For the love of a dog in a cold city

I’m not a dog-lover.  I avoid them whenever possible, a strategy developed over a late childhood spent delivering the Vancouver Sun newspaper six days a week.  The oversized canvas bag I used to stuff with about 28 papers every day had SUN in huge, black letters written on the side.  Dogs in my hometown read it as: BITE ME.

Eleven times in five years they sunk their fangs into my flesh by the time I turned 13 and passed the paper route on to a 10-year-old kid eager to be a moving canine chomping post in exchange for pocket money.

I was thinking of my attitude to dogs while strolling through the bitterly cold streets of Paris with my friend.  Paris is notorious for its dogs and the tonnes of crap they dump every day.  As he scraped a freshly laden smear off his heel one afternoon, I consoled my friend by telling him a visit to Paris wouldn’t be complete without glitching at least once through a fragrant pile of crotte de chien.

Then on our last day of serious walking my friend and I came across a white sheet of paper thumb-tacked to a tree.  We stopped and read the first few lines, and, because we realised how much of an honest cry from the heart we’d randomly stumbled upon, we read it to the very end.

The lines on that anonymously posted sheet of paper recall classic themes, and they won’t turn me into a dog-lover, but I think I’ll never forget how I came across them, and know I’ll look on dog owners in a different light from now on.

A dog creates bonds – hommage to Lumie and to dog-owners.

Lumie died at the age of 6, brutally ending a close, three-year relationship with the author of these lines.  Three years during which the novice I was in the subject discovered the special friendship which can bond a man to a dog.  Three years that allowed me to get to know other dog-owners, strollers of all ages with whom contact forms with an astounding spontaneity in a city such as Paris where a general distrust of strangers prevails.

I also often came across former dog owners who would not hesitate to crouch down and tell of their sorrow when their companion had left them – a great sadness that, quite often, they still felt a long time after.  Some had not yet “grieved” as the saying goes. They had tears in their eyes as they spoke of their vanished animal, especially if it resembled mine.

There was a time when everyone made fun of “these grannies and their little doggies.”  But in talking to those holding a leash you come to realise the irreplaceable role of a companion a dog can be to isolated men and women.   One day a woman said to me, “she’s my baby” when speaking of Pim, a beautiful German Shepherd that was said to have once been in a police squad sniffing out narcotics.

Often the owner would talk in glowing terms of the absolute loyalty their dog afforded them that a human companion would be incapable of showing.  They’ll also talk of their intelligence and ability to understand so many things without aid of a translator.  A lot is said through a certain look, by their impressive capacity to interpret the most trivial of your movements and gestures.

All this I was able to find in Loulou, a little white Pomeranian born five years ago in Pennsylvania and brought home from New York with my luggage in 2008.  His first owner, a Taiwanese lady who was learning French, had named him Loumi, a nickname from the French word for light: lumière.  My daughter wrote He’ll be an angel dog on learning of his death from an incurable disease.

These personal revelations might seem quite laughable at a time when the Syrian regime pursues its massacre of an insurgent populace fed up with decades of tyranny, where Tibetans set themselves on fire to protest Beijing’s colonial brutality, where Europe’s destitute are dying every day of cold and the people of Greece slowly sink into poverty.  You might tell me it’s a lot of sorrow for such a little dog, a silly little thing.  There are surely greater sorrows.  Nevertheless, they don’t erase this one.

5 Responses to “For the love of a dog in a cold city”

  1. 1 SnookerinBerlin
    February 24, 2012 at 9:30 am

    What a wonderfully sweet story.
    Thanks for posting it.

  2. February 24, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    Love the last paragraph (very French). Reminds me of the saying- you having cancer doesn’t mean my toothache isn’t agony.

  3. February 24, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    It’s a commonplace for people without animals to say to someone who’s just lost a dear dog (or cat, or bird, or whatever), “You can get another dog.” But the truth is we never can get that dog. There always will be a Lumie-shaped space in the life of the person who wrote that post.

    This is such a tender story – thanks for posting it.

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The banner photograph shows the town of Britannia Beach, BC, Canada, where I grew up. It's home. But I don't live there anymore.

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