We have a new dog. Welcome Ricci!


After one year and three months sans chien, we are overjoyed to announce the arrival of our newest family member: "Ricci". She is a 3-year-old Mini Australian Shepherd and she hails from une ferme in Aveyron. 

Ten days ago, at a party, I was chatting with Corinne about her mini Aussie. "We love those dogs," I said, "but aren’t they a bit nervous?" Corinne, visibly gaga about her Berger Américain (as they are called in France), assured me le tempérament depends on the owner. With that in mind, I began to dream about these lovely dogs once again…

By the next day, Jean-Marc was combing through ads on Le BonCoin when he came across "Penny" a 4.5-year-old BAM (Berger Américain). Before we knew it, we were headed 5 hours north to a cow and cannabis* farm, where the busy owner was phasing out her dog breeding business. She had two adult females available: Penny and her 3-year-old cousin, Ricci. 

We had come all this way to see Penny, but understood right away she was not for us. "We live on a busy street," I explained. "We can't have a barker...the neighbors would not like it." Behind the chain-linked fence, there was another dog, who was a lot calmer and she was making eyes at us. "Who is that?" I asked.  

"C'est Ricci."

“Could we please see her?” With that, the gate was opened and both dogs bolted out, running circles past the chickens, over to the barn, and back. Ricci came when the breeder called her and I took her into my lap. She was thoughtful and calm for a moment and I knew, of the two dogs, she was the better bet.

My daughter had cautioned me to only take the dog if there was un coup de coeur - a lighting-strike attraction. This sort of put the brakes on things as I was not instantly enamored. I was, in fact, full of hesitation. But I couldn't be sure, either, if I wanted to leave without Ricci. We had come so far...we could make this work...fingers crossed this wasn’t a mistake. One final thought sealed the deal: Grandma will love her no matter what.

"We don't have a leash," I said.

"She's never been on a leash," the farmer replied, adding she was very sorry there might be some fleas….

"Assis!" I said to Ricci, to get a closer look, but the little shepherd did not respond.
"She doesn't know any commands..." the farmer explained.

Because this seemed like a risky transaction, and considering the upcoming expenses (sterilization? vaccination?) I negotiated the price down as far as possible. I reasoned, privately, that if we returned home and there were no surprises with this adult dog (hip replacement surgery?--I'd heard horror stories), I could eventually send a donation to the farmer to make up for any losses on her part.

Ricci now in the passenger’s seat, on my lap, I picked off as many fleas as possible during the 6-hour ride home. Our seat was also soaked in saliva, even so, the long voyage went better than expected. The closeness helped form a kind of bond, but, after reaching her new home, Ricci was running into walls. She didn't understand door-windows, and banged right into our porte vitrée. The "dog bed" concept threw her as well. And the flush of a toilet, the vacuum, the garbage truck…just about any sudden bruit had her running for cover and making puddles around the house, in the bed, and on the couch. The former “Berger” from Aveyron may as well have been dropped off on Planet Mars.

She’s been on high alert since landing here near the beach in La Ciotat. There will be so much to learn for her and for us, but thankfully, everyone in our family is smitten by cette petite Louloutte, and ready to help.
"I'm Max! You'll be seeing a lot of me," my son said, taking her calico face into his hands and gently caressing her. And when she freaked out on the leash with me, Max's girlfriend, Ana, tried a different approach by first presenting the leash for Ricci to sniff. Gradually, Ana was able to coax her out into the garden, with Max cheering her on.

Grandma Jules is over the moon and inspired "Reece is so paintable! I’m just crazy about her!”
“Mom, her name is ‘Ricci’, that’s Ree-Chee like the perfume Nina Ricci... (but "Reece" is sweet, reminiscent of the peanut-butter cups I loved as a kid).

“I'm going to call her Chi-chi,” Jackie already decided, via video chat as we all gathered for Ricci's first night home.

Ana calls her "Ma Petite Puce," a popular term of endearment in France (but also appropriate given Ricci was teaming with fleas.). On day two Ana returned to help give Ricci a chewable medication for the fleas, the ticks, and any potential worms. And it worked immediately. 

What a whirlwind two days it has been since bringing Ricci home: loads of laundry, retraining, shopping (leash, bed, food, toys), and agitated sleeping. But we've enjoyed every minute. Speaking of time, that coup de coeur Jackie insisted on may not have been instant, but it came after a leap of faith.

Whether a coup or a leap, all that matters is that our dog is here. Bienvenue, dear Ricci. We love you already!

To leave a comment about our new dog, or any sort of advice on welcoming an adult farm dog to the city, click here.
Will Ricci's startle reflex calm down? Will she continue to make puddles when scared? Advice welcome and appreciated.




Click here to listen to Jean-Marc and me pronounce the French and English terms

sans chien = without dog
une ferme = farm
Le Berger Américain = Mini Australian Shepherd 
le tempérament = disposition 
la porte vitrée  = glass door
le bruit = noise
mon loulou, ma louloute = affectionate term for pooch, pup
ma petite puce = my little flea

*Le cannabigérol est un composé de la plante de chanvre. Cannabigerol is a compound found in the hemp plant.

Ricci mini australian shepherd

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In the car during the ride home from the farm in Aveyron and, finally, on an evening walk on the beach here in La Ciotat.


A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

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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!

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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

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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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A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

Raffoler: A Great Verb for Something You Love (such as dogs and cookies...)

Jean-Marc and Ricci mini australian shepherd
We are all crazy about our new dog Ricci, who gave us quite a scare recently....
Nous raffolons tous de notre nouvelle chienne Ricci, qui nous a récemment donné une sacrée frayeur.

TODAY'S WORD: Raffoler de

    : to adore, love
    : not be able to get enough of something

A DAY  IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Two weeks ago we nearly lost our little shepherd, la petite Ricci, adopted recently at the age of 3. Jean-Marc and I had been enjoying a stroll along the shore, and all the amusing dog encounters, when Ricci exchanged sniffs with a Boxer. When he got too playful our girl shot off like a bullet up les escaliers, over the boardwalk, and across two lanes of traffic!

We ran after our spooked chienne, bracing for what was around the corner by which she'd disappeared.

Incredibly, our dog had cleared two lanes of traffic before a stranger moved swiftly into action. The man swooped down, trapping her on the sidewalk in front of the pizzeria. We hurried across the street, and Jean-Marc retrieved Ricci while I grabbed the man with multiple piercings, hugging him like my own son--de toute ma force! 

Max Ricci Izzy Loca lap dogs
Sadly, no photo of Ricci’s sauveur. Standing in for this Good Samaritan are my son Max and granddogs Izzy and Loca.

With Ricci safely in Jean-Marc's arms, we walked the rest of the way home a little stunned. What were we to do now? We would like our dog to be able to play on the beach with other dogs--but at what risk? How is our dog supposed to get her zoomies out if she can't go temporarily unleashed? There are no dog parks in our seaside town, making it a challenge to exercise our energetic American Shepherd.

We have been sorting out this dilemma over the past few weeks and we are all making good progress. One blessing that's come of this is we have discovered the Parc National des Calanques here in La Ciotat--a beautiful natural reserve where we can walk along a rocky trail to the top of the city. 

Parc naturel des calanques la ciotat france
Read about this stunning natural reserve on the last page of the Feb/March edition of France Today.

After the randonné, it's time for a visit from Grand-mère (Jules has been catless ever since Lili returned next door, to live peacefully in our neighbor's armoire after three dogs moved onto our property). Jules adores Ricci, whom she visits each afternoon with her pockets filled with friandises. "Here comes the Cookie Monster!" my mom giggles, taking Ricci into her lap. We've given Jules a 3-cookie limit (per visit) for Ricci and I'm amazed she abides by the rules (if only this one time).


Regarding the dog biscuits, Ricci, elle raffole! She is crazy about them. As for us, on raffole de Ricci! We cannot get enough of her! With her soft-as-silk calico fur she's exotic and she has a very foreign--come to think of it a very French way of expressing herself: elle grogne. She is not visibly complaining or unhappy, she's "voicing" without words. You might say it's a kind of guttural dog purr....

"She doesn't seem like a dog" My mom brings up something we have all been thinking about our ethereal animal de compagnie. "I know," I say, wondering if Ricci is some kind of licorne...

"What do you think she is?" I ask Jean-Marc. After a bit of reflection, he answers "a cat."

"Ricci! I say, are you a little cat in dog's clothing?" Just imagine! One thing's sure: after the scare our pup gave us recently, she has nine lives... just like our dear Smokey had. Maybe he was a cat too? Nah, he was definitely a unicorn.

To leave a comment or a correction, please click here or simply hit the return button if reading via email. Merci!


Click to hear the French and English pronunciation

raffoler de = to love, adore, be nuts about
une frayeur = fright
une chienne = female dog
un escalier = stairs
de toute ma force = with all my strength
le sauveur = savior
la randonnée = the hike 
la grand-mère = grandmother
une friandise = a treat, a sweet 
elle grogne = she grumbles
une licorne = unicorn 

Thanks in advance to readers sending in a blog donation for the first time, and to my returning patrons listed below. Your support keeps the wheels of this digital journal turning, and I am truly grateful!

Caro F.
Karen H.
Monica G.

I love your stories! The one about the train journey was an absolute gem. Caro F. 

Today’s story motivated me to make another donation. I look forward to each new tale and do practice the French I see with each new post. Ricci is wonderful. So glad you have this beautiful new dog. Happy Holidays to you, Karen

Ricci mini aussi and Kristi

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety