Du poil de la bête

I’ve often heard it said in French, ‘Il reprend du poil de la bête’. This means to feel better after having been ill.

It never occurred to me to equate it with the hair of the dog. The idea of taking ‘a hair of the dog that bit you’ in the form of an alcoholic beverage to cure a hangover is the so very English expression. Quelle surprise!

Yet it seems they have the same etymology. At one time it was thought that applying a hair of the animal that bit you to a wound would literally hasten a cure.

My Frenchie is almost back to his old self following last week’s operation to remove an obstruction from his large intestine. Snorting, burping, farting and giving in to occasional moments of pure bulldog folly. Makes me remember why I fell in love with the breed in the first place….

Higgins took a hair of the dog and actually came very close to a second incident when he managed to crack open the small hard plastic bit of a vet-approved rope toy. Verdict: he is not to be left alone with any toys, period. As the vet pointed out, rightly so, there is no safe toy in the jaws of a determined dog. So we’ll reserve these objects of his affection for play time.

Speaking of hair, we are in shedding season. Between two cats and two dogs, you need a powerful vacuum cleaner to keep the floors from wearing shag rugs.

The above photo is the amount of hair removed from one of our cats following a recent trip to the toilettage. Finding a professional cat groomer wasn’t easy but it turns out there is a crazy lady ‘toiletteuse pour chat’ only half an hour away. My two kitties had never been groomed before but the experience of removing knots not to mention handfuls of hair seems to have given them a new lease on life. And my vacuum cleaner too.

So that just leaves me. After my series of blood tests and checkups and hair-raising encounters with loud machines, it seems it’s all systems go. As my Beau-père likes to joke, ‘on va mourir en bonne santé’. It’s reassuring to know we will die in good health.

A thought for those who are not so fortunate, however. Having been there before, it is easy to forget the suffering – physical and mental – of all those who are not well, be it with serious illness or chronic pain. Keeping one’s sense of humour is vital, but that’s a lot easier when you have the greatest gift of all.

Here’s to your good health. Santé!


  1. Osyth · October 19, 2017

    It is the greatest gift and the awful thing is that we so often need a scare to remind us of this fact. I am heartened that Higgins is progressing so well and amused that your de-knotted cats are rejuvenated…. I wonder if it might have the same effect were I to shed some of my mop! The hair of the dog is SUCH and English expression … I had not at all connected with with du poil de la bête which I first heard here in Grenoble a few months ago and was entirely bemused. You beau père has it right — I like his dry humour. Stay fit and fettle, Mel – you are one of the good ones xo

    • MELewis · October 19, 2017

      Well, if I had a mane like yours I would certainly not cut it. But, that said, I must say that every time I get my very short hair cut, I feel power surge through my veins. So there may be something in that… Thanks for the words of support — Higgins and my Beau-père are two of my favourite French funny men. 😀

  2. francetaste · October 19, 2017

    Glad to hear your household is back in good health. As for grooming, who wouldn’t want a vigorous brushing/massage? Sign me up.

    • MELewis · October 19, 2017

      True that! A bit of grooming is a morale booster and as for massages, well — they should be reimbursed by the Sécu!

  3. weggieboy · October 19, 2017

    How true: it isn’t just dogs that need to have supervised play with toys. As fort groomers, I am fortunate to have a shop two blocks away that will groom cats, begrudgingly.

    Fortunately for me, though, Andy and Dougy (smoke Persian littermates) are mild and cooperative because the groomer agreed to take them after first laying a grim threat on me. (“Of course, we reserve the right to reject them as clients if they are bad kitties…!)

    Andy sometimes gets bored while being groomed, but they’ve proved to be good kitties for several years now. Whew! I think they know they will be knots-free and feel much better after a haircut because I always get good reports on how they behaved during their day at the kitty spa.

    • MELewis · October 19, 2017

      Your two sound adorable. I can’t imagine how you would cope without regular grooming, having just one cat with rumoured ‘part Persian’ ancestry. Hair-raising!

  4. acflory · October 19, 2017

    Delighted that all your tests turned out to be negative. Of course I knew they would be. 😀 -hugs-

    • MELewis · October 19, 2017

      I sensed you were rather confident. Thanks for the cheerleading! xx

      • acflory · October 20, 2017

        lol – any time!

  5. Mél@nie · October 19, 2017

    what a hairy post, Mel… 😀

    2 dogs and 2 cats?… 1st question coming to my mind: who takes care of them when you are away?… we lost our 3rd cat one year ago, and even though we’ve always been lucky to have friends/neighbors to look after them, we’ve decided to stop having another one…
    * * *
    @‘on va mourir en bonne santé’ – en général, oui… ou comme disait ma grand-mère maternelle:”malade ou en bonne santé, il faut mourir de qqchose!” 🙂

    • MELewis · October 19, 2017

      I’m so glad you asked about the pet-sitting. We use an association that I highly recommend for any pet-owners in France who want to go away and have their animals and house well looked after. It’s called ‘Ani-Seniors’ (look for the FB page) and it’s such a great concept: retired people who come and house and pet-sit for a nominal cost. It’s a win-win: they get to stay in different places around the country and you get to go away knowing that your babies will be well looked after. We’ve been using them now for a few years and have met some of the nicest people. The funny thing is, because the retirement age in France is so young, often they’re my age! 😉

  6. poshbirdy · October 19, 2017

    So good to hear that Higgins is doing well. I miss my lovely Percy the Persian despite all the fluff and mess he left everywhere. Still finding bits 2 years on…x

    • MELewis · October 19, 2017

      I know the feeling, Posh. We lost a dear Frenchie at a very young age and found his hairs stuck to cushions years after. It’s so sad to lose a pet friend, I can entirely sympathize. Although the mess I can (almost) do without!

  7. Garfield Hug · October 19, 2017

    Glad Higgins getting better😊

    • MELewis · October 19, 2017

      Thanks! Not sure he’ll trust any wishes coming from a cat though. 😉

  8. Cecilia · October 23, 2017

    I feel so much with you – and yes, this saying has its truth!

    • MELewis · October 23, 2017

      Thanks for your empathy – and the confirmation! 😉

  9. Lisa @ cheergerm · October 24, 2017

    Go Higgins and go you! (What’s not to love about a flying dog meme?)

  10. MELewis · October 25, 2017

    Thanks, Mrs. Cheer! That meme perfectly captures how both of us felt when he came through the operation. 😀

  11. zipfslaw1 · October 28, 2017

    “Toiletteuse pour chat”–man, would I have guessed wrong on THAT one. Thanks!

  12. zipfslaw1 · October 28, 2017

    Higgins: after Henry Higgins? Based on a real-life British phonetician, you know… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Sweet

    • MELewis · October 29, 2017

      It was the breeder who picked the name, and oddly, although she was French, it suits him perfectly. No idea whether Henry Higgins was the inspiration but it was an ‘H’ year for dogs so the choices were limited. I’d never heard of Sweet – very interesting to learn who was the inspiration behind that well-loved character.

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