It’s a well-known stereotype, right or wrong, that French footpaths are covered with dog poo. There’s certainly a fair amount of poo here in St. Jean de Sixt, and in an effort to clean up the dog poo in Annecy, the council installed dog toilets. Pictured is one from further up north near Boulogne, where I’m staying at the moment. These large dirt pens let dogs do their business and walk away without their owners having to address the steaming pile their dogs have left behind. Annecy also provides bag dispensers around town so that owners whose dogs prefer not to use the toilets can remove the poo from the pavement. However, St Jean de Sixt does not, and I learnt this the hard way.
Some friends asked me to look after their dog, Snoopy, who looks much like her namesake, overnight. She seemed edgy at 8am the next morning, so I took her out, half asleep, with a coat hiding my pyjamas. Within a metre of getting her onto some nearby grass, she stopped to poo. About 30 metres away, a woman in a chalet started shrieking that it was her property and I must clean it up. The dog was still pooing. As I was yelling out sorry (I had no idea it was private property that far away from the house: it looked like part of the public field the house backs onto), she repeated herself. As I tried to explain that I would go home and get a bag, she was again yelling the same words at me, and I was by now embarrassed that she had woken all her neighbours because of me. I know the norm in France is to talk right back over the person talking to you, but there was no point: she was too far away. When she finally finished, I explained once more that I had no bag on me and that I would return with one and she thanked me and said that was kind. Err, no it’s not kind: I didn’t feel like I had a choice!
Had Snoopy pooed just one metre before, where it was practically piled up on the road next to the field, she couldn’t have said a word. Or could she? My friend here near Boulogne told me a woman once told her off when her dog was pooing in a public place, even though my friend already had a bag in her hand to collect the mess. So despite the stereotype of streets covered in dog poo being the norm, clearly, at least two French women object. I can’t help but feel they’re fighting an uphill battle though. Good luck to them.