With clothing scattered across my bed and a sudden, uncharacteristic interest in fashion, my partner watched as I packed my suitcase prior to this trip.
“You are dressing to attract a French boyfriend.” he joked.
“You don’t understand,” I replied.
And he didn’t. People in Europe—France in particular—do not dress like they do in North America. Our casual, relaxed style doesn’t cut it on the streets of Paris (in fact, I’m pretty sure wearing sweatpants in public can get one arrested there). I needed to curate clothing for this trip because I didn’t want to stand out as a tourist. I needed to take the time to accessorize and (ugh!) bring make-up because I wanted to blend in with my surroundings. I don’t do any of this back home because fuck the patriarchy but for some reason I felt compelled to here. When in Paris, you need to bring your A-game.
My A-game required gold and more gold.
On the second day of my trip though, I relaxed this policy a bit because I knew I would get dirty.
For on the second day of my trip, I realized the life I was born to live - being a professional dog walker.
I was to meet my “tour guide”, Juliette, at Bois does Vincennes, a large park on the periphery of the City of Light known historically for being a royal hunting preserve but currently infamous as a haven for prostitution. I’d heard of this prior to visiting and immediately recognized the vans and motorhomes lining the roadways of the park as the mobile brothels where (mostly) African sex workers ply their trade, which is legal in France.
It was mid-morning and at our proposed meeting spot I observed other (more wholesome) activity, mostly joggers and other walkers enjoying a leisurely stroll with their off-leash pets. One man and his dog, a large mixed breed, reminded me of the symbiotic relationship between my late father and dog Reggie. At first all I heard was an older man yelling in a manner that indicated he was greatly annoyed but not angry. At something. I had no idea who he was talking to—or what he was even saying as it went beyond my own fluency—and then, bounding out of the bush, came the dog enjoying himself way too much to go home. The master would just have to adjust his schedule to accommodate these shenanigans. Classic Reg. I always love when vignettes of past events, scenes of a previous life, come back as sweet memory.
After a short wait, Juliette arrived and I saw what was in store for the day. I would be walking, or rather herding, nine dogs of various breed, size and energy level through the lush forests of this park. Most seemed well-behaved and chill but one pooch, a young yellow lab named Pongo, seemed to require extra attention. He wasn’t neutered and at the stage where his playfulness had crossed into a desire to exert dominance over all the other dogs. This didn’t always end well for him.
I asked Juliette about the highest number of dogs she’s walked. “Twenty-three”, she replied. I couldn’t imagine. That went beyond a pack to being an army of dogs. Of the nine we were walking, one dog in particular seemed to take a liking to me. A flat-coated retriever shadowed me for nearly the entire walk, occasionally bringing me gifts in the form of a stick with me offering thanks in the form of head and belly rubs. I have since forgotten his name - he didn’t require the obedience that Pongo needed - but he was a very good boy. 14/10.
This experience was one of the highlights of my trip and I wish I would have had more time to explore Bois des Vincennes as it really is a peaceful respite from the crowds in the city proper. Juliette was amazing. The dogs were a riot. Jet lag was starting to hit though, and after a few hours of dog-walking I had to make my way back to the houseboat for a much needed nap.
After I picked up a traditional baguette and eclair of course.
I had no idea that within a few hours I would bear witness to history.
To follow the adventures of Juliette and her army of dogs, follow @dogsdehors on Instagram.