In Europe, Even the Dogs Take It Easy
It wasn’t the wine, museums or macaroons that sustained my interest during a trip to Europe this summer.
It was the dogs.
Wherever there were people, so too were their dogs. On bikes. In restaurants. At hotels. On the beach. In stores.
Their wet-nosed presence was no big thing. Dogs were simply part of the European equation of daily life. And I loved it.
These dogs were not coddled in the American sense. They were not toted around in designer bags, showcasing leopard-print collars dotted with Swarovski crystals.
Yet they were coddled because they were granted access. In some cases, they were given the freedom to trail off-leash. They ate what their people ate. They were always on the go. Still, the human in the relationship was not infantilizing them. No one fussed over their presence or doted on them.
But I did.
Consider Benny. In the German city of Luebeck, my husband and I dined on weinerschnitzel at the restaurant Schiffergesellschaft, an old sailors’ dining hall from the 15th century. My herring appetizer held my attention until a man walked in with his golden retriever. The maitre d’ showed them to their table.
The man sat in his chair. The dog sat at his feet. Golden was too big to squeeze himself entirely under the table, so half his body rested in the path of waiters. The dog assumed a position that indicated he knew the drill: head lowered to paws.
I was riveted.
Waiters carried steaming plates, stepping over Golden’s front paws — never once looking down.
And then up popped Owner.
“Cigarette break,” I whispered to my husband.
Golden popped up, too. Outside, Owner smoked and Golden lingered off-leash, not so much waiting for something to happen as just hanging out. Owner told me his Golden’s name and seemed confused that I would ask.
How I wished I could take my dog, Nigel, with me out on the town. But he was stateside while I petted other dogs across Europe.
Here’s the thing about dogs back home: We may not mind if our dog sneezes on us. It brings delight. But if someone else’s dog does that to us, it’s straight to the bathroom for a wash. From anecdotal evidence, what I saw in Europe indicates that strangers don’t interact with other people’s dogs. Not one ran up to me. I was always chasing them down. When dogs don’t approach you, there’s no untoward slobber or dander.
Benny was just the beginning. I also met a Lhasa apso, Baby, riding on a bicycle with her owner in Berlin. There was Maggie, the Yorkshire terrier, also in a bike carrier, in Amsterdam.
At Utah Beach in Normandy, I met Gesa the English setter. She was covered in sand after a dip in the water. Then there was Ricky, the border collie, at Pointe du Hoc. He ran off-leash in and around the moonlike craters left from Allied bombing of the former German fortification.
At our hotel in Saint Louet sur Seulles, along the Normandy coast, there was George and Florence and Moses, a ragtag team of pupsters. They lived in their owners’ quarters, but were often spotted in the back gardens.
Iain Mackellaig, who co-runs Manoir de la Rivière, roasts chicken for his dogs — and offers it for dinner to guests’ dogs too. He seasons it with salt and pepper, and sometimes eats the leftovers himself.
“I call it a dog-salad sandwich,” he said.
Back home, I am now reunited with Nigel, who — by the way — received a rare invite to a dinner party (along with my husband and me) just recently.
“Bring your dog if you like,” wrote my friend Michael. “It’ll be like his little vacation house!”
I was touched but conflicted. Bringing 15-pound Nigel meant keeping a watch over him lest he do something unbecomingly doglike. But I didn’t want to give up the opportunity for him to be part of the gang — like his European cohort.
Except for jumping onto the lap of a certain hot dog eater, Nigel simply chilled. Like the rest of us, he was content to enjoy some company on a warm summer night.
~Courtesy of blog.nj
-Written by By Hinda Mandell