Hector and Hugo on their own street in Paris, 7th arrondissement, this sign just next to the Assemblée Nationale.
Hugo & Hector, born in Los Angeles, spend their first Christmas in Paris. Photo taken Christmas Eve on the Alexandre III bridge.
I cried for Leo for three months. There was no summer holiday for me. There was no summer. I retreated into a heart-broken depression that anyone who has lost a beloved pet can understand. The vet told me that Leo had died of an intestinal haemorrhage provoked by the toxicity of the cortisone treatment over the years. It was one of the known risks. I had been so optimistic. I believed that Leo had many more happy years ahead. But in the end the drug that kept him alive killed him. I felt defeated. I hated myself for not taking more precautions with Leo’s medication. The vet reassured me that I’d done everything possible, especially as I’d always kept Leo’s dosages low. “You did the right thing,” said the vet. “Leo lived a longer and happier life thanks to
There’s a saying in French that un malheur n’arrive jamais seul. It means bad news is always followed by more bad news. When you are down, expect another cruel blow. My own instinct, perhaps due to my Scottish upbringing, is to regard good fortune as suspect. I’m not sure that my personal philosophy helped much as the weeks turned into months, as a new calendar year was upon us, as the Easter holidays were approaching. True, there was no reason to feel miserable. In fact, life in Paris was splendid. My favourite month, April, was arriving soon. I like to say that April may be the cruellest month – except in Paris. Still, there was no reason to feel reassured either. I was still a convicted criminal in France with a tarnished casier judiciaire. After my judicial setbacks I couldn’t
The day began like most mornings in Fontainebleau. Leo was licking my knuckles. I was at the wheel of my battered silver Peugeot driving down the boulevard lined with plane trees at the edge of town, the municipal hospital on one side and local cemetery on the other. In small French towns the two are often morbidly convenient neighbours. I reached back and dangled my free right hand on the back seat, gently squeezing Leo’s little white paw. He returned my affection by licking my dry knuckles with his soft pink tongue. Oscar was directly behind me on his hind legs, peering out the window as we turned up the narrow road leading into the woods. I was glad to be back in Fontainebleau for the weekend. After the move into Paris, I’d decided to keep my apartment here for
The dinner invitation from Adam announced the turning of seasons as the hot sun-blanched boredom of August gave way to the moist, cool air of the back-to-school rentrée season. It was September in Paris. “I’m having a few people over,” said Adam on the phone. “Nothing too formal. You can bring Oscar and Leo.” I’d spent most of the summer outside the city, away from the minor irritation of tourists asking for directions to the Eiffel Tower. Paris doesn’t belong to Parisians in the summer. Most decent restaurants in the city close for the entire month, posting the familiar sign, “Fermeture pour congés annuels”. Even the boulangeries and pressing cleaners are shuttered for most of August. For the denizens of Poodleland, early August is when they discreetly escape to their résidence secondaire in Brittany, in Provence, or on the Riviera.
I never thought I would find myself writing this final epilogue so soon. I believed Oscar was immortal.. Home Again in Paris ends with the death of Oscar’s little brother Leo. Oscar was the survivor in that story. Oscar was the symbol of my faith in life, my reason to carry on, my holy lamb. Which is why I ended the book on a note of hope as Oscar and I cross the Concorde bridge heading toward the Tuileries for a walk in the gardens. Oscar was my hero, my saviour Oscar saved my life twice. The first time was following the death of my wife Rebecca nearly eleven years ago. Oscar was actually Rebecca’s dog, a fact that surprised many of my friends in France who couldn’t imagine Oscar with anyone except me. My close friends from Toronto
RIP Oscar January 30, 2000 – September 23, 2013 I have some very sad news: Oscar died very suddenly at home on Monday morning. He had been feeling ill last week and I took him to a vet on Friday. Over the weekend he seemed fatigued and disoriented and I began to feel worried. I spent the entire weekend with him. On Saturday night I took him to the Champ de Mars where he gazed at the Eiffel Tower; and on Sunday night I took him to the banks of the Seine where he watched the boats pass on the river at dusk near the Pont des Invalides. That was his last walk outside, though he was so tired that I had to carry him in my arms most of the time. On Monday morning he was sleeping on a
I took this photo of Oscar on a walk in the Tuileries on Sunday afternoon. The two metal chairs were positioned in the centre of the promenade when we arrived. We stopped and Oscar took a rest in front of the chairs. The Louvre is in the background.