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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 November 2007, 15:16 GMT
Lavish lifestyles of Paris's top dogs
By Emma Jane Kirby
BBC News, Paris

In Paris, dogs are a must-have for every fashionable lady and new shops are opening selling everything from canine rain coats to jewel-encrusted collars. Why do these dogs have it so good?

Let me introduce you to Edward.

Edward, a West Highland terrier
Edward enjoys the finer things of life

He is small, rather handsome, and thanks to his 15-euros- a-bottle (10) designer dog shampoo, his fur is snow white, smells of clouds and is as full as an old lady's perm.

Born and bred in Paris and raised by English owners, Edward has mastered both languages sufficiently to be capricious or, let us be honest, wilfully disobedient in either tongue.

But there is no doubt that Edward is French in spirit.

Luxuries

Like all affluent Parisians, Edward enjoys the finer things of life.

Take last Saturday when I was out walking him in the posh 5th arrondissement with his owner Salil.

The route is lined with restaurants and at every brasserie door I would hear the metallic sound of Edward's solid silver name tag jangling against his Tiffany collar as he turned his head to sniff the kitchen's aroma before trotting on.

And then we passed the Tour d'Argent, one of Paris's oldest, most exclusive, and certainly most expensive restaurants.

Before I could shorten his retractable leash, with a Hanna Barbara cartoon-style wheeling of the back legs, Edward shot forward and was in.

He then refused to come out again.

I simply do not believe that it was a coincidence that a Parisian dog passed by so many ordinary restaurants and made a dash for the only one frequented by the smart set.

Sulking under the table of the cheap Mexican restaurant we finally chose, I sensed that Edward was embarrassed to be seen in such a low class joint.

And to add insult to injury, not a single waiter offered him a treat from the kitchen.

Doggie fashion

The last time I dined with Edward and friends at a pricey pavement cafe, he was presented with a T-bone steak to enjoy while my six-year-old goddaughter was left to go hungry because the waiters refused to adjust the menu to suit her childish dietary requirements.

Emma Jane Kirby and Edward, a West Highland terrier
Emma Jane Kirby with a pampered West Highland terrier

Parisian dogs have just never had it so good.

In my district alone two new canine outfitters have sprung up, their shop windows offering the urban wolf everything from black tie - presumably for those Tour d'Argent dinners - to Superman costumes.

Earlier this year, the big department store BHV opened a special dog and cat branch packed with luxury items for the dog who has it all.

That is where I met Shadok, a tiny Chihuahua with a lot of attitude who was testing out the padded baskets and harnesses.

There was no question about Shadok's mistress choosing the style or colour, Shadok snarled her opinions quite clearly.

In 2002, a dog called Saucisse, encouraged by a minor success in the Marseille municipal elections went on to try, albeit unsuccessfully, for president
The mistress, whose fur coat looked like it had been made of several hundred of Shadok's ancestors, was desperate.

"Shadok," she whined as she dragged her out of the shop.

"Why must you always have your own way?"

And that is what frightens me.

French dogs are demanding ever more.

Political allegiances

In 2002, a dog called Saucisse, encouraged by a minor success in the Marseille municipal elections went on to try, albeit unsuccessfully, for president.

In the last elections in May, a respected French newspaper reported on new research which suggested that dogs had right-wing sympathies.

Shortly before the second round, I met a golden retriever called Ernest Hemingway who appeared to prove the theory by woofing his approval each time Mr Sarkozy spoke on television.

And dogs have already broken into the Elysee Palace.

The former President Jacques Chirac had an innocent looking white fluffball with the menacing name of Sumo. Meanwhile, President Nicolas Sarkozy has an unassuming Chihuahua who nonetheless calls himself Big.

Mausoleum

Not even death can conquer them.

Expired Parisian dogs are not simply remembered by a crude mound at the bottom of the garden or a jar of ashes on a shelf.

The dog cemetery
Some Parisian dogs are pampered even in death

Instead, like great statesmen or war heroes, enormous marble mausoleums mark their resting place in a landscaped dog cemetery on the city's outskirts which overlooks the Seine.

Here lies Fifi the poodle, safe in the paws of the angel dogs, or so her epitaph claims.

Three rows on, behind the topiary, spaniel Emjie - a sort of terrier I am told - whose short life has been summed up by his clearly adoring mistress with the words "six kilos of pure love".

Perhaps I have become too sensitive but I swear the signs of canine ascendancy are everywhere.

High expectations

From January next year, if the man at the restaurant table next to yours lights a cigarette, you can call the police to make him extinguish it, no such luck though with making him put out his dog.

Indulged and spoiled, Parisian dogs have a new-found confidence.

Just like any two-legged creature, Edward now expects to visit bakeries, to be invited to gallery openings and to get a seat on the Metro.

You may laugh but you have not seen the wolfish grin on his face as he pushes to the front of the bateau mouche queue to make sure he is first to board the boat.

Be warned, Paris is going to the dogs.

From Our Own Correspondent was broadcast on Thursday 1 November, 2007 at 1100 GMT on BBC Radio 4. Please check the programme schedules for World Service transmission times.

SEE ALSO
Country profile: France
03 Oct 07 |  Country profiles


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