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Archive for Sunday, May 9, 2004

Dogs rule in Parisian establishments

May 9, 2004

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— At the restaurant and bar on rue Rambuteau in the heart of the city, the beef -- Charolais, perhaps the best in a country known for some of the world's best food -- is a prime attraction.

But for years now, people have been trotting into the establishment as much because of the dogs there as for the food.

It's called the Cafe le Bouledogue Brasserie, a place where dogs are welcomed, a restaurant and bar owned by Didier Delor and his partner, Jean-Pierre Rubine, but which is run, in a way, by their two French bulldogs, Titi and Nelson.

On a busy day, 15 or so "Frenchies," as the breed is known, will be in the cafe at once. Their owners are attracted to the place for the love of good food, certainly, but just as much by the opportunity to while away the time with similar-minded dog owners and, probably more to the point, with the dogs themselves.

"It's very strange," said Delor, as he waited for the evening rush of customers. "Owners of bulldogs like to get together and talk. If they see each other on the street, they'll stop whatever they're doing."

Paris is the "City of Love," of course, and that extends to the dogs here, which tend to be pampered like newborn babies and seem as omnipresent as sidewalk crepe carts.

At the Cafe le Bouledogue, Titi and Nelson greet new arrivals by waddling over, looking up at them with eyes like French chocolates and then either collapsing at their feet for yet another nap or waddling back to their usual position by the kitchen door, to dog-dream about waiters with slippery hands. For these two, anything that's dropped is the special of the day.

Delor ticked off some of the names of his regulars: "Churchill, Marseille, Maurice, Hitchcock. They tend to have human names, I think, because they have such expressive faces."

And the names of their human owners?

French bulldogs Titi, left, and Nelson cozy up to the bar at Cafe
le Bouledouge Brasserie, one of the many establishments in Paris
where dogs are welcomed.

French bulldogs Titi, left, and Nelson cozy up to the bar at Cafe le Bouledouge Brasserie, one of the many establishments in Paris where dogs are welcomed.

"I don't know. The masters don't interest me at all," he said.

Businesses here work hard to dig into the pocketbooks of the owners of the estimated 8 million French pets. At the Hotel Palais de Versaille, dogs are entitled to their own beds. And no need to fetch here: They can order, presumably through their masters, from their own room-service menu.

The Four Seasons-George V Hotel and the Hotel Meurice, both five-star accommodations in the people department, have also upgraded their pet services, providing rubber mice and bones, as well as blankets embroidered with dog names.

At the Hotel Lancaster, a five-star hotel a few fire hydrants down from the presidential palace, a faux ostrich-skin designer dog bed can be ordered for the bargain price of $112 a night. (The bed for human guests goes for $730 a night.)

"The whole world is dog crazy," said Helen Playne, a spokeswoman for the Lancaster. "I have to say that I think only the French would do luxury dog beds, though."

At the Cafe le Bouledogue, truth be told, Titi and Nelson are not so pampered. French bulldogs will eat pretty much whatever is put in front of them, so their diet is monitored so they don't begin to resemble, even more, potbellied pigs.

Their dinner, save for the occasional clumsy waiter or the rare patron who can't resist feeding them under the table, is dry dog food, as the rest of the world's canines know it.

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