UN BERGER = SHEPHERD
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.
“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.
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.
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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.
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