Thursday, July 2, 2009

Respectful dog

In a recent issue of the weekly Le Point, the main theme was retirement. This is a highly topical subject in France, where many observers feel that citizens are allowed—indeed obliged, most often—to retire too early from their professional activities.

The weekly includes a short interview with a well-known individual: the celebrated 89-year-old writer Jean Dutourd, who's a member of the Académie Française. Still complaining bitterly about the insolence of the France Soir daily, which asked him to quit as a journalist at the early age of 80, Dutourd warns: "If anybody dares to call me a 'senior', he'll get my fist in his face."

Yesterday, a friendly young couple and their daughter dropped in at Gamone to ask me whether I could inform them about the possibility of purchasing a neighboring property. All I could do was to give them Bob's phone number. They were accompanied by their playful six-months-old dog, who immediately started taking practical lessons in canine behavior from my wise old Sophia (who gave lessons of this kind both to her daughter Gamone and, more recently, to Alison's young dog Pif). In fact, I've always considered that young animals who have had the privilege of learning from Sophia the art of being a dog are quite fortunate. It's the canine equivalent, you might say, of sending your teenage daughter to a finishing school in Switzerland... maybe with a higher dose of snarling and self-defense in the curriculum. The visitors' dog promptly grabbed a huge bone (in fact, the skull of Gavroche), whereupon Sophia's smiling countenance made it clear—contrary to the upbringing of animals that have gone to the wrong schools—that a well-behaved dog should never overreact aggressively, not even to such a blatant case of stealing. As I said, Sophia is wise... in keeping with the meaning of her Greek name.

With the bone in its mouth, the little dog settled down beneath my outstretched legs. The owner said: "That's really weird: Whenever our dog is contented, it immediately decides to lie down under the legs of the most senior individual in the group." I said to myself that this charming little animal could run into problems if it ever got around to visiting Jean Dutourd.

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