The woolly black dog sniffing the lamp post at Place Leon Blum didn't look underfed, but he did look orphaned: no visible tags, and no visible human. (You often see dogs walking off-leash in this corner of the world, however.)
"Is that your dog, by chance?" I asked the newsagent next to the Metro entrance.
"Where?" he asked, before coming out of his little stall to stand alongside me, his gaze following my finger pointing in the direction of chow-ish looking dog moseying about all by his lonesome.
"That guy there. He seems to be all alone."
"Tsk tsk tsk," said the newsagent fellow. "The french people, when they go on vacation, they just turn their dogs out on the street."
"No, it can't be so!"
"Oui, oui. It's a right shame."
This was the third time in a month that I felt utterly and completely powerless to act on my natural impulse to help an animal in need. I did not know who to call (even if I did have a cell phone, which I still do not), nor whether I should try to wrangle the furball (suppose he did have a person, and I just couldn't see him/her), and then what to do with him if I were to wrangle him.
(The previous animal situations included one where a dog was trotting aimlessly though traffic; I asked someone what to do about it and he said to take the dog to the Commissariat. Yet, when I took that baby pigeon I found on the sidewalk to the Commissariat, I discovered they're actually pretty useless when it comes to animal crises.)
Reluctantly, I descended the steps to the Metro station and just wallowed in that heart-wrenching, gut-aching feeling of helplessness and failure. Waiting on the platform for a train to take me to yet another apartment viewing, I noticed the giant advertisement depicting two dogs, one healthy and cute, lovingly cuddled by two smiling children; the other is but a mere skeleton lying dead or near death, alone on a table:
"For him, love. For me, death. Abandoning kills 100,000 animals per year."
I'd seen the poster (the latest issued from the Brigitte Bardot Foundation) several times before, but didn't have the context to fully understand what the campaign was about, or why it was relevant right this minute. Now, I understand. And now, I've got another job for myself: figure out what the hell to do the next time I see a dog (or cat, or pigeon) toute seule on the streets. It's hard to believe that the french, who have a reputation as a dog-loving bunch of people, would treat their animal companions so poorly when they are no longer convenient. C'est dommage.
In good animal news, tomorrow Spain votes on whether to make bull-fighting illegal in Catalonia, and it's actually looking as if for once, luck might fall in favor of the animals. One can hope.