Dogs In the Shadow of the Eiffel Tower
My friend Natalie has a dog named Joy. They go to a dog park in Paris. The dog park is in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, in the Champ-de-Mars.
I asked Natalie if I could join her and Joy. She said yes. “Be there at 8:00 am,” she said, a small grin on her face.
I blanched. Really? It’s not even light at 7:30 am. But I chose not to lose face. “Fab!” I screeched. Natalie’s small grin didn’t waver. “You won’t be able to miss us,” she said. “We’re at the end closest to l’Ecole Militaire, on the right, just before the summer pavilion.”
“Okay,” I said. “And how long do you and Joy stay?” This way I could gauge how much closer to 9:00am I might be allowed to arrive. Other than needing to catch a plane, I had never yet left my apartment earlier than 10 am.
“I might be gone by 8:30,” said Natalie. “Joy is getting older, and doesn’t often last very long…”
The morning arrived.
I got to the Champ-de-Mars at the break of day. There were exactly no people. The sun was barely rising, and the Eiffel Tower loomed up in the frigid air like a filigreed icicle. It was so cold I could see my breath.
I walked right to where Natalie said they would be. I know I did. There was the empty pavilion. I took a picture. So picturesque, this summer pavilion maintaining its dignity despite the frost. But no dogs.
Then I strode all the way to the Eiffel Tower. Striding helped with the cold. The Eiffel Tower loomed, silent, godlike, unconcerned with anyone unable to find a dog park in the Champ-de-Mars.
I was flummoxed. I was pissed. I couldn’t find dogs. I couldn’t hear dogs. How hard is it to see and hear dogs on a silent early morning? A woman came along. She was walking a dog. Hallelujah! A luxurious looking woman, she was dressed in full dress coat and a kind of Russian inspired fur hat. Her dog was huge, a cross between a standard poodle and a St. Bernard. I cleared my throat to speak at this ungodly hour.
“Oh, hello,” said she.
“You speak English?” I said, totally relieved in spite of myself.
“Yes, I lived in Bethesda for a few years.” She smiled benevolently.
“I am looking for the dog park here in the Champ-de-Mars”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I don’t know.” She nodded at her giant hound. “He doesn’t like other dogs.” And they were gone.
So I continued to walk in circles. I became convinced that the dog park had started at 8:00 am, but had ended at 8:05 sharp, because for the first time ever, the dogs had been too cold and had begged off. I was wringing my hands and feeling the total fool when suddenly my name sailed across the frost. I whirled around, and there was Natalie, looking chic as hell in a short leather jacket. She looked as warm as toast.
And by god, there was the dog park—an area I must have walked right by ten times. But I didn’t care now because there were the dogs. They were small city dogs running around like crazy. Each one a madman! They skidded to stops and ran some more. They ran into each other. They leapt for joy. They jumped over each other. One man was throwing a ball, and all the dogs seemed to be catching it.
In a minute, I’d forgotten the cold. The dogs’ zest for life was catching. The dogs’ love of life was contagious. So that when it came time for Natalie and Joy to leave, both Joy and I begged Natalie to let us stay. Just five more minutes.
And then, eventually, we all went off for hot coffee and sugar bread.All images © Ruth Yunker