One of the hardest things about travelling is that you often have to leave your pets behind. This is particularly the case if the journey touches Britain, whose irrationally draconian anti-rabies measures make it impossible to take your dog: because, I admit it, I’m thinking dog here. Even more, I’m thinking Toffee.
We left Toffee in her own house (which we share), with Daniela and then Renata, people she knows and loves, so she was fine. We were the ones who suffered. Suffering takes many forms. Giuseppe phoned home every day for detailed bulletins on her health and general well being. Toffee licks the mouthpiece if she hears her name, which is unhygienic but endearing (to us), and this ritual was duly performed each afternoon.
I’m more grown up about it (I also think the phone thing might upset her at some deep level, the way time travel or full face transplants might upset me). I take photographs of other people’s dogs. Paris is a very good city indeed for this; it’s hard to cross a street without seeing half a dozen small perfectly coiffured tykes being taken out by their owners. Jack Russell terriers are definitely this season’s flavour; the animaleries along the Seine around Pont Neuf are full of them, with their prices pitilessly falling as they move out of puppyhood; although bulledogues (the French kind, hence the spelling) are hanging in by their oddly arranged teeth and look set to weather the canine fashion storm.
Then there are the much larger mixed-breed dogs that lope around with, and protect, the thousands of clochards in the city. The psychology’s pretty basic. People like me, who go soft at the sight of most animals, tend to give more, telling ourselves that our money will be spent on biscuits. One guy who turned out to be from Manchester, strategically placed on his rucksack outside a place that sold the most delicious bread, told me he’d just bought something to stop his bitch – Sensy (because she’s sensitive) – going on heat. This information made me even more generous than I’d intended. He said that he could sleep more easily, knowing that Sensy was there beside him. We must have had similar circuits because I noticed Sensy and her life-partner half a dozen times, walking, sleeping outside the Monoprix on rue de Reynes. A man came out of the store and gave the Mancunian a bag with bread, cheese, tabouleh, screw-topped wine, two bottles of water and a sizeable bag of dog food. I wonder how often this happens, if it’s a frequent gesture or if I was lucky enough to see something exceptional. I hope the former.
Then, one afternoon, a big golden Labrador flopped across to us and put his front paws round my waist and his cold wet nose against my stomach. Begging for love, I thought, so I was half right. His owner, who rolled up seconds later with his hand out and a friendly smile, must have trained him to trawl for cash. But hey! everyone’s happy. (Except for people who ‘don’t like dogs’.)
They don’t even have to be real. I took these two photographs of toy dogs in the window of a shop that was closed for August. I had one not that different when I was small, with small wheels on each paw and a handle at the back like a trolley case; I don’t know what happened to it.