Thursday, March 1, 2012

Tailing a Dog in Provence


Sheron Long is an author and a retired publishing exec who, with her husband, Bob, divides her time between Carmel Valley, California, and St.Rémy. Sherry is the author of  "Dog Trots Globe--To Paris and Provence," a recently released photo book and enhanced ebook that recount the French adventures of her Sheltie, Chula.  Part armchair travel and part memoir with a dog's eye view, this fun read takes you through the big outdoor markets, lavender fields, and villages of Provence and along the streets of Paris. (Info on purchasing the book is below.) On a later trip to ProvenceSherry and Chula set out on the trail of a rumor that Buffalo Bill's dog is either buried or commemorated in a cemetery in Maillane, not far from St. Rémy. And if it is true, what’s the story? Here Sherry tells us what she found out.

Some pups spend all their dog years stuck inside a fence. Some sneak under the fence and explore the neighborhood while others—like Chula Wula D’Augue, our 10-year-old Sheltie—get to trot the globe. Last year she ended up with us in the South of France.

Chula thought she was pretty hot stuff until she heard about Buffalo Bill’s dog, who took an even more amazing trip to Provence many years before and supposedly is memorialized in the cemetery in Maillane, just a few kilometers from our home.

Rumor has it that Buffalo Bill Cody (1846-1917) brought his dog with him when he came to stage his famous Wild West Show for the 1889 World Exposition in Paris. Bill and his entourage, including a few hundred cowboys and Indians, buffalo, elk and other animals, tents, teepees, and a stagecoach, crossed the Atlantic by boat on a journey that took quite a bit longer--and was much more crowded--than the trip Chula made.

When the exposition ended in November 1889, Bill took his show on tour by train, first heading south to Provence and Barcelona, then over to Italy, Germany and other parts of Europe.

According to lore, Frédéric Mistral, who lived in Maillane, ended up with Buffalo Bill’s well-traveled dog. Mistral (1830-1914) won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1904 and led the effort to revitalize the Provençal language, known as Occitan and originally spoken in the South of France.

We know that Mistral attended Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in Provence, but exactly how he got Bill’s dog is more myth than fact. Some stories say that Bill met Frédéric and gave him the dog as a gift of admiration. Others say that the dog ran off from the train station in Tarascon and ended up finding Mistral in Maillane. With their goatees and large hats, Buffalo Bill and Frédéric Mistral resembled each other. Did the dog think he had found his owner?

However Mistral came by the dog, he loved him greatly. The dog must have died in Maillane, but was he really in its cemetery? Chula and I both had to know.


Off we went to tail the dog of Buffalo Bill and Frédéric Mistral. As we approached the cemetery, we were struck by the white horses in the neighboring field. These white horses are most likely descendants of the wild white horses in the Camargue region of France about an hour south of Maillane. We were impressed with how their white coats and blonde manes played off the old stone crosses in the cemetery.


Abiding by the “No Dogs” sign, we left Chula at a hitching post while we began the search.


We found Mistral's tomb easily as it was the largest in the cemetery. We searched the tombstones all around for one naming a dog, but never found it. 


Then we began to look more closely at Mistral's tomb. The face in one arch was a sculpture of Mireille, the main character in the epic Provençal poem of thwarted love that became Mistral’s definitive work. Hmmm. Perhaps the other sculptures held clues.


To our surprise, we spied a dog face in the next arch, and then we spied another! We learned from the very helpful guide at the Mistral Museum that one of the faces belongs to Mistral's beloved dog Pan Perdu, whose name is Provençal for French Toast. 


The other is Pan Perdu’s successor (perhaps his offspring), Pan Panet, which means Little French Toast. The guide verified that Mistral had attended Buffalo Bill's show, but said that the two versions I had heard of how Mistral ended up with Buffalo Bill's dog could be "more myth than fact."  Nevertheless, there are two dogs memorialized on Mistral's tomb, though  not actually buried there. (The tomb is the final resting place of Mistral, his wife  and his mother.)  We were so excited when we made the discovery that we bent the French law a little and carried Chula inside the walls to see these other lucky dogs. Pan Perdu and Chula had much in common. Both had crossed the Atlantic, learned to live in a new culture, and loved the thrill of adventure.

Like Chula, Pan Perdu and Pan Panet had a good life. In France during the 1800s, dogs were generally kept for their usefulness in hunting, herding, or chores and not for their companionship. The Mistrals, however, treated their dogs differently, taking them along everywhere, showing them great affection, and enjoying their companionship. You might say they paved the way for the good life that Chula and other dogs find under the bistro tables in France today. 

Obviously, the Mistrals had great love for their dogs. How many pups do you know who end up represented on the tomb of a Nobel Laureate? We were suitably impressed. And so was Chula—so much so that she has asked for a little sculpture of her pretty dog face when she, too, becomes French Toast. 

So it was that on this fine day in Provence we learned something new: Lucky dogs get to trot the globe, and even luckier ones get their smiles set in stone.

If you visit the Mistral Museum: You'll find Mistral's home preserved just as it was when he lived there in the late 1800's until his death in 1914.  It includes his furniture as well as many documents, photos, sculptures, and paintings reflecting his literary life and times.  There is even a great old photo of Mistral with one of the dogs and a beautiful vase presented to Mistral by the SPCA for his love and attitude toward animals. Across the street is the home where Mistral was born. Today it is the Maillane library and the Mistral research center. The cemetery is a short walk from the museum. 

To purchase a copy of Dog Trots Globe:  The Apple iBookstore offers the enhanced eBook (with 4 videos, original songs, and music embedded). To purchase, click here. The hardcover version is available at  OIC Books or Amazon, which also offers a Kindle ebook.  Readers who choose the hardcover or Kindle ebook can access the videos and other enhancements online at OIC-Books.com/Extras. Meanwhile, you can follow Chula’s continued adventures on her Facebook page. To reach the author, email her at Sheron831@gmail.com.  

 Images and Text copyright © Sheron Long. All Rights Reserved. 

13 comments:

  1. Sweet story. I'm dying to know how she got Chula to France? I shudder at the thought of shipping mine in the cargo hold.

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  2. Great story and I learned a lot! ;-) I reviewed Sheron Long's book on my blog a few weeks ago and have been researching shelties since. You might say i fell in love with cute globe-trotting Chula. ;-) Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

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  3. Molly (my Scotty dog) would love to share her blog with you Barkinprovence.blogspot.com and is always looking for doggy contributors...

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  4. Sue, our miniature dachshund, traveled with us from Texas to France in 2006 visiting Paris, Saint-Emilion, Provence, Toulouse, Cannes and Reims. If you're dog is small enough,he or she can travel in a comfy soft-sided crate under your knees in the cabin. It was so easy & so much fun.Some airlines like American don't allow dogs to fly to Europe in our our of the cabin. We flew Air France.

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  5. Great post, Julie. I'm a great admirer of Mistral and found out something new from your post.
    Claude A

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  6. HI Julie!
    I think it is great you actually went and looked for the dog!!!!!You got some great pics and the book sounds charming........ Maryanne xo

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  7. Dr, shaggie shepardMarch 1, 2012 at 5:11 PM

    Pamela, maybe she put him on the roof of the plane like Mitt ??

    On Air France, they probably let the dogs fly first class and feed them pate and champagne.

    Great post Julie..

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  8. Great pics:) I really like your blog..so much nice inspiration.
    I wish you a lovely weekend:)

    LOVE Maria at inredningsvis.se
    (Sweden)

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  9. this review reminded me of David Douglas Duncan's Book, YO-YO kidnapped in Provence.
    douglas a famous retired phto journalist of World War 2
    and photo biographer of his friend Picasso. Yo-yo is a norwich terrier
    who is kidnapped by a band of gypsies let by a car thief. The photos are wonderful and follow this adventure to the end when the dog is returned. This was possibly the best-photographed dog hunt in history; after 19 days Duncan got his pet back intact (and half a pound heavier!)wearing a diamond collar leaving everyone happy

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  10. I wish I had been in first class with pate and champagne, but the trip in the pressurized part of the hold was pretty good due to Sherry’s planning. She froze the water in my bowl so that it didn’t slosh out during boarding, and the carrier she got was big enough for me to stand up and turn around. The non-stop flight helped, too. You can find all sorts of pet travel tips in the Afterword of the book. One thing you won’t find is how to deal with the Rottweiler that ends up in the cage next to you! You’ll have to ask me about that!

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  11. I can tell you first hand that dogs have it great here! Mine adjusted to it as soon as we moved and within a day refused to touch the food that we brought from the US!
    They are quite partial to a piece of baguette in the morning as well.....:)

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  12. This blog site has some very useful stuff on it! Cheers for informing me!
    Food Supplier

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