I am called Higgins, as we say in French. But that doesn’t mean I come when I’m called. Madame has posted about this character trait here before. I can’t say whether it’s because I’m a purebred French bulldog, un bouledogue français, or just 100% French.
About the purebred part. I suppose it’s why she fell for me. She’s had a soft spot for Frenchies ever since she first came to France way before I was born. Something about big ears and brown eyes. But beyond that, we have a special connection.
Ever since she and Monsieur came to pick me up from my breeder’s place in Toulouse, back in 2012, she has fallen under my charm. I must say I was a handsome fellow even as a young pup. Although ma petite maman didn’t seem to be too sure about giving me up so young.
I got my good looks from her, don’t you think?
Anyhow, the thing about being a French bulldog is we belong to a group called called brachycephalic breeds. It means we have a skull with a short snout. There are quite a few of us: cats, from Persian to Burmese, and dogs, from boxers to pugs, lhasa apsos, chow chows and chihuahuas. While this gives us round eyes and flat faces reminiscent of the human, it also makes it a little difficult to breathe.
All my life I snored up a storm. Snorted and reverse sneezed. It got pretty loud at night and Madame ended up putting me downstairs in the laundry room.
Also, I’m no good in the heat.
This was one long, hot summer and by the end of it I was feeling sluggish. I could hardly walk around the block without panting for hours to catch my breath.
It’s not as if I could cool down with a dip in the pool. Me and deep water don’t get along. Thing is, I sink like a stone to the bottom before I even get a chance to try and swim. Happened this very summer. Madame threw the ball and I was so intent on chasing it I fell right into the deep end. The little lady sure has a set of lungs on her! Dieu soit loué, Monsieur was home. He came running, dove right in and popped me up for air almost before I knew what hit me.
This is right where it happened.
Anyway, after all the heat this past summer they decided to take me to a specialist for BOAS surgery to help me breathe better.
As you can see I was a little nervous when we went in for our appointment, even though I made a new friend.
The vet was very nice. He trimmed a bit of my soft palate away to open up my airway. Then I got a nose job! How do you like these new nostrils?
This was taken in the car on the trip home a few weeks ago. I’ve been feeling pretty perky ever since. You could say the operation has given me a new lease on life. I’m sure giving my roommate Humphrey a run for his money. He’s a much better breather than me and pretty light on his feet despite his heart murmur.
You see, that’s the thing with us purebreds. We’re prone to certain congenital problems thanks to all that breeding. So even if people go to a reputable breeder, we tend to be a bit of a crap-shoot healthwise.
Speaking of health, I guess I’m pretty lucky. That’s twice in one year I’ve been under the knife.
Guess it’s not only cats who have nine lives, eh?
Note from Madame:
Thanks for taking over the guest post, Higgins. You certainly are a survivor! But I must say, you boys are a lot of work. I would suggest that anyone who is thinking of adopting a French bulldog as a pet consider a rescue. There are so many sweet Frenchies out there who have been abandoned.
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.
Mais non! If we’re talking about those balls, as a breed, most French bulldogs can’t reach theirs. Which makes for a lot less grooming (if that’s what you call it).
And if you’re talking about the other kind, also non.
We have two (Frenchies, that is). One is a ball dog and the other is not. Humphrey’s only interest in balls is the potential to fight over them. He’s a scrapper, loves a game of tug-of-war and any other opportunity for one-upmanship.
Higgins, on the other hand, is 100% French ball dog. He has a collection of balls and other toys that he likes to run after, chew, even bring on walks. When I decide enough is enough, I have to distract him in order to get him to drop the ball. Obedience training has failed. He is, after all, French. And you try unwedging a rubber ball from a determined bulldog’s jaw!
For some reason, he also likes to drop the ball in the pool and then wait for me to come and fish it out. Sometimes I don’t obey right away (hey, I’m also French), and this happens.
But sometimes, I admit to using his toys as an attention-getting device. (“You don’t want to go outside in the cold? Here, go get it!”) Frenchies are hard-headed. You use any available means to get them to follow.
The problem is that Frenchies can destroy even vet-approved toys in minutes. So when we found a brand of heavy rubber ball that he could really sink his teeth into, he was a happy boy.
“C’est trop de la balle!” he told me, using familiar French to say ‘Wow, that’s awesome!’
Last week our Higgins was under the weather. He barfed his breakfast one morning, which was not that unusual. The next day he threw up some more. I still wasn’t worried.
On more than one occasion a vet has explained to me: “Dogs are a vomitory species.” Right, because their ancestors, wolves, notoriously regurgitate their dinners to feed the young.
But when he stopped eating entirely for three days, I knew something was up. The vet confirmed it, first by palpating his gut and finding it hard. Then with an x-ray that seemed to show some strange objects lodged in his large intestine. He had an obstruction, and surgery would be needed.
I was mystified. What on earth could he have eaten?
You guessed it. Trop de la balle. On Tuesday, the vet removed a 1-inch chunk of rubber ball, along with a piece of his intestine.
And it is absolutely awesome good luck that he has so far come through the operation and is recovering well. Operating on bulldogs can be tricky due to their respiratory challenges, so we spent a sleepless night or two. And we’ll be keeping a close eye out over the next ten days for infection. But so far so good.
I went to visit him at the vet’s yesterday. He seemed a little sad at first but perked right up when I got him some new toys. Vet approved and, fingers-crossed, bulldog-proof.
By the way, if you have a dog who likes to chew, do NOT buy him toys like this! They are very dangerous if a piece breaks off and gets stuck in the gut.
I snapped this shot of a petite pooch at the market on Sunday. It is for me a typical scene of French life.
Little dogs go just about everywhere with their owners in France, and well-behaved pets are welcome in most restaurants and many shops. This miniature Pinscher breed is a popular choice, along with the poodle, the Yorkshire and the Jack Russell. French bulldogs are slowly gaining ground in France now that they’ve become so popular in the U.S.
I suppose this very French version of the ‘doggy bag’ makes a lot of sense in crowded public places. Little dogs like this can easily get stepped on, and crowds must be terrifying for them.
‘Aller au marché’, to go shopping at the open-air market, is a regular Sunday morning pilgrimage for many French people, who often go together as families, taking their time and strolling along the crowded stalls. This is frustrating for type-A people like myself. I just want to zip-in and zip-out with as much fresh produce as I can carry and in as short a time as possible. My husband only goes on pain of starvation and we are both way too impatient in crowds.
I can think of nothing more stressful than bringing our two French bulldogs to the market. Unfortunately they are too big for a shopping bag – although I’m sure they’d be delighted to take away a doggy bag with some of this cheese.
How about you? Do you like open-air markets, with or without pet or partner?
Let me share with you a day in the life of our little ménagerie. The word finds its roots in ménage, which means household, so perhaps it’s normal that a collection of animals is part of ours.
I am a dog person. There is no translation for this expression in French. You can say you like dogs, or that you are ‘plus chien que chat.’ You can choose to like neither although you will not be typical of the French who love their pets and generally have one or the other.
Which is to say I am not a cat person. My daughter is a cat person. We got her a kitten for her fourth birthday. Over the years the feline population in our household expanded to two. Madeline moved away to attend university a few years ago and we kept the cats.
The current pair (I’m tempted to say culprits but let’s keep this polite) are Bianca and Leo. Leo was foisted upon us by a former cleaner who saw a window of opportunity when we were momentarily down one. These cat people stick together. He had been rejected by his mother, she explained in a poignant tale of woe, and she’d tried to place him once already but after a week the woman had changed her mind. That person clearly was smarter harder hearted than I. Leo came to stay, although he almost got ejected after doing his business on my bed.
His younger cohort in crime is Bianca. A bit of a princess is our little girl. Or perhaps a white supremacist. In any case, she does not like to mingle with any Tom, Dick or Harry. So she hangs around the house a lot, requiring two litter boxes and frequent displays of worship.
I’m not sure what possessed me to agree to add two puppies to our ménage after the kids left home – put it down to empty-nest syndrome. Our last dog had died in tragic circumstances a few years before and we were feeling, well….outnumbered by the cats. So it really is all the cats’ fault.
My husband and I have always been suckers for dogs. Our preferred breed was chosen before we married, when we met our first French bulldog at a friend’s home in Normandy. A snorting, smelly, impertinent fellow he was – proving the breed to be well deserving of its name. We got our first Frenchie a couple of years later, then a second shortly after. Edouard and Dorothée were our first children. They taught us that, yes, we were capable of taking care of beings other than ourselves, going for walks, picking up poops. We passed our first caretaker tests with flying colors.
Sadly, the dynamic duo did not live long, whether due to problems of the breed or medical back luck. A few years (and one failed adoption of a stray) later, a third Frenchie came to stay. By then our own children were center stage (or almost, as they will tell you.) Mooqs was with us for ten years or so, until he became blind and stumbled into the swimming pool. Frenchies are not good swimmers.
Higgins and Humphrey now rule the roost. They are adorable dictators, who have me flying out of bed in the wee hours in the hopes that they will not have weed theirs. I let them out in the backyard first thing, while keeping a close eye on Higgins, who likes to search for truffles (left by the cats) while pretending to relieve himself. I also check the mat in front of the door to make sure that Leo hasn’t left one of his trophies – frequent offerings of mice and bird remains that the dogs are only too happy to devour as an apéritif.
Then it’s breakfast for the dogs while I go down to the basement and let the cats in to the laundry room where their food and litter boxes are kept. Let’s be very clear: cats are nocturnal beings and I am not. We live in the country so the cats are out at night (both are chipped and sterilized, so we are good citizens).
Should any cat people be about to protest: the cats have access to shelter in the cellar via a cat flap with a chip reader. This innovation has paid for itself in that we do not now feed half of the neighborhood cat population when we go away and leave their food out.
Then begins the daily ballet of my life as a cat and dog concierge. Imagine these scenes being played to the music ‘Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy’ from The Nutcracker.
Take the dogs for their morning walk. Stoop and scoop on as-needs basis (i.e., if on sidewalk, private property or when someone’s looking…). Return home, wipe their feet before letting them in (2 dogs X 4 legs = 8 feet). Make coffee. Leo pussyfoots by kitchen door indicating a desire to go back out. Open door, let cat out.
Take coffee upstairs to office. Remove dogs’ bed from workspace as Higgins snores so loudly I cannot hear myself think, never mind hear clients on the phone.
Bianca then comes by for a cuddle. Give her a scrub and close the door. Start in on work. Urgent mewing from downstairs. Open door and remove dead mouse from doormat. Leo comes in. Bianca goes out. Return to work. Ten minutes later, faint mewing from basement where Bianca has come in through cat flap but now wants in to the house proper. She can wait, I tell myself. Focus on work for ten more minutes.
Strange hacking and gagging sound comes from next door. Humphrey has just vomited his breakfast, along with several other unidentifiable objects. Curse, cover nose and clean it up before Higgins does. Return to work. Mewing becomes more intense. Go to basement, let one cat up as other goes out. Make another coffee. Return to work.
Flash forward to late afternoon, several door openings later. Dogs begin to circle in growing impatience as the time for their second walk gets closer. Go lie down, I order. Click click click, toenails on the floor. Grumble. Groan. Snort. Snore. Snore. Snore. Then click click click. Two pairs of feet, two wet noses. Take H & H for second walk. Clean eight feet again.
Refresh water bowl. Feed dogs. Leo circles impatiently by the stairs. Go down to basement, replenish already half-full cat food. Bianca watches from upstairs.
Evening settles in and it’s time to let dogs out for final utility run. Cats nowhere in sight. Get ready for bed and hear mewing from below stairs. Go down and let Leo out. Bianca nowhere to be seen. Come back upstairs and look for her. Check under beds, behind curtains, no cat. Settle in to bed with book. Eyes grow heavy. Begin to nod off. Plaintive cat call from basement. Go downstairs and let her out.
There are moments when I feel less like a concierge and more like a happy pet owner. When Bianca nestles in beside me and goes into ecstasy as I stroke her. When I look deep into those Frenchie eyes and see love.
The dogs sleep in the upstairs bathroom. There are several practical reasons for this. Our house is open plan and does not have many rooms with doors that close. Once I left them the run of the house and they got into their food. Came down in the morning to find two sausages about to split their casings. What followed was a purging session (both ends) that lasted 24 hours and almost made me split mine. Never again, I swore.
The French bulldog is an uppity breed with delusions of humanity. Basically it does not accept the notion that it is a dog. Therefore, any attempt to house them in inferior accommodation will result in a trashing of the premises that is simply not worth it. Also the bathroom is tiled which is easier to clean.
Finally, in one of those lovely synchronicities of translation: the word ‘pet’ means fart in French. ‘Nuff said.
How about you? Do you have any pets – or pet peeves?