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S'Enfuir: To Flee in French: Startled or spooked, our new dog ran away in a panic

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: to flee

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Following last week’s missive “locals helping locals,” I could not imagine the favor would be returned so suddenly… Here is the extended version of a post shared on Instagram, after our dog escaped. 

“Partie comme une fusée” Off like a bullet

After Jean-Marc left for Le Beausset Saturday, to help a friend plant grapevines, Ricci and I strolled to our neighborhood marché paysan, to buy fruits and vegetables. I'm going to take it easy today. Make a hearty lunch, and relax this morning, I thought to myself, already feeling peaceful. In the parking lot where our farmer's market pops up weekly, I struggled with a few baskets of produce while managing my dog. I decided to briefly attach Ricci to one of the fold-out tables, where all the produce baskets were resting. Beneath a giant plane tree, I was chatting with a vendor when un bruit soudain startled my dog...

The noise sent Ricci fleeing from the table. The clasp of her harness having snapped, Ricci took off like a bullet! I watched in horror, feeling like the one who had pulled the trigger. How could I have taken that risk! Why hadn't I tied her more carefully? I dropped my panier and shot out of the municipal parking lot.

Ricci careened towards traffic, her leash bobbing along the narrow trottoir, pursued by frantic me. I heard the cars in the roundabout screech to a halt as our frightened dog cleared the two-lane road in front of La Pharmacie Saint Jean. (Oh Saint Jean--patron saint of shepherds, where were you went my little berger ran off?)

Shooting down the sidewalk, cars passing her closely on her left, the fugitive startled a few walkers who did a double-take when next they saw me flying by. Ma chienne! Ma chienne! Two hairdressers enjoying une clope in front of the salon de coiffure locked eyes with me as I darted past. I could feel their concern and picked up my step. Adrenaline coursing through my veins, I saw every detail, even if my eyes were fixed on the champs de vision into which my spooked dog had vanished.

Clipping past the surf shop, la fleuriste, and the boulangerie that just went out of business… I charged after my little dog, clunk-clunk-clunk in my daughter’s riding boots, one size too big. Barely slowing to look both ways, I shot across two lanes to reach the promenade and kept running when my legs began to slow....
Things were looking bleak.

RICCI! RICCI! RICCI! my shouting turned to muffled pleas… oh please! oh please! oh please! …God please! With Ricci out of sight, my words were more a mantra than a calling, a means to tame the terror I felt inside, to drown out other words that told me my dog might soon be crushed by a car.

I passed several walkers who were unaware of the drama unfolding and only saw a deranged woman babbling in bad French. Ma chienne s’est échappée! Ma chienne s’est échappée!

I ran a few blocks further and...there she was! Down on the beach. My heart filled with hope. This is the usual spot where we play drop and run (I drop down at a distance and Ricci charges across the beach into my arms. But just when it looked like this nightmare was over, Ricci, panicked and fled

Ricci american shepherd running on the beach
Attrappez ma chienne! Attrapez ma chienne si vous plaît! I thundered from the sidewalk, but a dozen swimmers preparing to brave the cold January waters did not understand the deranged foreigner shouting from the boardwalk. 

Ricci shot up to the digue, disappearing yet again. I had missed my chance. Oh God I missed my chance! Would it be the only one? She was now headed to the busy roundabout where traffic picks up.  Ricci! I cried in vain.

My mind reeled: why is she running away from me--her big sheep? In the 3 months since I brought her home from the farm, she's herded me like un brébis. More than a little shepherd, Ricci is a Velcro dog, a veritable pot de colle. She is my complete shadow. I know she was spooked but why was she still running away from me? Did she feel she could no longer trust me? Did she, when I tied her to that table and next she heard a POP!!….did she mistake it for an attack?

Vous avez vu ma chienne? Ma chienne! I shouted to anyone listening. "She went that way, past the telephone booth," a man said, but my gut told me he was mistaken. Another man arrived in time to point me straight ahead. Arriving at the one-mile marker in this unexpected sprint, gathering what force remained in my 56-year-old legs, I took off again, with a new mantra gurgling out of me:

JESUS, I BEG YOU! JESUS, I BEG YOU! I didn't care if I sounded like a mad-dashing religious fanatic. Or that faith is something you keep to yourself. Nothing mattered anymore except a miracle, an intervention, the hand of God in this impossible matter.

La Dernier ligne droit-The Final Stretch

Just when all hope was lost the man from the vegetable stand sped past me on his electric trottinette. I thought he had dropped out of the race a while back, but no! Here he was and I knew, I just knew, he would find her. He spotted her another block ahead and managed, along with a few others to corral her back around until, HOLY MOLY!, she was now running to me! (Study, for a moment, the photo at the opening of this post. Right there, pile-poil where you see the umbrella, is where our ecstatic reunion happened.)

In case my little fugitive was still under the spell of panic that set her rocketing across the bay, I dropped, threw my arms out as wide as they could stretch, and grabbed her as she ran up. Whether a miracle of miracles, or a simple answered prayer, my sweet, scared dog was guided safely back to me. Oh, Ricci!


Thanks to all who helped along the way-to the jogger who immediately sped up, to the merchant who dropped his vegetable cart and hopped on his trottinette, to the walkers I could barely see in the far-off distance who reached for my dog. THANK YOU! And if you are a Ciotaden, a local, and you saw a madly wild woman screaming REE-CHEE! GOD HELP ME! You now know this saga had a happy ending. The moral of the story is: no matter how cautious we are will our animals, when their innate instinct for survival kicks in, they are out of our control. The best we can do is count on the goodwill of others, who care and who take the time to help. Merci! Merci beaucoup! Even if I did not get a chance to thank you-dear jogger, dear walkers-I saw you and you are everything! Finally, please visit the Farmers market in the St Jean quarter, open weekend. Adrien, the owner's son, now runs it. But he dropped everything this morning to help us!

With 3.5 year old Ricci. (Photo taken one day before she fled.) Last week marked 3 full months since we brought Ricci home from the farm where she was destined to be a breeder. After "one or two" portées (litters), the owner put her up for sale in the classifieds. Jean-Marc found her there and the rest is history... and now a lovely future, we trust!

To comment on today's post, click here. Merci d'avance!


Click here to listen to all the vocabulary in French and English

pile-poil = exactly, right
s’enfuir= to flee, escape
Partie comme une fusée = off like a rocket
Le Beausset
= town near Bandol
le marché paysan = farmers market
un bruit = noise
soudain = sudden
les fruits = fruits
les légumes = vegetables
le panier = basket
le trottoir = sidewalk
le berger = shepherd 
la clope = slang for cigarette
le salon de coiffure = hairdresser’s
le champ de vision = field of vision
le chien (la chienne) = dog
ma chienne s’est échappée! = my dog got loose
la digue
= seawall, embankment 
la brébis = sheep
attrapez ma chienne! = grab my dog!
le pot de colle
= pot of glue, a clingy dog
la trottinette = kick scooter
le Ciotaden, la Ciotadenne = one from La Ciotat 

Mille mercis to readers sending in a blog donation for the first time, and to my returning patrons listed below. Your support keeps me going and I am truly grateful!

Nan D.
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David O.
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Natalie A.
Edward D.
Josephine H.

Keep up the wonderful work. Merci beaucoup. --Sharon

Bonjour Kristy. J'ai suivi votre newsletter depuis des annees. Vos mots sont toujours une inspiration. Merci et bonne continuation. Nan

I really enjoy your journal and all the beautiful photos.  Thank you for sharing your life with us! Joan

Dear Kristi, Thank you for continuing to share so much of yourself and your life in France. I enjoy having an ongoing French connection. Wishing you and your dear family a healthy and not-to-stressful new year. Jo

Ricci and Jean-Marc at Plage Lumiere
Ricci and Jean-Marc playing Catch Me If You Can! our favorite game, even if Ricci didn't respond that time. When we panic, we forget so much--even the things we know so well!

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Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Patricia Steel

Thank you so much for your wonderful articles and for sharing your life with us. Last October my husband and I spent three happy days in La Ciotat and now when I see your photographs I recognise a lot of the places.
Sometime ago I sent you a small cheque and would like to contribute again. Can you let me know where to send the cheque? Or I can make a direct payment to your bank.

La Soulane, 11420 Saint Ssernin, Aude

Kristin Espinasse

Patricia, I am so glad you visited and enjoyed La Ciotat. And thank you for another donation to my journal. I will send you my French bank account RIB, as you are in France. Merci d’avance! 


This reminds of dear Smoky. Didn’t he (she?) take off once when you were out of town? You just never know whether there’s an instinct or something buried in their history that makes them take off. With my first dog, it was thunder. She ran off and jumped into a worker’s truck three streets away! God protect our dear companions, the four-legged members of our family who give us so much love. I’m so glad your pup is safe!


Of all the blogs you have written, this one is the one I could best visualize what was happening moment by moment and from several perspectives. Je pense que vous avez monté au nouveau niveau littéraire, Kristi. Bravo!

Kathleen Bidney

I was exhausted by the time you and Ricci were reunited. I am so happy that nothing happened to Ricci. You might keep him on a shorter leash now, but he still needs to react to his instincts. When he tired out he might have stopped and waited for you or just found his way home. But like a child, the mother instinct kicked in and you weren’t going to let anything happen to your Ricci.
Peace, Kathleen


This true story could be a children's picture book!

It also reminds me of my neighbor's cats. Their house, perilously close to mine, caught fire one April Saturday evening 5 years ago after we had been out all day cleaning up our gardens. It was the most frightening thing ever I had experienced. One cat died in the fire, while hiding in a closet but the other two dashed outside. They immediately found one, Stewie, but the other, whom I saw briefly run across the street, disappeared. Pleas for help went out through the neighborhood and everyone spent days calling for him and leaving out food for him. They did finally catch him, thank goodness due to all the neighborhood support and rebuilt their home, where they now have 4 cats including the two elderly ones who escaped.

Angie Quantrell

Oh, I'm so glad you were reunited with your Ricci! She is adorable! Whew. I was racing along with you.

Kristin Espinasse

Wow! Thank you, Joanne! This will help me stick to my writing goals in 2024.

Cerelle Bolon

Oh Dear Kristi, your story made tears come to my eyes! Only another dog lover can know how terrifying that must have been. Thank God your quest was successful. I am sure as time goes by, Ricci will be easier to manage but three months is a short time and if she is in a strange place, things can spook her easily. 'Happy that it all turned out well. Love you!

Joan Jacobson

Like you, I have a mini Australian shepherd like Ricci, about the same age, that I bought as a rescue about the same time that you made Ricci part of your family. I thought perhaps it was Aria’s history that made her so easy to startle and bolt off but perhaps it’s the breed. I see Aria as a work in progress…….very sweet and gentle, but very anxious. She is very wary of people, and when we take a walk, if a stranger approaches, she simply sits down and waits for a few minutes after they pass to resume our walk. Here’s hoping that both Ricci and Aria’s anxiety decreases with time. She is so lucky to have you!


This is just too scary, but of course you meet wonderful people, too! Still, might Ricci have some training to "stay" so that she will be safe and so will you! I know dog training is expensive but there are so great google sites for home training. Just a bit scared for Ricci and that the darling might be injured or lost.....


I'm so glad you got Ricci back! But I also have to say, Kristi, you are becoming a better and better writer. This may be the best-written post ever: it's so vivid and so well-told. Thank you for sharing your daily life with us!


Any chance Ricci was on the way home? I had a sheltie Macaroon and he definitely herded us and even the living room pillows. When he was about 6 months we went on a nighttime walk without leash. He always stayed closed. A runner all dressed in black came quickly toward us on the path and Macaroon bolted. In the dark I thought I could see flashes of the white on his tail, but I wasn't sure. I searched for a while but then returned to the house to get a big flashlight. There he was, plastered against the front door. When scared, he had gone home for safety. Glad both our stories had happy endings.


Our dear Kristi,
Oh,ma chere! Your ekohrasis is once again shining bright and wrapping us all in such a frightening episode for both you and little Ricci. Thank God for happy endings,and also for giving us the ability to even more appreciate them!
Our niece's dog also bolted and had the misfortune to run into a busy street,where she was hit by a car and was killed.A truly sad happening made even worse by being witnessed by their 10 year old,whose dog it was.
We saying extra prayers of gratitude for both you and little Ricci.
Arms tight around all of you.
Natalia. XO

Kristin Espinasse

Thank  you, chère Natalia. And I am so sorry about your niece’s dog. 💔Sending love.

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Bob! So encouraging!

Frances, Napa, CA USA

You must have been so scared, and I am sorry this happened to you and Ricci. You ran a long way - and in those boots, too. Thank heavens for all of those wonderful people that helped to bring you two together again. Thank you for sharing this with us.

Lori Honeycutt

I felt as though I was running with you to capture your sweet dog!! They become part of the family very quickly. I am so happy it all ended well.
That breed of dog loves to have a job and loves to run😳as you are well aware.
Merci and take care💕


Dogs belong on leashes attached to those who love them

Carol Clark

Hi Kristen,

Sooooo glad you found your dog! I read your all your column's the pictures, too.
Keep up the good work!
I love visiting France...usually two times a year to Paris...and beyond.
Some day I might even be in La Ciotat!

Carol in L.A.

Augusta Elmwood

What a touching story! Un grand merci a Saint Roch, patron saint of dogs! He was with her all the way. ❤️❤️


J’adore cette histoire de Ricci quand elle s’est enfuie. J’ai senti très heureuse quand tu es réuni encore avec ta belle chienne. Cette histoire a touché mon coeur! Merci, Kristi.

Kristin Espinasse

Merci, Kathleen!

Ann Finder

How can I listen to French vocabulary and see the words at the same time?

Kristin Espinasse

Hello Ann, I wish I could work this out, but I do not have the technical know-how to present both the text and sound file in the same visual field. Waiting for an aha! moment to reveal the answer.

Marti Hinman

Dear Kristi,

You have related this, heart beating real story about Ricci, in a most descriptive way, I felt like watching a movie, I almost could feel your anxiety, running with all your might after her. . Thank God for the happy ending. Yes, I agree with one of your readers, it would make a fun and captivating children's book.

Always thankfu, for your perseverance regaling us with heartwarming stories of your life in France.


D McNamara

Ricci is a beautiful dog! I am so glad you found each other! I just followed you on Amazon and ordered your book Blossoming in Provence. Thank you!

Ruth H.

I can't even begin to imagine how I would feel if Sheldon got loose. Your heart must have been racing.
Ricci is so beautiful - love her eyes - and looks so huggable.
Please give her a hug from me and Sheldon.
Bisous from New York

Anne Kennedy

Bonjour, Kristi -

Recently (I think) you used the phrase “shoot oneself in the foot” but now I can’t find it. Could you repeat the French phrase/idiom?

Merci beaucoup!

Kristin Espinasse

Hello Anne, I dont remember that one. Can anyone reading this note help with the expression? Thanks!

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you very much, D! 

Claudia P.

Soooo glad that God helped you and Ricci to be reunited!! He loves us all so much!

God bless you, Kristi, and all of your family!
Claudia P.

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