Both Steve and I have always been animal lovers, specifically dogs. We have had our share of dogs over the years, and we often miss the wags and kisses that des chiens bestow on their owners and everyone else. As well-behaved as we would like to think our dogs were, they don’t hold a candle to the dogs of Grenoble.
In Grenoble there are dogs aplenty. They range from the ever-popular little French Poodles, Yorkies and Shih- Tzus to the larger German Shepards and dogs of indeterminate breeds with that wiry Irish Wolfhound look. This is similar to dog breeds in the U.S. What is so very different here is the mind-set of the dogs and their owners. The smaller dogs are usually walking on leads, but the larger dogs are often untethered. What amazes me is that the dogs follow their owners with little to no distraction. The owners seem oblivious to their canine companions for the most part. I neither see them glancing back to assure they are being followed nor calling and whistling for their dog. At the same time, the dogs seem uninterested in persons other than their owners. They don’t come over to sniff you, and they don’t even wag when you speak to them.
One afternoon when we were attending classes at CUEF, we stopped at “eve” (pronounced ev) – espace vie étudiants – to have a beer before boarding the tram for home. There was a brown dog laying outside next to the café. His owner was nowhere in sight. We were surprised when this dog made an unusual move and came over to greet us when we sat down at a table – perhaps he knew we were “americains” and was interested in a cultural exchange? No matter, shortly afterwards, some men emerged from the bar area with their drinks and stood about talking. The dog became excited. His owner was here! We learned that the dog comes in the morning with his owner who works at CUEF in technical services. The dog stays outside the café all day long waiting for his owner and never wanders away. When the man appeared the dog began walking toward the parking lot looking over his shoulder for his master to follow. The man would start walking, then stop and return to his companions and resume a conversation. The dog would return to the man and look up expectantly. The man would begin to walk away again, then return to his friends. Back and forth, back and forth, this poor dog just wanted to go home. Finally, they left, the dog gleefully walking beside his owner.
Likewise, when we are in the Grenoble center ville, we often see unleashed dogs walking dutifully behind their owners like a duckling with its mother. There are also homeless people who all seem to have dogs. They station themselves near the tram stops and by the libraries. Their dogs lie peacefully dozing beside them. I cannot find any firm rules on leash laws in Grenoble; this issue is addressed as La bonne attitude or “do the right thing.” I suppose that means know your dog and handle it accordingly.
An issue that also crops up with city dwelling dog owners who live in apartments is “what goes in, must come out.” Now, we have mostly avoided the occasional dog poop on sidewalks and curb areas (mostly is the operative word), but Grenoble has a solution to this unavoidable situation. It is called l’espace chien. There are 145 wire-enclosed spaces covered with sand. These are maintained and cleaned by city workers. Dog owners are “supposed” to take their dogs there to relieve themselves. While many owners have trained their dogs to use these spaces, many have not – so watch your step. Usually there are park benches outside of these areas where I have seen dog owners sitting and patiently waiting while their dogs enter the enclosure and leisurely use l’espace chien.
Dogs seem to be welcome almost everywhere in Grenoble. I have seen them dozing under outside café tables, laying in front of florist doorsteps waiting for their owner within (you do have to climb over them to get in. Our own dogs would always find the most inconvenient place to lie as well), and tucked into the front baskets of bicycles. Dogs are allowed to ride the public transport here. They do not have to be service animals, but attack dogs are forbidden and large dogs must be muzzled and leashed.
What is really nice to see is that le chien is truly loved here in France. In the almost 3 months that we have been here, we have yet to see a stray dog. As for le chat, we have only seen them sitting in windows. The stray cat seems to be non-existent. Maybe that’s because Le Chien est Roi ici!
des chiens: dogs
l’espace chien: dog space
le chat: the cat
Le Chien est Roi ici: The Dog is King here!