The first time I took my long-haired mini-dachshund, Ellie, to France, we spent two months traveling from Paris to Brittany and Normandy. Our last stop was the seaside resort of Agon-Coutainville, on the Cotentin peninsula which juts into the English Channel. There Ellie feasted on raw milk Camembert and prė-salė lamb. When we returned to New York, I offered her a supermarket cheese and she glared at me, as if to say, “what is this crap?” My dog had become an epicure.
Paperwork for taking your dog from the US to France
That first trip with dog in tow was worrisome because I didn’t know what to expect. Small dogs (under 8 kg, including the travel case) are permitted on most international flights from the US, for a fee. The airlines also require, as per EU entry requirements, that the animal have an implanted chip and a recent vaccination document, attested to by the US Department of Agriculture(USDA). This involved going to the vet no more than 10 days before departure; the vet then messengered the documents to and from the USDA. The fee for this service was over $300.
Inmore than 20 trips from the US to Europe, no European official has ever asked to see the documents, although US Customs has demanded them on return. After the trouble and expense for this attestation over numerous trips, I discovered that a European pet passport, renewed annually, satisfies both EU and US requirements. The cost: about €40 for the annual booster vaccine.
Beyond the paperwork, traveling with a dog has both disadvantages and advantages.
Disadvantages of taking your dog to France from the US
Dogs are not permitted in many parks, particularly in Paris but they are permitted in many restaurants.
My dog freaks out when left alone in a strange place. Which means I cannot leave her alone in a hotel room for fear her barking would disturb other guests (and have me thrown out). I arranged for dog sitting with a server at my hotel in Pauillac while I attended a concert at chateau Lafite Rothschild. I returned to find the entire staff entertaining the dog on the terrace. In Madrid, I engaged the services of a young American woman during the days while I went to museums and restaurants. In the evening, Ellie and I were both exhausted from our sorties and happy to have a light bite for dinner in our hotel room.
There is a set charge for dogs on trains in France. To go from Nice to Cannes round trip by train cost €8 for me and €14 for the dog. Busses do not charge extra. One long distance bus driver objected to transporting the dog but was mollified when I put her in my shopping bag. The rule on the Paris metro is that dogs must be in a carry case. In Nice, dogs on public transport must be small enough to sit on one’s lap.
Many low-cost intraeuropean airlines (e.g., Ryanair, Easyjet) do not carry animals at all. No commercial airline flies animals into Britain. If you are taking your dog to England, plan to drive.
Advantages of taking your dog to France from the US
The practical and financial hazards of traveling with a dog are more than outweighed by the companionship and cultural benefits:
Dogs make friends. Ellie’s best friends in Nice are Theodore, a bichon owned by an Italian lady, and Caesar, a Jack Russell with a Swedish owner, both of whom (the owners) have become friends of mine as well. Ellie also made good friends for both of us with our human neighbors in Basque Country, not to mention soliciting conversations wherever we go.
A dog brings you into the culture. Shopkeepers all know me as the American who owns Ellie. The tabac gives her treats, as does the charcuterie. The local merchants all know and chat with us. I’ve had long conversations with the vet about politics and with other dog owners about potential health hazards, such as the pine processionary caterpillars that throw poisoned stingers.
You are not viewed as a tourist. An American living in France will always be seen as a foreigner but with dog in tow I am regarded as someone committed to living in France. Once, in Paris, I stopped for lunch at a well-known brasserie, also known for being snobbish about tourists. The hostess hesitated about whether to admit me until I said “J’ai un chien” and pointed out Ellie in her carry case. We were not only given a choice table but received friendly service. It was Ellie who was invited in and I was permitted to join her.
Evelyn Ehrlich lives happily in Nice with her dog.
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