Monday, July 26, 2010

Animal Rights (and Wrongs)

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.


  1. Aurelia - do you not see this as a giant opportunity for you? Contact the BB Foundation, set yourself up with a laptop and some webdesign stuff and start an offshoot of that campaign, called something clever and set up to help abandoned animals in Paris. When my friend returned from Barbados she was distraught about the amount of loose and sick dogs on that Island. We then found out about The Hope Sanctuary on Barbados that is trying to change things. Perhaps you could create your own Hope Sanctuary in Paris. WIth your intelligence, knowledge and obvious empathy, you might be able to get something off the ground. Plus, you're cute as a button! That helps.

  2. Beth, I wish I was tbat go-getter person you think I might have the potential to be. Stuff like that (starting an animal rescue org/network) seems so daunting; where to begin? But you're right about something: I shouldn't just bitch and gripe and feel helpless when I could be using that energy for something productive. The language barrier is intimidating still (it's so frustrating when you can't fully express yourself), but I can't be the only person in this city who gives a hoot and wants to do something. Mobilizing is a good first step. Too bad Craigslist sucks here. (I went to the "animal community" links and ended up getting infuriated by a woman's ad pleading for a new home for her cat because she misunderstood USAirways' pet travel policy. Fly another airline, lady! Sheesh.)

  3. I'm very good at telling people what they should do, it's easy. Not so good at the follow through, myself. It just seems like maybe some outfit somewhere would be willing to "adopt" some type of help for these animals. I know how much you truly care, and writing a blog about it is a good start. Have you tried reaching out to Johnnie Depp? Har har.

  4. I saw the posters in the Métro, too, and asked Paul what it was all about and he told me.

    What I found so strange is that people would put their stupid *vacations* before caring for a pet!! I really don't get that les vacaces are so sacrosanct that it necessitates abandoning a pet. Stupid.

    Paul also told me a long time ago that all the cats in the cemeteries are ones that have been abandoned, too.

    What I was wondering about is where are all the vacation services here in Paris? I know my friend in Antibes can take her cat to a nice kitty hotel -- what about for pets here? This same friend just took care of another friend's bunny rabbit while they were out of town for 2 1/2 weeks. Seems like some money could be made at opening a pet hotel here in the city, or setting up an animal exchange for people going on vacation.

    We're watching Paul's ex-wife's cat in August, and maybe my friend's cat, too. It will be a pet-filled month.


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