French strangers than I ever had before. She gets smiles and snuggles from nearly half the people we encounter. It has been such a joy! As an American, I still hesitate when I want to bring her into a shop or cafe- but the people who work there hardly bat an eye.

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