Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Betty and Rita and Me

Many moons ago, on another planet, I was a grade-school teacher. Sitting at the lunch table next to me one day, a doe-eyed second grader asked out of the blue, "Mrs. L, how old are you?"

"Well-l-l, Olivia," I chuckled kindly, "actually, I'm old enough so that you shouldn't really be asking that question." I noticed her quizzical expression. "But I don't mind telling you," I continued. "I'm forty-two."

"Ohh..." she cooed.

"Mrs. L?" she asked thoughfully.

"Yes, Olivia?" I offered my most motherly attention.

"How old is that in dog years?"

My love affair with dogs must have been evident on my face, even obvious to an 8-year-old. At the time I was the happy owner of a sweet black Lab (when is there a Labrador who is not sweet?) who has since departed this mortal coil. But my heart swells and I still get a lump in my throat whenever I look at her winsome portrait. Those searching, soulful eyes, begging to be fed a third dinner. Oh, dog owners all have tales to share; just get us started!

Now that I'm in Paris, home to 150,000 coddled pooches, with dogs in evidence everywhere I miss having a dog more than ever. It's just not the right time yet for me to have a new canine family member. Someday. So in the mean time I find ways to compensate. I offered to dogsit for the charming blond Nina, my friend Mary's Montmartre mutt. But Mary was worried that I would love having Nina too much and never give her back. Curses, foiled again! Now I have met Carmen, a beautiful black Schnauzer down the street, whose American mère and père are willing to let me take her for a stroll now and then. Carmen is show-stopper gorgeous and was even asked to model in a photo shoot. She speaks only French. This is a dog with pizzazz. But if I walk her, will all the handsome strangers I meet on avenue de Breteuil just admire Carmen and ignore moi? A minor concern, but I can live with it.

Lacking Carmen or Nina on a day-to-day basis in Paris, I still have Betty and Rita to keep me company. If you love dogs and you love Paris, Betty and Rita are the pooches for you, too. If you have Betty and Rita at home, you don't have to feed them. You don't have to call Taxi-Dog to dogwalk them. They are none other than the canine stars of the eponymous book Betty and Rita Go to Paris, a delightful rhyming photo album that chronicles these two Labs on their tail-wagging romp through the City of Light. Photographer Michael Malyszko and poet Judith Hughes brought their two canine pals on a dog's-eye journey through Paris that will make you smile. An excerpt (too easy to call this doggerel)::

Three major musées were the second day's fare;
we took l'ascenseur instead of the stairs.
A strange illustration right on la rue
Left nothing to chance on where to go poo.
At a cute bistro politely we begged:
Please, just a morsel; it worked, we got fed!

This wonderful book is not to be missed -- two of the classiest, quietest American tourists in Paris I've come across in a long time.

I've had Betty and Rita on my coffee table, where they have a permanent home, for about seven years. How much is that in dog years?

Available at

1 comment:

Virginia said...

LOVE this book. I just received it from a friend. I have a zillion Paris books. I add this one proudly.

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