The Adventures of a 12 pound Shetland Sheepdog (Sheltie) going to Paris.


Tom & Maxine like to travel. Blogging helps us create a record of the trips, and share with friends and family...

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Getting Ready To Go -- Getting Nervous

This Friday, we're getting up at 4AM, heading to the airport for a flight to Chicago, and then after four hours there, another to Paris. There we hope to be met and taken to the apartment we'll be staying in for the next 2 months.

I have this vague feeling of nervousness about the whole project - the project being going to Paris for 2 months. Why? Were you to ask I could give you a million reasons. One stands out as the 'drop dead' hurdle we face. I'd read years ago a story about Rupert Murdock, then an Australian citizen rather than a US one, getting ready to board a flight with wife & children to come to the US. They discovered that the boys did not have their passports. So Murdock and his wife boarded the flight (or so I recall the article saying) and left the boys to (presumably with the help of someone who worked for Murdock) go home, get their passports, and fly the next day. Our 'drop dead' hurdle is anything that involves us having problems getting our dog Cassie a) onto the LAX flight, b) onto the Chicago flight, or c) into Paris.

Years ago I'd read something that said a problem where you can determine the price to get out of the problem was a no longer a problem, but instead a budget item. Okay, maybe this is a bit simplistic. Some problems, redefined as budget items, have prices too high to pay. But, this trip and my feelings of uneasy, are mostly small potential issues -- ones we can buy our way out of. All except ones involving dog transport.

Despite this confidence that our potential problems are small, that we've done everything we can to mitigate against them (for example, we're bringing BOTH our computers along with 2 printouts of passwords so that we can manage remotely), the feeling remains.

Without trying to be too poetic about it, the feeling is a squishy one. Examine any particular issue (what if our ATM cards don't work and we can't get money) and it is plain that a)we have lined up other options, and b) the risk is pretty low.

What occurs to me is this. We've never tried anything like this before -- closing down our house (secured by alarm systems, watchful neighbors, several regular visitors to check on it, etc.) -- and moving ourselves to somewhere 1/3rd of the planet away. So, we prepare for it by considering everything we ideally want to happen (i.e. that we can speak, even if just haltingly, to French people we interact with), and everything we don't want to happen; and making preparations accordingly. We've done that. And, for every possible reason to get nervous there is in fact a solution and, likely more than one, back up solution in place.

What strikes me is that the loop of concern, the "what if's", and the "yes, here's the solution" exist because I don't have a meta framework for planning this trip.

What could a "meta framework" possibly be????? I just mean that for most of the things that come up in life it is possible to think first of the meta issue and from there the lower level aspects of it. Say you're planning on baking a cake. You don't sit around thinking about salt, flour, sugar, the water, whether your oven will work, etc. You start with the cake recipe and drill down to what is needed. Same thing applies to a trip like this. In the details, it can be an enormous thing. But, thinking about the aggregates of it, if you take care of the big picture and what you believe to be the most important or critical components within each aspect of the big picture, you do get there!

The trick with something like this is to first determine what the big picture is, to step back and see the aggregates, and then to have confidence that you've dealt with them. Then (maybe next time!!!) you are less likely to get nervous about the details...

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

"Taking Your Dog To Paris" versus "Bringing Your Dog To Paris"

After re-reading some of my earlier posts I wanted to make a distinction between "Taking Your Dog To Paris" and "Bringing Your Dog To Paris". At Cal State LA's Philosophy MA program I learned to make distinctions in words and, in the context of this blog, making this kind of dog-distinction seems useful.

It seems to me that Taking Your Dog To Paris has a similar meaning to Taking Your Wife To Paris, or Taking Your Daughter To Paris. In this sort of usage, you are saying that what is important about Paris is that your dog/wife/daughter get to visit the city, that there is something good about going to Paris that you want to share with your dog/wife/daughter (although I guess the reverse holds as well, that you could be Taking Your Neighbor To Work, for example).

Bringing Your Dog To Paris is, to me, something more similar in usage to Bringing Your Raincoat To Paris or Bringing Your Credit Card To Paris. In this usage, what you bring you are bringing because it is useful to you. So, if you've brought your dog or raincoat or credit card it's because you think you'll find them useful.

So, we're bringing our dog Cassie to Paris. We think she'll be useful to us (no, not as a guard dog!). We're looking forward to seeing if we are right!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

How Did Lori Do It?

Just a couple quick comments on how training with Lori Peikoff was different.

Believe it or not, Cassie had actually been to two other trainers. The first, part of a city of LA program, was just about the mechanics. For example, "this is how you teach a dog to sit, to stay, to come, etc."

The second trainer was a private trainer, and expensive. We thought that made him different than city of LA trainers. After 4 sessions with Cassie he gave up. Six months later we called asking for more help and he said there wasn't anything else he could do.

Lori 'gets' dogs. When she would tell us how to interact with Cassie she did it from a standpoint of (at least it seemed this way to us) understanding what Cassie was thinking.

I don't mean for this to sound 'woo woo', mysterious, or Dr. Doolittle-like. But what we found is that Lori had an understanding of why Cassie was acting the way she was when she would mis-behave. And, starting from that understanding Lori would work with us to change how we related to Cassie, how we exposed her to situations, and how we indicated what we expected of Cassie.

It worked. Our trainer, and now our friend, Lori, gave us a new dog! And gave us a chance to go to Paris and live there (for 2 months) in a way that we had only fantasized about 10 months ago.

"And Then We Met Lori"

***Aug 2011, Lori has asked us to update this entry with her business phone number, which is 310-837-6397***

*** Feb 2013 Lori's email address is***  And, we've got a new dog Emmy, who Lori is helping us train!

In several prior entries I've mentioned our dog trainer. Now it's time to explain just why we are so enthusiastic about her.

At the start of our planning this 2 month trip to Paris we'd had 2 goals -- to speak some (as much as possible) French while there, AND, if we could, to enjoy the trip with our dog Cassie. I've written about what a difficult dog she was, how she would bark at and lunge at people, etc. Yet, we were somewhat locked into taking her to Paris -- because we couldn't come up with anything else to do with her, short of calling in BIG favors and asking one of our siblings to take her.

Our minimum definition of success was that Cassie improved to the point that she could hang out in the apartment and take occasional walks (at least to go to the bathroom) without getting us into trouble. For the rest of Paris, we'd have to be on our own. Our fantasy definition of success would be that we could take her into stores and cafes, on walks as we explored the city, and into some restaurants.

Cassie 'graduated' yesterday. We had our final session with Lori. And, on the ride home Maxine & I were as happy as we could possibly be. Lori had made it possible for us to get to our fantasy level of success with Cassie. Graduation included Cassie laying under a table while we ate lunch, and going into stores, and laying on the floor in one store while we talked to the people working there. Besides, it's nice to be able to go to Malibu with your dog!

So, for anyone else who needs, or wants, *the best* dog trainer, here is Lori Peikoff's email address: Please be aware that while I have her permission to include this address, she in no way asked for this praise. Maxine & I are quite simply ecstatic that we now have a dog we can take to Paris.


Tom & Maxine

Monday, August 14, 2006

Field Report

Until last October ('05), Maxine would take Cassie for walks in our neighborhood. While they were satisfying as walks, she always felt that she had to be on guard against bad behavior by Cassie. These included not walking by Maxine's side (heeling or something close to it), barking at other people who walked by, and barking/moving towards dogs who barked from other houses.

Roughly around the time that Maxine stopped taking Cassie for walks, we began to work with Lori, our dog trainer. In a future post I'll go into the process we went through, etc. For now, just a field report on how Cassie has changed.

This morning (August '06), Maxine took Cassie for a walk. She was almost completely well behaved! A 180 degree change! Nothing more to report, other than success! Cassie is a normal companionable dog!!!

Speak French

I've had 7 years of French language classes between 6th grade and college. Maxine has had 5 years. But, based on prior experience we knew that while we could say hi and ask for coffee, we couldn't really have a conversation in French, nor could we deal with anything complicated.

In January we began a prolonged effort to improve our French skills. This took three forms:
1. We borrowed a full series of language CD's from the City of Los Angeles Library (there are 56 CD's in the set and we're both at roughly CD 30 right now -- we'll be cramming to finish before we leave LA).
2. We've been listening to daily broadcasts from RFI (Radio France International). I don't know for certain, but I suspect that their mandate is somewhere between Voice of America (but in this case the goal being spread the French perspective in French) and CNN. One of their broadcasts, which runs 3 times/day is 'francais facile' (easy french). This is a news broadcast which is updated over the course of the day. Even more useful, the first broadcast of the day comes with 'le script' -- meaning you can follow along (pretending to read french now too!)
3. We're working with a native French speaker as a tutor. Basically, what we do is to meet with him once/week for an hour and try to keep the entire conversation in French. He helps us in many ways, from pronounciation, to disciplining our sentence construction, to idioms.

All in all, we hope when we arrive to be able to converse at least a little bit.

Beside, we have to be able to warn people off when they try to pet Cassie! How do you say, "She doesn't like people"?

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Goals -- Enjoy Time In Paris: Speak French, Take Dog

Last fall, we began to contemplate a trip to France. It started with the idea that Maxine was going to go to a cooking school in Provence, then Tom jumped in with, "If you're going to France, I want to go too...". We ended up conceiving of this as sort of a blow out trip -- Two Months In Paris!

Being planners, we started thinking of what needed to get done to make this happen. Most importantly, what was going to have the longest lead times. And, aside from airline reservations (necessary far in advance if you want your dog to accompany you in the cabin!) and finding an apartment, the two largest priorities were learning to speak French well enough to get along for two months, AND, working with Cassie so that we could take her with us (we've heard, and seen evidence of, the fact that French are pretty accommodating of dogs).

Why not leave Cassie home? Simple -- who could we convince to take her for that long? Anyone we knew well enough to ask had already met her. And, likely she'd barked at them. So, Plan B -- take her with us.

Our minimalist goal was simply to get her to the point where we could leave her in the apartment while we were out and about in Paris. And, if she happened to be with us, on a walk or at the park (she's pretty much an urban dog, living in Los Angeles), that she not create a disturbance to the point that the French started thinking of Maxine & I as the Americans with the badly behaved dog.

Or, to put a better spin on it, rather than the type of dog I've been describing, we wanted to turn her into the sort of dog that could accompany us to cafe's, help us get croissants in the morning, and fully participate in this adventure.

But all of this was a great deal of distance. We were talking about taking Cassie from a dog who was shy/afraid (I'd heard of dogs shivering with fear, but never one whose teeth would chatter) and would act aggressively to anyone who threatened the small world where she felt safe; TO some idealized companion dog who would be receptive to meeting people on the streets, could go shopping, and really could hang out with us in cafe's.

We talked about our plans with our Vet, who introduced us to Lori Peikoff!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Bringing Pets Into France -- Requirements

We were unable to find any single, authoritative source that described all the requirements to bring our dog into France and then take her out and back home to Los Angeles. So, what we know, we've pieced together. Here are the basics:

To leave the US/Enter France.
1. Dog must have a current rabies vaccine (given at least 30 days before the trip)
2. Dog must have a 'chip' or be tattooed (note that the tattooing alternative is being phased out and w/in 5 years only a 'chip' will work.
3. Dog must have a dual language (English, French) health certificate prepared w/in 10 days of the trip, signed by your vet, and stamped by the USDA (luckily for us the USDA office is 45 minutes away -- I understand that you can fedx the documents back and forth to them as well)

To leave France/Return to the US.
1. We don't believe that there are any French requirements to leaving
2. The California Department of Agriculture defers to USDA requirements (as I was told in a phone call)
3. The USDA only requires a valid rabies vaccine (meaning the dog was vaccinated w/in the last year)

Here are some resources.
1. French embassy in the US page on pet importation requirements.
2. US Customs Requirements (PDF)
3. California Department of Agriculture
4. French (actually EU) health certificate PDF (see #3 above)
5. USDA alerts of French specific requirements.

***The USDA alerts on French requirements contain a special warning***
"Note:France will accept only the ISO 11784 microchip."
As I understand it the EU has approved the use of either the ISO11784 or ISO 11785 chip, BUT France REQUIRES (per this USDA warning) only the 11784 chip. THE TRICK IS THAT CHIPS SOLD AS 'EUROCHIPS' are 11785. Just as importantly, you can't (as I was told by Avid, the maker of the Eurochip we had implanted in Cassie) buy an 11784 chip in the US. In other words, Cassie has a chip accepted by all of the EU, EXCEPT France.

What to do? The Avid representative told me that standard practice is to rent a scanner which can read this chip, bring the scanner with you to France, and use it to demonstrate that your dog has a chip. Complications! If this last piece (on French chip requirements and how to satisfy them) isn't clear feel free to comment and I'll add more detail!

Dog Training, Report #1

Saying that Cassie is a small dog does not capture the implications that her attitude had on our plans for Paris. As a Sheltie she is very protective of us and, frankly, jittery and nervous. Until she was 5 she had an 'older sister' who could be relied on for household management (telling us what to do, greeting neighbors, etc.)

After our first dog died, and, for the last 2 years now, Cassie has decided she had to take on household management responsibilities. But, unlike her 'sister', she saw her role as discouraging visitors, rather than greeting them.

We largely ignored this bad behaviour -- we live in a secluded area, few unexpected visitors, away from the street, etc. She wasn't harming anyone, even if we found her a bit noisy. OK, to concede, I'm quite sure none of our visitors found her charming. She expecially did not like men. And, that didn't go over very well when either of my brothers, or my father-in-law, visited.

More on her behaviour. In the car she would bark if we drove past people (she has an uncanny ability to differentiate women from men at 50 feet!). If we took her someplace like an outdoor mall she would either hide behind our legs or, if someone came towards us or tried to pet her, would lunge (all 12 pounds of her) and bark dangerously (or at least, she was trying to be dangerous). Despite being cute she did not make friends (other than children who seemed to find her comfortingly small). This picture is with my nieces Catherine & Julia.

Last October Maxine and I started thinking about an extended trip to France. One obvious hurdle loomed -- what to do with Cassie, take her with us, find someone to care for her in the US, board her,???

Then we met Lori Peikoff!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Initial Entry

The Beginning. Last in 2005 MaxineP and I decided to take an extended trip to Paris. Why:
* Other than English, French is the only language we have any skill with (even if just a little)
* We'd been to France on numerous occasions and liked it
* We wanted to spend time in an urban setting. Paris, unlike LA where we live, is a city for walking.
* The food.
* We believe that the French will accomodate our plans to bring our dog.

As to "the dog", her name is Cassie. She's 7 and has grown up with little exposure to other people or dogs. She's timid, but unfortunately expresses that by barking when people get close. Aside from wanting to take her, we were pretty convinced that we wouldn't be able to find anyone to watch her if she'd stayed behing!

In 31 days our dog will finally (we'd like to think) 'get' what we've been saying when talking to her about Paris. Right... We do understand that she doesn't -- understand, that is. But, in one month we're all going to wake up early, bundle together last minute packing and head to LAX for a long flight to France.

So, we're thinking that in 32 days, after we've arrived, at least she will 'get' that she is someplace different. And in the following days we wonder if she'll in turn wonder what happened to Los Angeles, the backyard, the warm weather, the privacy, and all of that.

In turn, we wonder how we'll react. Sight seeing is always fun. But, 2 months is in some ways equivalent to moving someplace. And, we're looking to both enjoy and learn from this trip!

Our adventure begins.

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