I met “Jack” at my very first Parisian Anonymous meeting. Of course it is so much easier to write about someone else’s problems, so I will tell you about his story instead of my own, although the two seem remarkable similar. So don’t worry, Jack gave me permission to tell his story, and I have changed the names to protect the innocent.
A few years back Jack, who was born and raised in Montana, discovered something, something his mother tried to hide from him. He was a quarter French poodle. I know what you are thinking, “There is nothing wrong with being a quarter French poodle.” And in this day and age, there isn’t. But his grandmother was raised near a fire station, and back then poodles were thought to be much too delicate for any kind of real work, and were meant only to be fawned over by the rich. She wanted to work and be active, you see, so she made up some other background, and happily rode around on the back of the fire truck until the end of her days.
Well, it wasn’t until Jack was out walking his human Barb and a neighbor came to ask what poodle mix he was that Jack ever had any inkling of his true identity. Barb agreed he did have French poodle blood, and the two went on their way.
“You seem pretty distracted today, boy,” Barb said they played fetch that night. “Are you tired?” But he wasn’t tired. He just couldn’t believe what he had heard. Jack went on with his normal life for a long time, but always his identity ate at the back of him mind.
His human started dating some guy, and Jack didn’t really care for him. He did everything he could to impress Barb. Barb is really into fine wines, and this guy didn’t have the nerve to tell her he didn’t like them, so instead of telling the truth, he would dump his wine into Jack’s dog drink bowl. Jack owned to me that he never liked the wine either, but it wasn’t long before he could name all the wines his human had.
Soon he was having wine tasting parties with his friends. But since they kept waking his human, they decided to hold the parties outside after dark, when all the humans had gone to sleep. So they met at several houses around the neighborhood, ate baguettes, tasted wine, and even on occasion tried to paint. It was about this time, Jack discovered Amazon, the shopping website, not the rainforest. He bought a beret with the one click shopping, and since it arrived while his human was a work, she was not the wiser. She must not check her credit card, because soon he was ordering anything French he could get his hands on, from soap to pastries. And Jack, for a dog, had exceptionally refined tastes. He blamed it on his poodle blood.
Barb noticed something was amiss when Jack wouldn’t leave the house without a scarf, but she thought it might just be a phase.
Barb was scheduled to go out of town on business when Jack tried his biggest online purchase yet. He actually booked a flight to Paris. Of course a purchase like that couldn’t be ignored. Barb confronted Jack. The guilt had been eating him for months and he came clean, even showing Barb where he had buried his I Love Paris shirt and bottles of perfume in the back yard.
He attended Parisian Anonymous group the next week where we met.
We became fast friends, but I could tell he was not happy. His just felt like his real place was somewhere else, and in his heart he knew that his place was in Paris.
One night, Jack called frantically saying we needed to talk. We met up for a heart to heart chat at a local coffee shop. Of course he got a tiny espresso, while I contented myself with a delectable pastry with tiny curls of chocolate on top.
“I think it is time for me to leave,” Jack said, stirring his steaming cup with a spoon. “I have to go there.” I didn’t even have to ask where “there” was.
“Jack, you know you can never be one of them,” I said. “You can never truly be Parisian. They will despise you for trying.”
“I know,” Jack said, “But I have to try.”
“What about Barb?”
“Oh Barb, ” Jack sighed peering out the misty windows, “I will always love her, but she will soon forget all about me.” I shook my head in disbelief. How could anyone forget Jack? But he seemed determined.
We said our goodbyes and I let him walk out the door, his scarf blowing gently in the fall breeze.
Sometimes, even now, I miss him so much my stomach hurts. It’s just not the same to throw a ball when there is no one to bring it back to you. I know Barb misses him to, but she did move on. She got herself a cute Schnauzer puppy. Maybe she learned her lesson about poodles.
But I know he is happy. About once a month he sends me a picture of him standing in front of the Louvre or the Eiffel Tower or some other ancient or wonderful part of the past and he looks happy. He found where he was meant to be. And he is always wearing a scarf.