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More recommendations for English-speaking veterinarians in Paris

It’s a bit tricky to identify English-speaking veterinarians in Paris, so I’ve been posting names as I’ve learned them, and now I have two more to add to your list.

Rather than make you search for my past posts on the topic, I’ll recap: Back in August 2009, I told you about Dr. Pierre Métivet, and a year later I mentioned La Boetie Clinique Vétérinaire (which I think now has the clever name Clinique Vétérinaire Labo & Cie, but is still located at 15 rue la Boétie). The latter was recommended by reader Jessica, but until recently I had only Internet reviews for Dr. Métivet. Fellow blogger Gigi Griffis told me in October, though, that she’d taken her pup Luna to Dr. Métivet, and liked him very much. She also reported that his English was very good — so useful, because even if you can get around comfortably in French, you may not have at your fingertips the vocabulary that’s needed for a vet visit.

Despite knowing about Dr. Métivet, I went instead to Dr. Eric McCarthy, a veterinarian in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood, to get Chloe’s E.U. pet passport. That was partly because his office was on our way to another stop we planned to make that afternoon, and partly because reader Jenna — who kindly invited me and Chloe to have breakfast with her and Tara, her French Bulldog, in their stunning Airbnb rental — recommended him to me. His name suggested that he might be a native English speaker, and since I wanted to ask him complicated questions about the pet passport, that too was appealing.

It turns out that despite his name, Dr. McCarthy is utterly, utterly French — but we were still very pleased with our choice. He speaks good English, and he couldn’t have been kinder to Chloe. Normally, she starts trembling as soon as she realizes she’s at a vet’s office, but she never did at Dr. McCarthy’s. He treated her very gently, and showered her with treats. Dr. McCarthy’s nurse’s English isn’t as good as his, so I recommend stopping in to make your appointment, rather than calling. She was, however, kind and cheerful — and at Dr. McCarthy’s request, she nobly called a long list of other Paris vets to locate a new bag of Chloe’s t/d kibble (Dr. McCarthy’s office carries Hill’s Prescription Diet products, and she could have ordered it for me, but I only noticed at the last moment that Chloe was running low).

Here’s the link to his website, and here’s his contact info: Dr. Eric McCarthy; 37 boulevard Saint-Germain, Paris 75005 [nearest métro stop: Maubert-Mutualité]. His e-mail address is mccarthyclin.vet@orange.fr and his telephone number is 01-43-54-40-01. His fax number is 01-43-54-33-58.

The other name I have for you is VetoAdom, which provides 24-hour emergency service at your home (or rental). We didn’t need their services, thank goodness, but blogger Heather Stimmler-Hall reports that they did a good job of fixing her pup’s cut paw, and recommends them.

One last tip for you: The word “vétérinaire” can be tough to say correctly, especially before coffee. A lady in our Montmartre neighborhood, who befriended me after we and our dogs kept meeting (early in the morning, before coffee), kindly told me that it’s normal to say “véto” instead — which is significantly more manageable.

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PetEgo’s Pet Tube: An update on how to install it

Last July, I wrote a post praising PetEgo’s Pet Tube, the car safety solution we’d newly adopted for Chloe. We still use it, and I like it just as much as ever — slightly more so, in fact, now that I’ve learned how to install it properly.

Yes, that break-through discovery (“In an accident, if the hanging straps were cinched short enough, the Pet Tube would swing up and forward without hitting the passenger seat in front of Chloe”) was all wrong. I have reader Terri to thank for setting me straight. As you’ll see in a comment on that post, she sent me a link to a video review of the Pet Tube by DorsetDog.com — and in it, at the 1:30 mark, Dorset Dog shows you how it’s done.

Instead of shortening the straps and looping them over your car seat’s headrest, you lengthen them and pass them around the back of your car’s passenger seat. In my defense, I direct your attention to this very misleading photo by PetEgo, and I’d also like to point out that the accompanying video is heavy on the sensual caressing of the Pet Tube and light — very light indeed — on details about how to install it.

Photo by PetEgo

Photo by PetEgo

But never mind. Live and learn! Onwards, and also upwards! Our focus is now on correct installation of the Pet Tube, and you’ll need to release the car seat’s lock and tilt the seat forward to do that — and be sure to secure the strap that’s closer to the center of the car first, before securing the strap closer to the door.

It’s an awkward business — keep part of your mind on your nose, ears, and glasses frames while you’re poking the head of the strap through the seat crease, and pulling one end of the strap up to meet the clasp on its other end — but after a brief wrestle, the straps will be in place, one on each side of the head rest and neither interfering with your car seat’s locking mechanism:

View of the back of the seat, still tilted forward, with the straps secured around it but not yet cinched tight

View of the back of the seat, still tilted forward, with the straps secured around it but not yet cinched tight

Seat locked back into place, straps cinched up snugly

Seat locked back into place, straps cinched up snugly

Same view, but a from a step back, so you can see the tube part

Same view, but a from a step back, so you can see the tube part

My Dorset Dog colleague secured his straps entirely in the back, closing the clips and the extra strap pieces in the rear of his vehicle, and it would look tidier like that — but I like having the clips accessible. It’s nice to be able to give the straps a tightening tug when they need it, without having to unlock the seat (both seats, in fact, since in my car you have to unlock the driver’s-side back seat before you can unlock the passenger’s-side back seat). If you rotate the clips to a lower position than they’re shown in that last photo, the extra strap length tucks nicely out of sight behind the tube.

Proof that this actually is the right way to install the Pet Tube is in this last photo, showing Chloe’s side “windows” nicely horizontal:

Also, both of the Velcro strips can now be used to stabilize the Comfort Pillow — oh yes, the evidence is there

Also, both of the Velcro strips on the wall of the tube can now be used to stabilize the Comfort Pillow — oh yes, the evidence is there

As I mentioned in my update to the post I wrote last year, we used the Pet Tube for more than six months wrongly installed, and were quite content with it. I don’t believe it’s unsafe used that way, and it certainly is easier to move from one car to another if the straps are merely hooked over the headrest. On the other hand, secured around the seat back, the Pet Tube doesn’t budge — and it can be installed even in cars without headrests.

My thanks again to Terri for the gentle nudge towards accuracy — how grateful I am to Dog Jaunt’s readers!

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New car harness for dogs: Sleepypod’s Clickit Utility harness

As I mentioned in a post last July, I replaced Chloe’s first car safety solution (a combination of the medium-sized Snoozer Lookout car booster seat and a harness-and-belt that she wore while in it) with the Pet Tube from PetEgo, about 24 hours after I watched a series of videos filmed by the Center for Pet Safety, showing what happens to a crash-test dummy of a Boxer wearing a number of safety harnesses/tethers (makers unidentified) in a 50 mph crash.

We’ve been very happy with the Pet Tube, and it works well, too, as a travel solution, since it can be collapsed into a fairly compact pancake and packed in a suitcase. However, it’s still bulkier than the harness-and-belt that we originally used on road trips away from home, and I missed having that minimal alternative — especially on trips where I didn’t know if there would be car travel at the other end, and wanted to pack a just-in-case safety solution.

Enter Sleepypod, maker of the Sleepypod Air pet carrier, the Yummy food/water bowl set, and other good-quality pet travel products: They announced that they were releasing a new dog car harness that would protect pets “in the same frontal crashes that ensure the effectiveness of child safety restraints, the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 213″ (which turn out to be at 30 mph). As soon as the Clickit harness was available, I ordered one, and now I’ve had a chance to try it out on Chloe. Please note that I paid full price for my Clickit harness; I will always let you know when someone else has paid for, or given me a favorable price on, a product I review.

The long version follows below; the short version is that the Clickit harness works well in the car, but did not work at all as a walking harness. I loved the sturdy construction of all three pieces, and as you can see in this photo, Chloe was unfazed by their weight and by how thoroughly they attached her to the car. I’ll keep using the PetTube, mainly, since it’s easier to get her into and out of, but I’ll keep a Clickit harness set in my husband’s car, and I’ll pack one on those trips when we might travel in a car (or when I know we’ll travel in a car and my packing space is limited).

Shortly after this photo was taken, she fell asleep

Shortly after this photo was taken, she fell asleep

I was initially daunted by the size and weight of the harness. I ordered the Extra Small size for Chloe, after measuring her as directed by Sleepypod on the Clickit page (tape measure looped around her neck and chest in a figure-8), and the assemblage I received (harness and two side straps) weighs 1 lb. 4 oz. Each piece is solidly constructed of quality materials, and I wondered whether it would all be too much for a 13-lb. dog. It was no walk in the park, either, to adjust the harness to fit or to shorten the side straps. Happily, Sleepypod has posted a video that helps, particularly with the harness fitting (the separate side straps are another matter — I ended up just fiddling with them until they were shorter).

Where the video left me uneasy, though, was in its use of a plush-toy German Shepherd as the model — for one thing, Chloe has long hair, and I worried that it would be caught and pulled, especially by the seat belt, as it passes through the two back straps. Also, that plush-toy GSD is a very tranquil creature indeed, while Chloe is a girl who likes to participate in what’s happening to her — how would it all work with a real dog?

Here’s our video, showing, first, the installation of the two side straps in a car (in this case, my in-laws’ Chrysler mini-van), then the installation of the harness on Chloe, and then the connecting of harnessed Chloe to the car:

Two things to mention: I misspeak in the video when I am telling you about attaching the side straps to the sides of Chloe’s harness. Instead of facing “upwards,” the hooks should in fact face “downwards,” so the active part is away from your dog’s fur. I actually got it right on her right side, as you can (barely) see in this photo:

Clip facing away from Chloe's side

Clip facing away from Chloe’s side

Also, Sleepypod wisely includes a card that covers the main points of harness fitting and installation, and I suggest that you keep it with your harness kit for quick reference, especially when you’re out of YouTube range. It and the harness pieces will fit nicely in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag.

You’ve already seen a photo of the happy ending: Chloe absolutely did not mind all the gear (despite that  yawn halfway through the video), nor did she mind the seat belt through the back of her harness. As I’ve said, I approve heartily of the pieces’ construction (the padding on the chest part of the harness will bring a tear to your eye, and the straps have the same massive metal clips and seat-belt-like construction that delighted me in our old PetBuckle strap).

That black strap doesn't actually go around her leg — it's just the excess length of the side strap that's flopped onto her

That black strap doesn’t actually go around her right leg — it’s just the excess length of the side strap that’s flopped onto her

The part that did not work for us was using the harness as a walking harness. The idea is an appealing one — for short jaunts especially, why bother taking the harness off your pup? Why not just clip a leash onto it and go?

Two reasons, it turns out. The first is that the leash clip is on the collar part of the harness, so you’re restraining your dog by her neck. I choose not to do that with Chloe; since Cavaliers as a breed are prone to syringomyelia, a dreadful ailment, I do everything I can to take pressure off her neck. Second, if you leave the back straps long enough to allow the seat belt to pass through them, the harness dangles away from your dog’s chest when she walks around in it — to the point, for Chloe, that one or the other front leg worked out of it within just a few steps, and she was prevented from walking comfortably:

Right leg all the way out of the harness, and you can see in this picture, too, how the leash attaches at the collar

Right leg all the way out of the harness, and you can see in this picture, too, how the leash attaches at the collar

A Sleepypod rep may be reading this and shaking his/her head, thinking that I left the harness’s back straps too long, but I swear I didn’t. As you can see in the video, the seat belt just passed through them, and I verified that there wasn’t extra slack. In any event, not being able to use the harness for walking is by no means a deal-breaker: It’s a pity not to take advantage of the clever Velcro strap Sleepypod includes to silence the parts that would otherwise clank together during a walk, but it isn’t hard to remove your pup from the harness.

One last source of concern are those latch bars. My in-laws’ van has two of them per seat, and they’re nicely visible (which is why their car appears in the video). My own car has two of them per seat, but you have to dig around in the seat crease to find them — like you did in the old days to find seat belt bits. Older cars, however, may lack latch bars (and some cars that aren’t so old, too, like my mother-in-law’s Lincoln sedan). If your car doesn’t have them, Sleepypod suggests that you consider having them installed, and provides a link with info about how that can be done.

The Clickit harness has been tested for dogs up to 75 lbs. How small can a dog be and wear one? I believe that Chloe is about as small as you can go, given that I cinched the collar as tightly as it would go before it fit her. Sleepypod has a picture of a Dachshund wearing the Clickit, which makes sense to me — Dachshunds have shorter legs than Chloe, but their neck circumferences are comparable. Chloe’s neck is just over 10″ in circumference; if your pup has a thinner neck, the Clickit is probably not for you (for smaller dogs, Sleepypod suggests one of its carriers).

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Photo Friday: Chloe taking the waters at Royal Tunbridge Wells

We ended our recent vacation in Paris with a trip to England. Our main goal was to cross the Chunnel in both directions with a pet dog, so we earmarked only a week for the jaunt — not long enough, really, to do more than burrow into a cozy hotel in Kent and take a couple of day trips.

We chose Royal Tunbridge Wells as our base of operations and, specifically, the dog-friendly Hotel du Vin. As Mount Pleasant House, it had been a favorite vacation spot of the Duchess of Kent and her daughter, Princess (eventually Queen) Victoria. Now it’s a hotel and restaurant, and it’s very pleasant indeed — pet dogs are welcome everywhere but the restaurant (meaning, specifically, that Chloe was welcome in the cheery tea parlor and across the hall in the profoundly cozy bar, and the staff smiled benignly as we walked with her from one to the other and up the stairs to our room). We alternated eating with walks through the large park behind the hotel (the former grounds of the house) and through the streets of this elegant spa town.

Chloe in front of the chalybeate spring, the reason Tunbridge Wells became crazily popular in the 18th century (and was given the "Royal" prefix). Behind me is "The Pantiles," a pair of long promenades. The colonnaded Upper Walks were reserved for the gentry, leaving the hoi polloi to jostle along on the Lower Walks. Both are equally charming nowadays — a bit quiet in early November, but the shops and restaurants must bustle in the warm weather.

Chloe in front of the chalybeate spring, the reason Tunbridge Wells became crazily popular in the 18th century (and was given the “Royal” prefix). Behind me is “The Pantiles,” a pair of long promenades. The colonnaded Upper Walks were reserved for the gentry, leaving the hoi polloi to jostle along on the Lower Walks. Both are equally charming nowadays — a bit quiet in early November, but the shops and restaurants must bustle in the warm weather.

Chloe was also welcome at Hall’s Bookshop, a wonderful used book store. She could not come in to Juliets Cafe with us, but the weather was just mild enough for a handful of sidewalk tables. Warmed by Chloe in my lap and a steady supply of hot tea, I was able to give the superb food (the window packed with desserts will stop you in your tracks, but they also offer great soups, stews, and salads) the attention it deserves.

Chloe the Headless Dog, with me on the second floor of Hall's Bookshop

Chloe the Headless Dog, with me on the second floor of Hall’s Bookshop

Our other recommendation from this quick trip is Knole House, only a short drive away and one of the greatest of England’s stately homes. The house itself is not dog-friendly, but the grounds are, and they go on forever. Dogs are required to be leashed, and for good reason — Knole has been a deer park since God was young, and you wouldn’t want to tangle with the herd (“descendants of those hunted by Henry VIII and Elizabeth I”). Guided walks are offered, and the park’s page has links to four self-guided walks. If we’d had just one more day, and boots to handle fall/winter muck, I would certainly have taken us all on the walk from Knole to Ightham Mote and back (especially since your leashed pup can join you on the patio of the Mote Restaurant). I didn’t see any warnings on the National Trust’s page for Knole about deer ticks, but better safe than sorry: Dose your pup with Frontline Plus, and check her and yourselves carefully for any stowaways.

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What it looks like: Chloe’s new E.U. pet passport

One of the souvenirs we returned with from our recent vacation was an official E.U. pet passport for Chloe. I call it a “souvenir” because it doesn’t really count, in our case — we are not European Union residents, nor are we residents of “one of the neighbouring countries where the rabies status matches that of the EU. This includes: Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland and the Vatican City State.” I look forward to the day when we fit into the other category of folks who have a real reason to own a pet passport (“I am a non-EU citizen but I will live in the EU with my pet for several years”), but that day has not yet arrived. [1/31/14 That said, our vet tech — who handles a lot of international paperwork for traveling dogs —  told me recently that one of her clients, a U.S. citizen and resident, goes to France constantly with just an E.U. pet passport. Next time, I think I'll fill out both options, and see how it goes with the pet passport — holding my usual American-style paperwork in reserve.]

No, I got a pet passport for Chloe partly because I wanted to see what the process was like, for the sake of telling you about it, and partly because we planned to visit the U.K., and I thought the U.K. customs officials might be more comfortable with a pet passport than with Chloe’s international paperwork. Officially, that wasn’t at all necessary: As it says in Note E (on p. 4) of the health certificate we got for Chloe, “The certificate is valid for 10 days from the date of issue by the official veterinarian until the date of the checks at the EU travellers’ point of entry and for the purpose of further movements within the Union, for a total of 4 months from the date of issue of this certificate or until the date of expiry of the anti-rabies vaccination, whichever date is earlier.”

In an earlier post, I shared with you scans of the paperwork Chloe needed to enter France with us (which included the health certificate mentioned above; a copy of Chloe’s current rabies vaccination certificate; and a statement that Chloe’s microchip was implanted on X date, and that Chloe’s rabies vaccine was given subsequent to that implantation, on Y date). We ensured that we had the current versions of the forms by getting them from the USDA/APHIS site, we worked with our vet to get them filled out correctly, and I drove them to our local USDA office to be endorsed. I guarded the resulting packet as carefully as I did my own passport, and made a couple of color copies in case some official wanted to keep a set. As on our last trip, no one showed the slightest interest in inspecting Chloe’s papers at CDG, but I was grateful to have them because (1) you know that if I hadn’t, we would have been met by fleets of officials, uniformed and armed to the teeth, demanding her forms in triplicate; and (2) we planned to spend the last week of our vacation in England, and the Chunnel authorities would certainly expect to see paperwork for her, in one form or another.

We made two appointments with a veterinarian in Paris (I’ll give you more info about him and another English-speaking Parisian vet in a separate post), one to get Chloe’s pet passport, and the other to get the tapeworm treatment the U.K. requires. On both visits, the vet gave Chloe a general exam — the first one was thorough, like her usual annual exam, and the second (only a couple of weeks later) was more brief. During our first visit, the information in Chloe’s paperwork was transferred to her new pet passport, and the vet made a note that Chloe was in good health. At the end of our second trip, he added notes that Chloe had received her tapeworm treatment, and was still in good health. Information about filling out an E.U. pet passport is provided in this helpful U.K. document.

Here’s what we walked away with, at the end of that process:

Page 1 asked for my address; it was okay to put down the address of our rental apartment, and there were plenty of spaces left for subsequent address changes

Page 1 asked for my address; it was okay to put down the address of our rental apartment, and there were plenty of spaces left for subsequent address changes

Pages 2-3: Please note that the date of Chloe's chip implantation is written European-style, with the day preceding the month

Pages 2-3: Please note that the date of Chloe’s chip implantation is written European-style, with the day preceding the month. I’ve only just now realized that the chip implantation date is wrong. How did I miss that?? It ended up not being an issue (if there had been a problem, you would have heard about it long before now), but I’ll be getting that entry fixed when we next return to Europe.

Pp. 4-5, with information about Chloe's rabies vaccination (including manufacturer, name, and lot number)

Pp. 4-5, with information about Chloe’s rabies vaccination (including manufacturer, name, and lot number). Pp. 6-9 are the same. What you may not be able to tell from these scans is that the vet used black ink on pp. 1-3, but his entries on p. 4 and elsewhere in the passport are all made with blue ink, which is a requirement.

Pp. 10-11: Pages we didn't need to use, since a rabies titer wasn't needed.

Pp. 10-11: Not used, since a rabies titer wasn’t required.

Pp. 12-13: Not used, because tick treatment was not required.

Pp. 12-13: Not used, because tick treatment was not required. Pp. 14-15 are the same.

Page 16: Details about Chloe's tapeworm treatment. Please note that the time it was administered is included.

Page 16: Details about Chloe’s tapeworm treatment. Please note that the time it was administered is included.

The first pages in an insert that can be used to record the results of a pet's annual exams

The first pages in an insert that can be used to record the results of a pet’s annual exams

Pp. 20-21: Places to record other vaccinations. Pp. 22-23 are the same.

Pp. 20-21: Places to record other vaccinations. Pp. 22-23 are the same.

Pp. 24-25, showing Chloe's two exams and verifying that she was in good health

Pp. 24-25, showing Chloe’s two exams and verifying that she was in good health. Pp. 26-27 are the same.

Pp. 28-29, re legalization (not an issue at this time)

Pp. 28-29, re legalization (not an issue at this time)

Pp. 30-31, for additional notes

Pp. 30-31, for additional notes

We were very nearly late for our train to England, so I was glad to arrive at the Pet Control Point with a document that didn’t require any explanation. I also enjoyed feeling like a local for a week or two, carrying Chloe’s little blue pet passport in my purse. As I mentioned above, however, it’s not officially the right document for someone in my shoes. For future trips to Europe, the correct thing to do is gather together the same documents (health certificate and supporting statements from our veterinarian) that we assembled this time. That said, if we plan to visit another E.U. country besides the one we enter initially, I’ll bring the pet passport too (and get it corrected).

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Big doings Down Under: Changes to Australia’s pet import/quarantine rules

In the course of checking and updating the links in Dog Jaunt’s book Bone Voyage (teetering on the brink of being released in print form!!), I learned that Australia has made some big changes to its pet import rules, effective as of 2 December 2013 (and affecting animals arriving after 3 February 2014). The most significant change is that the minimum quarantine period has been reduced from 30 days to 10 days — too long, still, for most casual travelers, but an improvement nevertheless.

Previously, the world’s countries were divided by Australia’s Department of Agriculture into six categories, ranging from the easiest countries to import from (e.g., New Zealand) to the hardest (a pet arriving from a Category 6 country like South Africa would have to stay in quarantine for at least 210 days). The U.S. fell in the middle, in Category 4: Pets arriving from the U.S. with all their prep work done properly would still face a minimum quarantine of 30 days.

Now there are only three categories of country, again ranging from easiest (the three countries in Category 1 are New Zealand, Norfolk Island, and Cocos Island); to fairly-challenging (visitors from Category 2 countries — generally speaking, other Pacific Ocean entities, plus outliers like Japan, Singapore, Bahrain, Iceland, and the Falkland Islands  — must get an import permit, but face “less conditions and testing”); to roll-up-your-sleeves. The U.S. is a Category 3 country, as are Canada, the U.K. and all of continental Europe, South Africa, and dozens of other countries.

As before, the countries that don’t appear in those lists are “non-approved,” but the situation has improved a little for pet owners in those countries too. Previously, an owner seeking to import a pet from, say, India, had to spend the 6 months preceding their travel date in an approved country (as well as negotiating Australia’s import conditions and testing requirements). Now, that owner can choose an approved country, bring her pet there (first meeting that country’s import requirements), and get the rabies vaccination and testing Australia requires — but then, if the owner chooses, they can return together to India for the period (about 5 months) between that testing and the date they have to return to the approved country prior to traveling to Australia. It’s a modest improvement: Owner and pet will still have to spend about 6 weeks in the approved country, and they’ll have to travel there twice.

If all of this is giving you the heebie-jeebies, take some consolation in the fact that the Australian pet import site is very well-organized, and steadily guides visitors through the process. Here, for example, is the step-by-step guide for travelers from Category 3 countries.

For a complete list of changes, go to the Department of Agriculture’s FAQ page and scroll down to the link for “What are the key differences between the old and new import conditions.” One thing that hasn’t changed: Pet dogs and cats still cannot travel in-cabin to Australia.

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Irish Landmark Trust: Dog-friendly vacation rentals with history and charm

Can you tell that I’m already making plans for our next vacation? Back in 2009 I pointed you towards Landmark Trust and National Trust vacation rental properties in the U.K. (and elsewhere, including, blissfully, France and Italy) that welcome pet dogs, and a few months later I added a post about Scotland’s dog-friendly National Trust vacation rental properties. I remember (or I think I do, at least) looking for similar options in Ireland, and not finding them.

How happy I was to look again, yesterday, and learn that the Irish Landmark Trust has 25 vacation rental properties, sprinkled across the entire island. Right now, the only way to filter your search results is by indicating the number of human visitors. When you do that, you’re provided with a list of properties that indicates, in bullet points highlighting each property’s essential features, whether that property welcomes dogs or not. Currently, 15 of the available properties welcome at least one dog, and each is tempting.

Feast your eyes, for example, on Helen’s Tower, in Northern Ireland’s County Down. Built in the 19th c. and immortalized in poems by Tennyson (written at the request of Lord Dufferin) and Robert Browning, it sleeps two people (and one dog). The kitchen and bedroom look basic, but the living room is magnificent, and the views! the location! (and, hello, the reasonable price!).

Helen's Tower (Photo by Irish Landmark Trust)

Helen’s Tower (Photo by Irish Landmark Trust)

And check out this octagonal kitchen in the Wicklow Head Lighthouse (sleeps 4, one dog allowed):

Wicklow Head Lighthouse (Photo by Irish Landmark Trust)

Wicklow Head Lighthouse (Photo by Irish Landmark Trust)

There isn’t a clunker in the bunch. After reading (and loving) Stella Tillyard’s Aristocrats, I think I’d choose to start with the Batty Langley Lodge on the edge of the Castletown House estate — it looks delightfully cozy, and I know Chloe would enjoy walking around the estate’s park as much as I would.

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Pet policies of the castles, gardens and palaces along Castle Road (Burgenstraße)

Just over a month ago, I posted a list of all the châteaux in the Loire Valley and provided what information I could gather about their pet policies. But what if you’re headed to Germany or the Czech Republic instead? Reader Hazel posted a message on Dog Jaunt’s Facebook page asking if anyone knew whether pet dogs are welcome at the castles that line “Castle Road” (or “Burgenstraße,” in German). I didn’t, but I had wonderful memories of castle-hopping in Germany with my parents when I was a child, so I threw myself happily into the new project.

A quick overview: Castle Road stretches for over 600 miles from Bavaria to Prague. Dozens of castles, palaces, gardens, and villages line its path, and you could easily structure all or part of a vacation around visiting them. For many decades, the route ended at Germany’s eastern border, but in the 1990′s it was extended into the Czech Republic (oddly, there does not seem to be a Czech name for Castle Road/Burgenstraße).

The route is well-signed, and makes for a great road trip

The route is well-signed, and makes for a great road trip

The official site of Castle Road has been a tremendous help, providing useful maps, information and links. I’m particularly grateful for its directional (west-to-east and east-to-west) lists of sites to visit, and have chosen to list the castles below in west-to-east order.

The central segment of Castle Road (the smaller red-line image is an overview of the entire trail)

The central segment of Castle Road (the smaller red-line image is an overview of the entire trail)

In my list, the name of each castle is usually a link to the official site’s info about it; sometimes, however, it’s a link to its own site. I’ve often provided links to the German version of a site, since it’s not uncommon for the English version to have less information than the original. I know about 15 German words, myself; Google Translate has been my dear, dear friend for the past few days.

As you’ll see, the list starts out well, since the Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten (Baden-Württemberg) does a magnificent job of organizing and presenting visitor information. Heading eastwards, info becomes increasingly sketchy. If you visit any of these properties, please let me know what you learn about their pet policies — that’ll help keep the post current and useful.

And please note, too, that this is the kind of info that tends to change without notice, so be sure to follow up yourselves before committing to nearby hotel reservations, etc.

Germany

Barockschloss Mannheim — The palace is under the umbrella of the Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten (Baden-Württemberg), which generally does not permit pet dogs in its buildings. They are allowed, leashed, in the gardens, however. Here’s the link and text: “In den Gebäuden der Staatlichen Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg herrscht ein allgemeines Hundeverbot. Eine Ausnahme besteht für Blindenhunde. In den Gärten sind Hunde angeleint zugelassen.” Mannheim Palace hews the line; pet dogs are not allowed inside (“In den Räumen des Barockschlosses Mannheim herrscht ein allgemeines Hundeverbot.”).

Schloss und Schlossgarten Schwetzingen — Pet dogs allowed, leashed, in the gardens, but not in the castle (link here).

Schloss Heidelberg — Pet dogs allowed, leashed, in the gardens, but not in the castle (link here).

Burgfeste Dilsberg (Neckargemünd) — Leashed dogs are allowed in the fortress building (link here).

Neckarsteinach — Town below four castles (Schadeck, Hinterburg, Mittelburg, and Vorderburg, the first three of which have parts that can be visited). I wasn’t able to learn whether pet dogs can accompany you to the castles, but the kinds of activities you can do there (climbing the curtain wall, viewing the ruins, viewing the bailey, walking up the tower) sound pet-friendly.

Burg Hirschhorn — The castle is now a hotel and restaurant. According to this site, it’s dog-friendly.

Burg Eberbach — It sounds like you can leap around the ruins, from which there’s a good view. No info provided about pets; surely your leashed dog can accompany you.

Burg Hornberg — The castle is now a hotel and restaurant. I’ve sent the hotel a query about their pet policy, and will update when they respond.

Burg Guttenberg — Pet dogs are not allowed inside the castle or, generally, in the falconry center, but they are allowed in the grounds (per the website, “Hunde dürfen leider nicht mit in die Anlage der Deutschen Greifenwarte oder ins Burgmuseum. Auf dem sonstigen Burggelände dürfen sie natürlich ihr Herrchen begleiten.”). At certain times of year, apparently, visitors with pet dogs can see the raptors in action (link here).

Schloss Heinsheim — The castle is now a hotel and restaurant. The hotel is pet-friendly (no extra charge).

Burg Steinsberg — It sounds like you can visit the ruins, from which there’s a good view. No info provided about pets; surely your leashed dog can accompany you.

Schloss Öhringen — The castle now houses city administrative offices; you can look around at rooms that aren’t being used. No info provided about pets.

Schloss Neuenstein — The castle is now a museum and archives. No info provided about pets.

Schloss Waldenburg — Privately owned.

Kloster Großcomburg — Not currently open because of structural issues.

Schloss Kirchberg — May be visited by appointment (call 07954/802-0). No info provided about pets.

Burg Rothenburg — A gate tower survived the 14th c. collapse of the castle, and there is a lovely garden (and view). No info provided about pets.

Ansbach (Residenz der Markgrafen von Ansbach, and Hofgarten Ansbach) — No info provided about pets.

Burg Colmberg — The castle is now a hotel and restaurant. According to this site, it’s dog-friendly. The interior of the Veste Lichtenau, another important building in the area, can only be visited by prior appointment; the Deutschordensschloss Wolframs-Eschenbach now houses city administration offices — step in and ask for tourist information, and you’ll have a chance to check it out.

Burg Abenberg — The castle now houses a museum and a hotel/restaurant. According to this site, the hotel is dog-friendly.

Schloss Ratibor — The castle now houses a museum, library and archives, and city offices. No info provided about pets. Again, I’d pay a visit to the tourist information office to get a glimpse of the interior.

Kaiserburg Nürnberg — With a name like that, you know it’s got to be especially good. Per a late 2012 review on TripAdvisor, pet dogs are not allowed inside. No info provided about whether they’re allowed in the grounds.

Fränkische Schweiz — Of the many appealing properties in this area, the most likely to be dog-friendly (to some extent) are the ruins of Burg Streitberg (another great view); and the gardens of the Burg Pottenstein and the Schloss Seehof. There may be pet-friendly guest rooms in the Schloss Aufsess (the Schloss Oberaufsess also accepts guests, and the resident family has a dog; perhaps that means they’ll look kindly on your pup). From my phrasing, you can tell that info about pet dogs is not provided for any of these properties.

Bamberg — While it seems unlikely that pet dogs are allowed in the Neue Residenz, they might be allowed, leashed in the Rosengarten. Similarly, I hope pet dogs are allowed at least in the grounds of Altenburg, but no information is provided. (How I wish the rest of Germany would adopt the orderly ways of Baden-Württemberg!)

Schloss Rentweinsdorf — Privately owned.

Schloss Eyrichshof — Privately owned.

Coburg — Home of several magnificent castles (Schloss Callenberg, Schloss Ehrenburg, Schloss Rosenau, and Veste Coburg), not one of which mentions its pet policy. I hope that pet dogs are at least allowed in the park of Schloss Rosenau, but I can’t find a scrap of info on the topic.

Festung Rosenberg — The castle now houses a museum. My guess is that pet dogs are not allowed inside; no info provided about whether pets are allowed in the grounds.

PlassenburgThe castle now houses several museums. No info provided about pets.

Bayreuth – The Neues Schloss, the Eremitage, and the Sanspareil rock garden are major attractions. The only bit of information I could find about pet dogs comes from the rules for the Neues Schloss’s gardens, and indicates that leashed dogs are allowed: “Tiere (insb. Hunde) müssen an einer höchstens 120 cm langen reißfesten Leine mitgeführt warden. Die Person, die ein Tier mitführt, muss jederzeit in der Lage sein, das Tier körperlich zu beherrschen.” (Section 3)

Czech Republic

Burg Eger/Hrad Cheb — Pet dogs are not allowed in the museum/exhibition area, but leashed dogs appear to be allowed in the grounds: “das freie Herumlaufen von Hunden und anderen Tieren im Objekt und auf seinem Gelände ist verboten, ihr Zugang in die Ausstellungen ist untersagt” (link here).

Schloss Sokolov — The castle now houses a museum and library. No info provided about pets.

Burg Elbogen/Hrad Loket — Per an icon on the castle’s home page, pet dogs are not allowed.

Burg und Schloss Petschau/Hrad a Zámek Bečov — The castle appears to be under restoration, and not yet open to visitors.

Schloss Königswart/Zámek Kynžvart — The castle’s website makes no mention of pet dogs.

Prämonstratenser Kloster Teplá/Klášter Premonstrátů Teplá — The monastery’s website does not mention pet dogs.

Wasserburg Schwihau/Vodní hrad Švihov — I cannot tell from the website whether pet dogs are allowed; I am passionately fond of moated castles, though, so I’d certainly visit and inquire in person.

Schloss Nebillau/Zámek Nebílovy (Nezvěstice) — Barely any info about the castle, and none about pet dogs. Alas!

Schloss Kozel/Zámek Kozel (Štáhlavy) — The castle’s website includes a list of signs you’ll see, including one that prohibits dogs — but since the list also includes a general “no entry” sign and a “no photography” sign, it could just mean that dogs are not allowed in the castle.

Schloss Horschowitz/Zámek Hořovice — Not a sausage about pet dogs in the castle’s website.

Burg Bettlern/Hrad Žebrác and Burg Totschnik/Hrad Točník (Zdice) — Hrad Žebrác is in ruins (surely you can visit a ruined castle with a pet dog?); Hrad Točník can be viewed by guided tour. The local website is mum about pet dogs.

Burg Pürglitz/Hrad Křivoklát — No mention in the website of pet dogs.

Burg Karlstein/Hrad Karlštejn — Pet dogs are not allowed.

Prague Castle and its gardens — Pet dogs are not allowed [PDF] in “the buildings and gardens.”

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Taking a dog into, and out of, England on the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle

A quick recap for those of you who are just arriving at Dog Jaunt: I added a week to our month-long trip to Paris because I wanted to have the experience of taking Chloe into, and out of, England via the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle.

Why make the effort? You are not allowed to fly into the U.K. with an in-cabin pet, so people who prefer to travel within arm’s reach of their dog have to be creative: One of the options, as I mentioned in this post, is to rent a car and drive it (and you, your pup and who/whatever else is in the car) onto a Eurotunnel Le Shuttle train. How can I recommend it to you unless I try it myself?

Short story: It all worked like a charm, and was surprisingly pleasant as well as easy. There are some (low) hurdles to jump over, so timing is an issue, and there are some costs to consider and budget for.

Traveling from France to England

Before you drive up to the embarkation plaza in Calais, you need to have in hand not only your own passport but also your dog’s “passport.” In theory, and no doubt in practice too, the same paperwork that you obtained to bring your pup into France will also work to bring her into the U.K. Per DEFRA: “For non-commercial movements, the Annex 1 or Annex 2 certificate is valid for entry into the EU for 10 days from the date of issue and remains valid for a total of four months from the date of issue for further intra-Community travel.” We decided, however — for the sake of having the experience, and because we thought it might save time if the border folks were handed a familiar document — to get Chloe an E.U. pet passport. I’ll write about that in a separate post, and the fact is, having a “pet passport” really doesn’t mean much for a dog from a non-E.U. country. It’s essentially the same information that was in her health certificate, copied into a blue booklet and backed up by an examination from a French veterinarian.

He not only verified that Chloe was in good health, he also provided the second thing you’ll need before arriving in Calais: The tapeworm treatment that the U.K. requires, and a note (in our case, in her passport) stating that she received it in the specified time frame (“Not less than 24 hours and not more than 120 hours (1 to 5 days) before [her] scheduled arrival time in the UK”). There are a couple of tapeworm treatment options; Chloe got a pill. Before you leave your vet’s office, make sure that s/he writes down the time that the treatment was administered, not just the date (and in European, 24-hour time, i.e., 13:40 rather than 1:40 pm — your vet will be European, so it’ll happen, but double-check it to make sure).

Here’s a link to Eurotunnel Le Shuttle’s useful summary of what’s required to get on the shuttle in Calais (it’s essentially the same as what I’ve described, but it calls out the microchipping requirement separately — you’ve already dealt appropriately with your pet’s microchip, however, in the process of getting her health certificate).

You will need a car (please note that some car rental agencies won’t rent a car one-way into the U.K., and the ones that do add a truly remarkable surcharge — which explains why we decided to return to France to fly home), and you’ll be happier with a reservation on the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle, though when we were traveling (mid-week at the beginning of November) there was plenty of room on earlier/later shuttles. I could not use my U.S. credit card to make an on-line reservation, and succeeded in getting a reservation only by getting my credit card company rep on the line and calling Eurotunnel Le Shuttle with him. A further twist? I could not call the U.K. number for the shuttle from the U.S.; happily, I could call the French number, and the shuttle’s reps speak English no matter what country they’re located in.

So there you are, in your rented or borrowed car, with your reservation, dog, and paperwork in hand. You drive through Picardy, and history, and you arrive in Calais. The very first thing you must do (after taking Exit 42 off the A16 motorway) is look for the signs for the Pet Control Point, because you have to get your pet and her paperwork checked before you proceed towards the gigantic tollbooth. We arrived on a grimly rainy day, and were in a desperate hurry; please forgive the pictures.

Ignore, for a moment, the big tollbooth structure that dominates the scene and beckons you forward. Instead, follow the yellow paw print sign to the right.

Ignore, for a moment, the big tollbooth structure that dominates the scene and beckons you forward. Instead, follow the (criminally small) yellow paw print sign, pointing you to the right.

As you turn to the right, you're given a much larger yellow paw print sign. The control point is in that low building behind it. Drive into the parking lot, and bring your pup and her paperwork inside.

As you turn to the right, you’re given a much larger yellow paw print sign. The control point is in that low building behind it. Drive into the parking lot, and bring your pup and her paperwork inside.

A panorama of the Pet Control Point building and the fenced dog-walking area next to it.

A panorama of the Pet Control Point building and the fenced dog-walking area next to it.

The Pet Control Point building, as it looks on a rainy early November day, approached at a high rate of speed.

The Pet Control Point building, as it looks on a rainy day in early November, approached at a high rate of speed.

Inside, we plopped Chloe’s carrier on the counter and invited her to poke out her head, so that the control officer could run a wand over the back of her neck to read her microchip. She looked through Chloe’s passport (I had Chloe’s U.S. paperwork in hand, as a back-up, but it wasn’t needed) and gave us a tag to stick to our windshield.

The first tag we received in Calais

The first tag we received in Calais

We exited the pet control area and turned right towards that tollbooth structure you saw in the first photo. Machines offered us the chance to buy a ticket or claim our reserved ticket; we did the latter and were given another tag, this one designed to hang on our rear-view mirror. If we had arrived early, we could, at this point, have sauntered into the terminal for snacks and magazines and a bathroom break. As it was, we hurried onwards to a booth containing a French customs officer, who waved us on to what turned out to be the U.K. border, right there in Calais.

French customs, completely uninterested in our passports or our stickers.

French customs, completely uninterested in our passports or our tags

Approaching the U.K. border (by this time, we'd stuck both tags to the window, using bits of the adhesive torn from the pet tag, and looked like Ma and Pa Clampett moving to Bever-lee).

Approaching the U.K. border (by this time, we’d stuck both tags to the window, using bits of adhesive torn from the pet tag; the car looked like Ma and Pa Clampett moving to Bever-lee)

We assured the U.K. officer that we’d be returning tout de suite to France, and had reservations on a flight back to the U.S. He looked over what he could see of us past all the stickers, decided we were harmless, and stamped our passports. We finally caught up to our fellow passengers, joining the line of cars boarding the train.

Train waiting at the bottom of the ramp

Train waiting at the bottom of the ramp

Following our fellow passengers onto the train

Following our fellow passengers onto the train. Cars are parked on two levels; we were on the lower level going to England, and on the upper level on the way back. They look exactly the same; the only difference is the extra gut wrench of driving onto a train and then immediately up a ramp, in an unfamiliar car.

Driving forward inside the train

Driving forward inside the train

Once you’re parked, thick barriers swing closed between the train carriages. You turn off your car, put on the hand brake, and open your windows halfway (to keep the pressure changes from being bothersome). You and your car mates can doze, or watch movies on your portable electronic devices, or snack, or read. You cannot take flash photos (it distresses the equipment keeping an eye out for fire), and there is no wi-fi. There are modest but workable bathrooms, every 2-3 carriages apart, and you can walk to them. There is no café car, and no other attraction that would tempt you to walk elsewhere on the train.

Parked on the train. The heavy doors between the carriages have been closed, but smaller doors on each side let shuttle employees and passengers move between carriages.

Parked on the train. The barriers have been deployed; doors on each side let shuttle employees and passengers move between carriages.

A bathroom, shoe-horned into the side of a carriage

A bathroom, shoe-horned into the side of a carriage

There are windows in every carriage — they're irrelevant for most of the journey, but it was nice to see light through them and know we'd arrived, even before the announcement

There are windows in every carriage — they’re irrelevant for most of the journey, but it was nice to see light through them and know we’d arrived, even before the announcement

The train began to move, and 35 minutes later we were in Folkestone. So quick, compared to the Hovercraft and ferry rides I’ve taken in the past. And what could be more comfortable than this?

Once you reach Folkestone, you hear an announcement warning you to drive on the left side of the road, and to set your clocks back an hour. The doors swing open, and you drive off the train and onto the M20 (dear God, on the left).

Traveling from England to France

Returning to France on the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle was even easier. We were rattled, initially, by not seeing any kind of sign for pet control. We collected our hanging tag, and went in search of The Authorities.

This sign in particular threw us for a loop. It was yellow! There was a paw, and an arrow! And yet, there was not Pet Control Point!

This sign in particular, located near the Folkestone entrance, threw us for a loop. It was yellow! There was a paw, and an arrow! And yet, there was no Pet Control Point….

There is a large and pleasant dog-walking area, equipped with agility structures, a water fountain, and benches, but it’s purely a convenience. There was no building next to it, and no signs indicating that pet owners should do anything except pick up their dog’s poop. Baffled, we inquired inside the terminal, repeatedly, and the (very patient) lady at the information desk repeatedly told us there was no Pet Control Point in Folkestone.

Surely this must be part of a Pet Control Point Complex, we thought, but no — it's just for walkies

Surely this must be part of a Pet Control Point Complex, we thought, but no — it’s just for walkies

A panorama shot of the whole walkies area

A panorama shot of the whole walkies area

The interior of the walkies area, with Chloe and my handsome husband

The interior of the walkies area, with Chloe and my handsome husband (please note the beret)

Visual proof that there's a water fountain — how unexpected!

Visual proof that there’s a water fountain — how unexpected!

We finally stopped fretting, bought snacks, and ambled onto the train when our boarding letter was called. We passed booths and officials similar to those we’d met four days earlier, but the whole process was so low-key that I cannot remember any details. Another half hour passed, and another announcement reminded us to change our clocks and drive on the side of the road the locals favor, and we were back in…

About those expenses I mentioned: It cost about 50 € to get Chloe’s pet passport (an optional expense); another 50 € to get her tapeworm treatment (not optional); and 15 £ each way to add her to our Eurotunnel Le Shuttle trip (bringing the total shuttle cost to about 70 £ each way). Why was I charged in pounds rather than euros? The shuttle rep offered me the choice in our phone call, and then chose pounds for me since it was a better rate that day.

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Dog jaunt: Riding Paris’s Vélib’ bicycles with a small dog

Paris’s citywide bike-on-demand system was just being installed the last time we visited, and we exclaimed in disbelief as impeccably dressed people (including women in skirts and heels —but not helmets, no, never helmets) launched themselves into the maelstrom of traffic on the Rue de Rivoli. More power to them, we thought, but join them? Non. Jamais.

Photo by KarlOnSea

Like this, but with fifteen times the traffic (Photo by KarlOnSea)

Jamais is a long time, though, and the last of our hesitation disappeared when we told our internist we were going to Paris for a month and she literally wriggled with joy while describing how much fun she and her husband had just had zipping around the city by Vélib’. She shrugged philosophically about the lack of helmets, and we’ve since read that the odds are slightly better than you’d think, because Paris drivers are trained by daredevil scooter drivers to look in all directions for possible hazards. It turns out, too, that once you start looking for them, there are dedicated bike lanes all over; and bikes are allowed to use the lane reserved for taxis and buses.

Between rides in the Bois de Vincennes — there are plenty of stations to swap bikes, the scenery is beautiful, and (especially on a Tuesday at lunchtime) we had the paths nearly to ourselves — good news for people who haven't biked in years

Pausing in the Bois de Vincennes — there are plenty of stations to swap bikes, the scenery is beautiful, and (especially on a Tuesday at lunchtime) we had the paths nearly to ourselves — good news for people who haven’t biked in years

Swans preening themselves on the île de Reuilly, one of two islands in the Lac Daumesnil — truly lovely scenery, and dogs aren't otherwise allowed on them, so biking turned out to be a brilliant choice

Swans preening themselves on the Île de Reuilly, one of two islands in the Bois de Vincennes’ Lac Daumesnil — truly lovely scenery, and dogs aren’t otherwise allowed on them (they are allowed elsewhere in the park), so biking turned out to be a brilliant choice

We spent two happy days of our trip on Vélib’ bikes, tootling first around the Bois de Vincennes and then along the Coulée Verte (east of the Bastille, it’s the continuation of the Promenade Plantée I’ve written about before), and if the weather had cooperated, we’d have taken more rides. We cobbled up padding and a restraint for Chloe, who leaned forward like a figurehead, ears blowing in the wind, and cemented her position as Best Dog Ever (except for yours, of course) by shrugging off two wipe-outs. Here’s what we learned.

Advanced prep work

Is your dog small enough to fit in the Vélib’ basket? The basket on the front of a Vélib bike is 15″ long, 12″ wide, and 8″ deep. That’s big enough to hold 13 lb. Chloe, sitting down — I think a dog up to about 15 lbs. would be as comfortable as she was, and smaller dogs might even be able to lie down.

If so, and if you think (or already know) that your pup will consent to being chauffeured, your next task is to come up with a way to pad the basket’s bottom. The mesh is made of thin wire, and it’s loosely “woven,” so it would be uncomfortable to sit on, and the gaps would allow paws or tail to poke through and be injured. Happily for us, I had in my purse the small pad that we brought for Chloe to lie on in restaurants, and that, folded in half, worked beautifully. If I lived in Paris, I would create a large fleece shower cap, essentially, whose elasticized edges I could hook over the basket’s rim, and then I’d put padding in the bottom of that. As it was, I worried about the padding shifting under Chloe and exposing one of those gaps, but it didn’t happen.

You’ll also want to have some way to restrain your pup, not so much from leaping out of the basket (because if you think she’ll do that, you should go with another option, see below) but from fleeing the scene if you and she go fanny over teakettle. There’s nothing provided with the bike that will help — there is a thin cable, much of which flops into the basket, that can be used to lock the bike up temporarily, but it’s so long and twisty (and the locking mechanism is so fiddly) that I wrinkled my nose and dove back into my purse.

What I came up with was the shoulder strap for the collapsible SportPet carrier we use to contain Chloe on the metro and the bus. Shortened as much as possible, it is 29″ long, and 1.5″ wide — and (this is crucial) it has a latching hook on both ends. One hook latched onto Chloe’s harness, and the other clicked onto the basket frame. The strap was long enough that I had to weave it a little to take up the slack, which was possible because it was just narrow enough to fit through the basket mesh. Here’s the result:

Chloe with pad under her, shoulder strap clipping harness to basket. DO NOT restrain your pup by her collar — ONLY by a harness. Seriously. Help me sleep at night.

Chloe with pad under her, shoulder strap clipping harness to basket. DO NOT restrain your pup by her collar — ONLY by a harness. Seriously. Help me sleep at night.

Alternatively, consider carrying your pup in a backpack. You could bring one with you, or buy one in Paris (stores like Moustaches and I Heart My Cleps have good-quality backpack carriers, and inexpensive ones are available in many of the neighborhood quincailleries — ostensibly hardware shops, but they sell everything, including luggage).

I also suggest buying a copy of Paris By Bike With Vélib’, either before you leave (I’ve provided an Amazon link below) or once you’re in Paris (we found our copy at the English-language bookstore W.H. Smith at 248, Rue de Rivoli). It suggests seven scenic routes and lots of useful addresses and tips. We did Route #4 (“The countryside in Paris”) on our second day out, and liked both the ride and the guidance the book provided. While you’re stocking up on things, buy the Univélo phone app, which shows you where the nearest Vélib’ stations are, and how many bikes/spaces are available at each.

Helpful tips

You’ll do research separately about using Vélib’, I know, and there are plenty of blog posts and articles out there for you to learn from. These are just the things that caught my attention as we came up to speed (so to speak).

Dealing with the terminal: The terminals wouldn’t take American credit cards, which wasn’t a huge surprise. [Reader Jessica points out, quite correctly, that the issue is the presence or absence of a microchip — her Visa Marriott rewards card has a chip (and no foreign transaction fees), and it works fine in places where ours didn't. Please also see Roberta's comment, below.] The workaround is to fire up your laptop before you leave your apartment or hotel room and buy your day’s ticket ahead of time, noting down the code Vélib’ provides. When you get to the terminal, follow the directions that let you use that code to release your chosen bike.

Selecting a bike: If there are only a couple of bikes in a Vélib’ stand, whether you see it in person or on your Univélo app, it’s likely that those are broken bikes. Most bikes are in good shape, but before you set off — and indeed, even before you unlock a bike — do a handful of things to make sure it’s a good choice. Don’t be shy — we saw innumerable locals doing all of these things, just more quickly and efficiently than we did.

Lift up the rear end and turn the wheel with your foot on the pedal, first backward (to ensure that the chain is well seated) and then forward; use the right brake and assess how well it works; give the front wheel a spin and use the left brake to stop it. Check tire pressure with a squeeze of your hand or just by leaning your weight on each wheel in turn and looking for undue squishiness. Give the seat a tug to make sure it’s solidly in position (if not, squeeze harder on the stem clamp); if the seat is too low or too high, either choose another bike with a seat in the position you prefer or loosen the stem clamp and adjust up or down (despite all these precautions, a Parisian friend tells me she sometimes finds herself sinking lower on her seat as she pedals — if that happens to you, pull into the next Vélib’ station and swap). A broken bike will often have its seat turned around to indicate a problem.

Seat turned around and pushed to the bottom of its column — choose another one

Seat turned around and pushed to the bottom of its column — choose another one

Safety issues: Before you set off, practice ringing the bell with your left hand. It’s the most effective way you have to warn people out of your path (and people do tend to stray into bike lanes).

With a dog in the basket, the front end of the bike is heavy and prone to swooping to one side or the other. Notice, too, that these are step-through bikes, so there’s no cross-bar to prop against your leg. Take your hands off the handlebars only when you’re confident that the front end is solidly braced against something. Even if your pup isn’t injured by a sudden movement, it won’t take too many alarming experiences for her to decide against this whole biking thing.

For your first ride, choose a large park like the Bois de Vincennes or the Bois de Boulogne, and choose a day and time when you’re less likely to have a lot of company. The Vélib’ bikes are surprisingly pleasant to ride, but you’ll want time and room to get used to them, and especially to having your dog’s weight on the front end. It worked well to spend the first day in the park, flirting with its outskirts every so often to see what Chloe thought of streets, and then exiting the park mid-afternoon to ride through the (very) light traffic of Saint-Mandé. On our next trip, we rode in dedicated bike lanes, next to but not in traffic, and that too went well.

A well-earned beer (pizza on the way), with Chloe snoozing under the table

A well-earned beer (pizza on the way), with Chloe snoozing under the table

Returning your bike: The whole point of the system is to keep bikes in circulation, so your day (or week) ticket gives you only 30 “free” minutes at a time. If you use your bike for longer than that, you pay an extra fee — it’s initially trivial, but it escalates rapidly. There were a couple of times when we shrugged and absorbed the extra fees because we were having fun a little too far away from a station, but we generally tried to scoot back in time.

It’s an unadvertised fact that if you wait two minutes, you can check your bike back out again. Given that there were lots of bikes available when we were frolicking, we stood beside “our” bikes until the grace period ended. The right thing to do, however, is check your bike in (watch the light on the bike’s stand until it blinks from orange back to green — after all that effort, you really want the system to recognize that your bike has been returned), unload your bike, and then hope that no one snags it. You can improve the chances that no one will by returning it to a stand far from the terminal.

If all of the checking-in and checking-out becomes vexatious, you could look into renting a bike for a day. No more worried glances at your phone or waiting for your timer to peep, and a bike rental place would likely be able to rent you a helmet too. On the other hand, there you’d be with a bike on your hands — no popping into a shop or a café without first finding a place to lock it up, and at the end of the day you’ll have to schlep it back to its source. The beauty of Vélib’ is that you can bike, or not, on a whim.

Amazon link:

Paris by Bike with Velib (Les Guides Du Chene)

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