My name is Toby. I have just had my fifth dog birthday on March 19th. I'm a proud Sunshine Golden Retriever, and I come from a family of champions and loving pets just like me. My dad, Sunshine's Four on the Floor, better known as Casey, finished his show career with four majors, and I am told that I look a lot like him.
Well, enough about me. What I want to know is, what's going on at my house? I know something is up, because my folks don't go to work anymore. They are very busy doing this and that, and I am watching them carefully to try to figure out exactly what is going on. I miss sleeping on their bed while they were gone all day. Now that they are always home, I can't do that anymore, because it is against the rules. And not only that, they have begun putting me in the big cage with the wire windows and the door that locks. I go in for about an hour every day. They used to put me in there years ago when I was a puppy in training. Does anyone know why they're putting me in there again?
One day later.
Have you ever wondered how my dog friends and I know what's going on? It's the doggie network. While you sleep at night, we operate the network. It's an undetectable wave link between canines. Anyway, I finally found out last night, through my friends on the net, that my family is going to Europe on an airplane, and that this time they're taking me. I've never been on an airplane before, and I am a little nervous. But that explains why they have been putting me in my cage every day. I'm practicing for my plane trip.
Oh boy, I have a feeling that this is going to be a quite an adventure.
Whoa! What an E ticket ride that was.
One day our family and friends came over to our house. They helped my folks load up a couple of cars with our suitcases, and we all went to a place I have never been before. It turned out to be an airport. I've heard about airports and planes through the Doggie Network, and from my brothers and sisters who are show dogs, but I never imagined it would be so big and so busy, Wow! I was nervous, and when my folks asked me to get in my cage, I ran away. Everyone help to catch me and they finally coaxed me in there and shut the door. Soon I was on the plane.
Once I figured out what was happening, I made close friends with one of the flight officers. She checked in on me every 30 minutes. She was real nice. I lost track of time, and I think I fell asleep. Soon I was awakened by a loud noise and everything around me started vibrating. Then there was a bump that gave me a bounce. The next thing I knew, new friends were giving me a lift onto a little cart, and soon I heard the comforting voices of my folks. We all waited in line for awhile before a nice young woman in a uniform gave me a pat on my head and said, "Welcome to France, you beautiful guy." I was weak in the knees, and feeling faint, I gave her a kiss.
The next few days I spent a lot of time in the back of a car. Someone I didn't know was driving us around. We drove and drove and drove. Everyone would hop out, go look at something called a boat, and then rejoin me in the car talking away about what they had just seen. I didn't understand. It was all so fast. When I was allowed to hop out, I found all kinds of new smells,where am I?
Now we're all back to the farmhouse where we started, and I am beginning to feel at home. I know something is up, and though I'm not sure what, I have been taking swimming lessons, as I keep on seeing water everywhere we go.
Boy, it's cold here. It's near freezing every day. What's this white stuff covering the grass along my morning walking path? I have never seen that before. Some passing dogs have little wooden kegs around their necks. What's that for? When will it warm up? I come from California, I'm used to warm, sunny days, please!!
People think that dogs are dumb, but we are not. We know exactly what is going on at all times.
My folks put me on a strict diet before we flew over here, just to save a couple hundred bucks on my airfare. Now that we're in France, you can tell that they are feeling guilty. You should see all of the special treats that I am getting now. It almost makes up for the diet.
I am living in this great old farmhouse in the country. I love it here!! I can romp all over the giant backyard, and chase Moustache the cat.
Moustache lives in the house next to ours, and when their door is open I often pop in for a visit. There are great smells over there at meal time. I go over just to see what's up or more realistically what's down. They have lots of company, and I have learned from experience that the more company there is, the more food that ends up on the floor.
The same thing is beginning to happen at my house. I have noticed that when company comes over and the wine comes out, that people start talking with their hands. Soon food ends up on the floor. What's on the floor is mine, that's the rule at our house. I'm so happy to see friends stop by, and if I could, I would start serving the wine myself.
I have developed a real taste for French cheeses and patés. I prefer, of course, the strong cheeses, the smellier the better, and in patés, so far my preference is for the paté de lapin.
Even though I am eating all of these fattening treats, I still look slim and trim, because everyday I take a long walk. I really like these leashless walks. I can sniff my way across the fields, the smells here are finely aged, and when the mood strikes I can roll on my back and kick my legs in the air. La vie est belle!!
My folks are city people, and boy do they ask dumb questions about the farm animals. It is so embarrassing when they talk loud enough for the animals to hear. Can you imagine anyone asking, "Is that a goose? Do you think it can fly"? Or "Is that a cow or a bull", and the other one always says the same thing to these dumb farm questions, "I don't know". Boy, what they don't know about farm animals could fill a book. Maybe I should write one.
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We just went on a neat vacation. It was way cool. We went to Spain and stayed on a sailboat in the Barcelona harbor. At night I sat at the helm while everyone slept, just to make sure we didn't run into anything.
During the day we walked all over Barcelona and I met lots of Spanish dogs. The Spanish dogs are really laid back, and I met dogs everywhere we went. They were all cool, just a quick sniff and adios, no hassles at all.
All of their folks really liked me, I know because I heard everyone say "Que Guapo". That made me hold my head higher and wag my tail more. I kind of hated to leave Spain.
But don't get me wrong, I love my life France. Since we flew over here, I go everywhere with my folks. And the best part is that when they go into a store, I get to go in too. No longer am I tied up to the parking meter out in front of the store. It's a great advancement in civilization.
As you may have guessed, I am a good little eater, or as they say in France, "Je me tiens bien à la table". I am beginning to consider myself sort of a food critic.
The supermarkets in this country are huge and I've never seen so many shelves in a market devoted just to my taste buds. It's a dog's dream come true. Vive La France!
It's not like it was back home where dogs are content to eat the same thing day in and day out. American dogs always say, "Oh boy, dog food again". But, non, non, non, not in this food loving country! Here in France we can choose from an almost endless selection of dry or canned foods, including such gourmet items as duck, foie gras, veal, lamb, pork, salmon and tripe. I had never even heard of some of these foods before, and I like all of them except the tripe. Then, as if those choices were not enough, there is also a refrigerated butcher section right there on the dog food aisle with a complete selection of fresh meats, sausages and that old standby, fresh meaty dog bones.
I love French restaurants. They let me come in and sit under the table. If I were a little smaller, they would even let me sit in one of the chairs at the table. It almost makes me wish I were a poodle. But I guess I am happy just the way I am, and lots of food ends up under the tables anyway. I have nothing to complain about.
Another great thing about France is the trucks that have a pizza kitchen inside. Whenever the pizza guy is in the neighborhood, I love to sit in front and smell the pizzas cooking in the oven. It makes me think that I died and went to Heaven!! If only the guy would drop a sausage, pepperoni, and ham with double cheese pizza out of the truck. Maybe someday he will.
I will sit and wait.
Oh Boy! Another train trip. I use to be a little nervous on the trains, but I get along fine now that I understand all of the rules.
On one of my first trips I got in trouble. My folks didn't know that the French train system charges half fare for dogs of my size. It was embarrassing when the conductor asked to see my ticket. I didn't have one. What did I know? The conductor scolded me, and then we had to buy a ticket.
This last month we went to the train station to purchase train tickets in advance. This time the trip would be to Paris on the TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse). My folks' tickets had seat numbers, but mine did not. Where was I supposed to go? I hoped it wasn't in that airplane crate again.
We boarded a local train for an hour, then we hopped off and got on the TGV. In each car there are a few seats that face each other with a table in between. Perfect, four seats for the three of us. Lucky for us, no one was sitting there. We moved right in, and I made myself comfortable under the table. In just two hours, traveling at speeds of over 180 miles per hour, we zoomed from Lyon to Paris. In Paris we walked through the hustle and bustle of the Gare de Lyon. With suitcases and me in tow, we entered the taxi line. Then it happened.
Rejection! Four taxis wouldn't take us, because of me. I thought the French loved dogs. This never happened to me before, rejection for the first time in my life. I'm a pretty dog, with long flowing hair, and everyone always loves me. It was humiliating. I wanted to run and hide. Thank God, finally, a really nice taxi man said that if my folks wrapped me in one of their raincoats, so that my fur did not get all over his cab, he would take us. It was a mortifying experience.
I have been listening to my folks talk about this taxi problem, and they are hard at work trying to come up with a solution for me. Since we have been back home, they have been trying different outfits on me to see how they fit. The latest goofy idea is a white painters' suit made out of paper, the kind you can buy at the hardware store so that you don't get paint all over yourself when you paint the kitchen or whatever. Since I'm long in the body and short in the legs, the body fits a bit tight, and they have to roll up the arms and legs. They decided not to cut a hole for my tail, or for other important parts, and I'm not sure that's a good idea.
I worry that they are going to make me wear this out in public! I don't know which is worse, the embarrassment of rejection by the taxi drivers or the humiliation of wearing some silly taxi suit. That's what they are calling the paper outfit.
My folks are really nice, but sometimes they're a bit strange.