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Sally Stone on pets in France

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Dogs and cats abroad

Sally Stone of Les Bons Voisins gives us her views on pets in France: 

Perhaps the very first thing I should say is that for years now, when I’ve spoken to people who are

 thinking of living in France, I’ve promised them a spot-on tip for easy integration. As they sit waiting

for some clever and sophisticated pointer, I say:  ‘If you are too old to have a baby – get a dog!’

 

When we arrived in France in 2002 my daily walks around our village, dog firmly in tow, made me

many friends and led to a wonderful morning ritual of discussing the weather, gardens and wishing

each other well for the rest of the day.

 

People who might otherwise have passed me by with a quick ‘bonjour’ became real friends in a short space of time, with invitations to aperitifs following shortly behind. 

 

I still believe having a pet is an excellent way to bridging the gap between cultures. It gives you something to talk about if nothing else and therefore begins to break the ice.

 

But talking of cultures – if you are an animal lover, you may find some of the attitudes to pet animals in France rather disconcerting.  And others, surprising...

 

Certainly I know French people who will not have their female dog spayed, but drown any litters of

puppies which come along.  And that,on a regular basis.  Equally one of my neighbours had a dog

who was hit by a car, and ended up with a permanently malformed back as a result of a total refusal

to seek a vet’s advice.  It wasn’t really a financial decision, but was a very clear indication of how they

 regarded their pet.  It slept outside in a nicely made kennel with a run, but was never fed on dog food

only on household scraps.

 

On the other hand, I still am amazed that I can take my very well behaved dog into almost all restaurants and she will be allowed to sit quietly under the table, plus normally gets a bowl of water brought to her and is fussed over rather more than I am...

 

 If you would like a pet now you are in France, why not go to the local branch of your SPA which to all intents and purposes is an equivalent of the UK RSPCA. 

Sauver Protéger et Aimer les animaux

 It is so rewarding to have a rescue dog and the staff at these rescue homes will be thrilled at your interest.  In fact, you could do worse than offer to help as a dog walker if you want to slowly assess your future pet!  Or, you could be in the position of not being able to or not wanting a dog yourself, but happy to be a helper and thus make a whole circle of friends that way, alongside helping the animals.

 

 

After we lost our first dog, (can expand on that, a Jack Russell who was run over by a car in our little town)

 it was only a few weeks before I realised just how much I missed the daily contact that walking the dog had brought. 

Off I went to the SPA, where we found a young dog which had been there for eleven months, badly beaten before she was abandoned, but complete with her documents to show she was a French sheepdog from the pyrénées with that typical shaggy French coat (have we invented a new word?  Is there such a thing as shaggy chic?).  She is now not only bi lingual but many years on, my husbands constant companion who returns each annual open day to the SPA and they marvel over her as one of their great success stories. 

Most SPA centres are open each afternoon, and you can go and look around. Cages are numbered, and once you have made a short list of dogs who appeal on first sight, you can speak to the staff who will have the animals known details in their files.

This varies from a complete history because the owner brought the animal in themselves, already vaccinated and tattooed with its ID (meaning you can take it home that very day if you adopt it) to the more common ‘found in the street outside the Town Hall’ so it will only have an estimated age and will not be up to date with all vaccinations. In this case, to save funds the SPA will undertake all this, but only once there is a definite potential new home) so you would wait a few days. 

My advice?  It’s best to choose a dog young enough to be able to train and enjoy for some time and, if you have a family, an animal with at least some known background. A true ‘unknown’ can be a risk in a family situation.

You will pay just short of €100 to take your new pet home, and will be instructed by the staff on the relevant do’s and don’ts.  The staff take a lot of care to make sure that as far as possible the match is right between animal and new owner – although in our case they made no ‘home visit’ to check us out. 

So – go along to your local SPA.  You will find a bewildering choice, a real welcome – and quite likely make some friends as well.  I hardly dare mention it in case my dog is listening, but if you’re a cat lover, they have cats too.

 Take a look at Sally's websites at: www.lbvfrance.com and for the business opportunity see www.lbvfranchise.com For Sally’s new initiative visit: http://www.thegitedoctor.com and write to: sally@thegitedoctor.com

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