Lunch in Arles, "Séjour" in Camargue, wild horses and a cool rancher's hut
Un Coup de Pouce: a helping hand from our daughter

French for "fighter, warrior, survivor" + Fate, Love, and Dogs: Our golden retriever is “un battant”

These are our dog’s parents. That’s “Sam” on the left and Breizh, right. They lived life to the fullest and are over the rainbow bridge now. We hope to keep their son, Smokey, on this side of that colorful arc-en-ciel for as long as possible. Read on, in today’s post.

Today's Word: un battant

    : fighter, warrior, survivor

French Audio/Listening: Click the following link to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in the following story. Then scroll down to the vocabulary list to check your French comprehension.

Click here for the sound file

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

“Universal Love”

On the eve of our dog's surgery, we had a whiskers-to-whiskers talk (whiskers, because at 54 I may have a few myself...). "Smokey, tomorrow you're going to have le she-rur-rur-zher-ee," I explained. "But here's the deal: your mission on earth is not over yet. We all need you here with us, and it is not time for you to leave our family. D'accord?

Our golden retriever had une bosse on his chest that had grown to the size of a tennis ball (and was as hard as one). Finally, we made the difficult decision to remove the lump. The doctor said the dangerous part would be the anesthésie, given our dog's advanced age. Therefore, we decided to remove several lumps while Smokey was under anesthesia, as the actual surgery was the “easy” part, according to our veterinarian. 

La Salle D'Attente
In the waiting room with two other patients (an energetic cocker spaniel and un chat de gouttière). Smokey, was uncharacteristically calm as the assistante vétérinaire sat beside me to complete a questionnaire concerning our chien. “Do you want the supplemental blood test for seniors to determine whether Smokey is fit for surgery?”

That’s when tears began to flow.

"Oh, ça va bien se passer!" the vet’s assistant assured me.
"He is twelve-and-a-half years old," I reminded her, wiping away les larmes.
"Ne vous inquiétez pas...."

The stranger's empathy must have opened up a few chambers in my heart because the catharsis that came with it brought more than release, it brought a mysterious energy.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
Lean not on your own understanding

In all your ways acknowledge Him
And He will make your path straight.
                                Proverbs 3:5-9.

Those were the words that escaped as I drove away from the vet’s without our beloved “pet” (à vrai dire, I have never thought of Smokey as a pet). I don't know why my mind recalled these particular Bible verses, there are so many others that would seem more specific to the occasion. But those words coming out of my mouth, in repetition and in various tones and cadences, sustained me until I arrived at the next (unplanned) destination: le supermarché.

In an emotional spree, or frénésie, I selected lots of goodies for Smokey’s No. 1, full-time caregiver (my Mom): a box of almond-covered Magnums  (chocolate-coated ice cream bars), her favorite raspberry jam (aptly named “La Bonne Maman”), an exotic fruit juice (la canneberge this time) and more Greek yogurt—comfort food to dry Mom’s tears (tears I don't ever remember seeing before). I also put three extra big boxes of Kleenex into my cart.

"Smokey is everything to me. He is my whole life," Mom admitted, her face awash with worry when I took him away that morning.


Loading the groceries onto the tapis roulant, I paused to inform the cashier, "Those are the green kiwis and not the one-euro-each yellow ones from New Zealand."

"Pas de souci," she smiled, ringing in the fruit at .75 a piece.

"By the way, did you ever find your glasses?" I asked la caissière, remembering how troubled she was last week, asking other employees if they’d seen her lost lunettes. We customers in line promised to jeter un oeil on the way out to our cars.

"Oui!" she said. “Je les ai trouvées.”

Oh, quel soulagement!” I smiled.

When the cashier finished ringing up my groceries and asked if I had a store fidelity card, I said I hadn't gotten around to it. That's when she left the register, walked around the counter, took out her own wallet, and selected a card inside of it...

"What are you doing?" I asked, but the cashier didn’t answer. 

I did not realize the extent of the cashier’s gesture until I got into my car and looked at the store receipt, which was reduced by 25 euros, thanks to “des remises immédiates salariés.” (She had used her very own employee discount.)

I was blown away. Why she took this risk on me instead of someone in need is a mystery.

Passing other drivers on my way home, I looked beyond our individual windshields and said:

Bless you! To the white-haired lady behind the wheel,
and bless you! to the conductor with the beard,
and bless you!! to the solo driver in the N95 mask— 

That may seem like a strange thing to do, blessing strangers from behind a windshield, but hadn't the cashier done the same from behind her plastic store shield before stepping around the barrier to deliver the blessing?

I remembered the vet’s assistant and how a stranger’s sympathy began this whole domino effect—only instead of pieces falling down, hearts were opening up. And I realize now that the mysterious energy that came when I left my dog in the hands of Fate, was Fate itself or one facet of a complex and universal love—a love we are led to trust.

I hurried home to tell Mom about what happened when I left the vet’s, about all the goodness along the way. But if those first two hours flew on angel's wings, the next three were deep in the pits of hell as we waited and waited for a call from the vet's office. During the long attente my faith à froler le superstition. In a canine version of Step on a crack brake your mama's back, I navigated a host of possibly-fatal actions while waiting for the vet’s call:

...On the way to our mailbox I stalled: Do you really want to check the mail now...or check it later? What if it’s bad news? (reflecting further bad news from the vet!)
...and when lunchtime came there was the question of eating or not eating....then chewing or not chewing...while my dog was under the knife...
...Ditto with nap time.  Could I lie down or might resting be symbolic of eternal rest? A superstitious voice whispered.
...finally, a nagging question: Should I call the vet for an update or would calling irritate the staff (and somehow this would affect the outcome?)....

WHY WEREN’T THEY CALLING!!?! Did Smokey NOT wake up from the anesthesia? 

Finally, 5.5 hours after dropping off our dog for surgery, news came in the form of an SMS from our beloved dog:

Coucou, Je suis en train de me réveiller. Tout va bien. Smokey” (Hello, I am waking up now. All is well. Smokey). I burst out of bed, flew down the stairs and over to Mom’s to share the good news:

"Smokey sent an SMS...I mean, the vet sent an SMS!" 

We were giddy! Exaltées! A little while later I walked into the vet's and heard my dog barking! “He heard you first,” the receptionist pointed out, letting Smokey into the waiting room. If Smokey was quiet and calm this morning, now he was wagging his whole body, which was covered in stitches. Stitches on his calf, stitches on both his sides, stitches on each side of his chest, stitches on his private parts... While he was asleep, they even burned away the large growth in his mouth!

C'est un battant!” the vet's assistant said, sharing that two doctors and one anesthesiologist worked on Smokey!

Oh oui! Un vrai battant! Smokey is a true survivor. And when earlier he disappeared into the operating room, his spirit seemed to float back out, blessing everything in its furry wake, reminding us: when facing Fate, abide in trust--and take comfort in Universal Love. As the words of a familiar verse promised, It will set your path straight!

Jules and Smokey
Both Mom and Smokey are doing great. Merci infiniment to Dr. Trapes and the team at La CiotaVet, here in La Ciotat. 💕


un battant = a survivor
le she-rur-rur-zher-ee
= lighthearted rendition of "chirugerie", or surgery. The correct term is "intervention chirurgicale"
d'accord? = ok?
une bosse = a lump
une anesthésie = anesthesia 
la salle d'attente = waiting room
un chat de gouttière
= alley cat
le chien = dog
ça va bien se passer! = everything is going to be ok
une larme = tear
ne vous inquiétez pas = don’t worry 
à vrai dire = to tell you the truth
le supermarché = supermarket
la frénésie = frenzy
pas de souci = no worries
la caissière = the cashier 
Bonne Maman = Good Mom
la canneberge = cranberry
le tapis roulant = “the rolling carpet” (conveyor belt)
l’attente (f) = wait
frôler = verge on
jeter un oeil = have a look
je les ai trouvées = I found them
le soulagement = relief
des remises immédiates salariés = immediate employee discounts
exalté = giddy

A dashing Smokey at 7
A dashing Smokey, back in the day (2016?)

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety