Anne-Laure and I lived in Atlanta for a couple of years after graduating from the University of Tennessee. We were crazy about each other and wanted to take the relationship to the next level. That’s right, we decided to get a pet. We drove to the local animal shelter to survey the lot of abandoned dogs. Skipping by a hairless chihuahua, a drooling bulldog, and a “miscellaneous”, we stumbled upon an empty cage. At least we thought it was empty. Out of the dark corner tumbled a little white lab mix. He clumsily made his way to the gate and began licking Anne-Laure’s hand. That was all it took. After signing documents, making promises, and shelling out $20, we found ourselves driving back to Vinings with a puppy riding shotgun.
Knox – short for Knoxville – loved his life in Vinings. With morning runs through the Chattahoochee Park, ball chasing in the evening, and constant playing with the neighborhood dogs, what pup wouldn’t be happy? That was all about change.
Restless and looking for adventure, we decided to pack up everything and move to Paris where a business opportunity was available. But what should we do with Knox? We were too attached to him to give him away, but didn’t know the costs of relocating a puppy (especially since our not-bigger-than-30-lbs mutt was now a 50-lbs-plus monster). I placed a few phone calls and found that it wasn’t very difficult to do. So after being stamped by the FDA, drugged out of his mind, and shoved into the belly of B-777, Knox drooled his way across the Atlantic.
Paris was a change for all of us, as we were living in the heart of the City of Light. The different sounds and smells were overwhelming– and in the case of Knox (and me) – so was the language. We received several nasty stares from our neighbors in the beginning; for they thought we were cruel to bring the dog to Paris. Not because Knox was too big, but because they thought he was retarded. Many a conversation played out like this:
Neighbor, “Knox, tu t’assieds!”
Knox, blank stare.
Neighbor, “Assieds-toi, Knox!”
Knox, blank stare and ear twitch.
Neighbor looks at me and asks, “Iz your dog stuupeed?”
I reply, “No, he doesn’t speak French. Knox, sit down.”
Knox sits and raises his paw for affect.
“You retarded, capitalistic fleabag!” thunders the neighbor before storming off.
There are great stories of Knox’s transformation into a Parisian pooch, but my favorite is the first time I took Knox outside for his “needs” after arriving at our apartment. Please remember that our place in Atlanta had grass and trees everywhere. With his leash on and his bladder full, Knox stepped out the door. The air was chilly and I wanted to speed things along. Unfortunately, Knox thought otherwise:
Me, “Knox, hurry up! It’s cold.”
Knox, looking around, “Ummm…where is the grass?”
Me, “Knox, just hurry up and pee on the sidewalk.
Knox, “All I see is concrete. Where’s the lawn?”
Me, “Knox, pee on the sidewalk!”
Knox, “What! For two years you told me to pee on the grass and NOT on the sidewalk. What kind of mindf*ck are you trying to pull??”
Me, “Hurry up!”
Knox looks me in the eye, “Find…me…grass…now.”
We walked five blocks before finding a small patch by a tree planted in the middle of a traffic circle. Knox – bloated from holding it in – winced over and let it flow. All of it. People actually stopped and stared. Waves of pee crashed onto the street with such force that I heard a kid scream “Run, Mommy!” Knox continued with reckless abandon until every last drop was out. Once finished, the four-legged Neptune panted with pride as his golden sea engulfed half a city block. This was our routine for days and the tree almost fell over due to urine erosion.
Eventually, Knox and I pushed our way into French culture and came to appreciate Parisian life. Rollerblading along the banks of the Seine, roaming through the Marais, and people watching from sidewalk cafés were just some of our favorite activities. Scooping up poop with a plastic bag was no fun, not due to the smell, but because it seemed that I was the only person in Paris doing so. Knox and I loved the city the most during our predawn runs. Our parcours went from rue Mouffetard, through the Latin Quarter, and onto the Ile de la Cité where more than once we stopped to stare at Notre Dame. If you ever wonder why Von Choltitiz couldn’t destroy Paris under Hitler’s orders, go stand in front of this monument before sunrise. No tourists, No trash, No threats. Just you, your dog, and God admiring of one of the world’s finest architectural achievements.
Our Parisian life eventually changed to Lyonnais one. Knox, as always, took it in stride. Like many pets, he was there for several of life’s key events. He was at my side when I buried my grandfather, his tail wagged as I proposed to my wife, and later stood stoically at our wedding reception. He licked Anne-Laure’s tears from loosing her grandmother and, for nine months, rested his head on her growing belly. He was the first to meet Theo when he left the hospital and the last one to see him nightly as he guarded the nursery. There are other memories, but time has a way of brushing away the past, so that only the highlights remain. Sadly, it’s been a few years since Knox has needed any grooming.
He is in a better place now, no doubt running with the other dogs of my past: Kaiser, Ginger, Brandy, and Gatsby. I’m sure they welcomed him with angelic barks and butt-sniffs before bouncing off into a field of clouds.
I just hope they don’t think he’s retarded.