Le Dernier Mot: Canine Encounters

Le Dernier Mot: Canine Encounters

Kristen misses her beloved canine companion but finds solace in petting other people’s dogs

July 16 marks one year since our golden retriever, Smokey, passed away. After 13 summers with this tender, loving chien, it is hard to imagine life with (or forever without) another dog. Heureusement, I have stumbled upon a certain furry something to fill the void: other people’s dogs.

Les Chiens des Autres or CDA- not to be confused with a well-known French acronym for Cigarettes des Autres (une clope bummed from a smoker) – signifies the chance, once again, to caress the soft coat of a dog. It is the opportunity, after a loss, to speak to a four-pawed pet (albeit somebody else’s) and toss a (borrowed) ball and watch it retrieved with glee. And to ask a lot of questions and research what could one day be my prochain pooch.

“What kind of character does he have?” I quiz the man on the park bench, seated beside a magnificent Rhodesian ridgeback. “Does he shed much?” I ask the woman walking a German shepherd. And to the owner of the border collie, “Is it true these dogs need a lot of work assignments?” Finally, to anyone walking un bâtard, “I hear they’re healthier than pure-breds. Vrai ou faux?”

But all the questions are in vain. I don’t want to find the right dog. I want the right dog to find me.

I don’t want to have to make a decision based on breed or age or hair loss and so interfere with destiny. Ideally, The Right Dog and I would encounter each other along life’s path, one of us in need of a home, the other in need of un ange. So until another furry angel comes along, I’ll continue to hit the streets each day for my Fido fix. “Puis-je caresser votre chien? Merci! Comment il s’appelle?



Ils s’appellent Chopin, Féli, Zoé, Cachou, Pharos, Joie, Poofy, Frisette… so many colourful names – proof the French are as elegant as they are kid-hearted. Through all these canine encounters, I can’t help but wonder what my future dog will be called. In honour of les Chiens des Autres – CDA- whose affection has helped mend this broken heart, how about ‘Coda”? Or why not “Siggy’, from the acronym’s original meaning-only sans tabac. Siggy has a nice ring to it. But does it conjure up a smoke ring?

Ideally, my future dog could name itself. Do you think that’s far-fetched? They say dogs talk, but only to those who listen. Now if only my future dog would tell me where he or she is, we could get on with our life together. J’écoute! J’écoute!

LE CHIEN = dog
HEUREUSEMENT = thankfully
LES CHIENS DES AUTRES = other people’s dogs
UNE CLOPE = ciggy (cigarette)
LE BÂTARD = mutt/mongrel
VRAI OU FAUX = true or false
UN ANGE = an angel
PUIS-JE CARESSER VOTRE CHIEN? = may I pet your dog?
COMMENT IL S’APPELLE? = what’s his name?
ILS S’APPELLENT = they’re called
SANS TABAC = tobacco free
J’ÉCOUTE = I’m listening

From France Today Magazine


Kristin Espinasse is the author of Words in a French Life, Blossoming in Provence and the French Word-A-Day blog.

Lead photo credit : © KRISTIN ESPINASSE

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The American-born author and photographer lives with her French husband, Jean-Marc, and their two children on a vineyard and olive farm near Bandol in Provence. She's the author of "Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France" and runs the French Word-a-Day blog and newsletter.

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  •  zidane
    2023-10-19 10:13:12
    amazing picture and thank you for creating this article