An American in the French Languedoc
Butch the beggar dog
Our village has gone to the dogs. Rather a dog’s life is idyllic in Fabrezan.
No mandatory leash laws restrict their free access around the village. Several free agents roam the village at will. Each appears irregularly groomed and accepts a stranger’s affection only when they are in the mood. The kept village canines are well fed, sheltered and clean. The most ferocious tend to be more barker than biter. Among the ranks of fenced-in watchdogs, the instant one disregards their pretense as protector, their hardened exteriors melts and become receptive to affection and conversation.
Among the village roamers, no one symbolizes an independent spirit in principle more than Butch the Beggar. Butch is a muscular chestnut and coffee colored boxer radiating a sense of power and majesty as he saunters leisurely along the main promenade. I’ve never seen Butch run or appear harried by any distraction. He crosses a street and cars obediently slow or stop, a courtesy no pedestrian could expect.
Butch’s lone obsession seems to be food, yet he is no common gourmand, the French equivalent of one who eats much, but not necessarily well.
As a stranger to our village upon initial arrival, Butch followed me home one evening. I was flattered by his attention, but soon understood his motives.
Butch expected to be fed in return for his patronage. At the time, my wife and I had just begun the renovation of our house, so our refrigerator was sparsely stocked. Fortunately, we had leftovers from the previous evenings dinner. Butch obligingly obliterated our offering.
The following evening he returned without reservation and raised his paws upon a window ledge to gaze into our kitchen. This time, we only could offer a day-old baguette. Butch casually sniffed at the bread and abruptly walked away. His next visit was several weeks later.
It became evident our house was one of several feeding points Butch employs. He can be patient, but typically allocates a limited waiting period before his next stop.
We have seen him refuse pasta dishes, devour meat and fish entrees and pick apart pizzas leaving any vegetable toppings and crust to the side. He is acutely aware of his tastes and not about to compromise for the sake of a free meal.
One evening I observed Butch on the main promenade pilfering the contents of a bowl of cat food laid out on a doorstep. The intended diner had fled in terror upon viewing the enormous poacher. Butch nonchalantly began to gobble up the dried nuggets until a neighborhood elderly Mémé accosted him.
“Villain dog!” she shrieked, “Leave that poor cat’s food alone!”
Deliberate, calm and detached, Butch finished the bowls contents before bemusingly regarding his verbal attacker shaking her bony fist at him near hysteria. Ignoring her with a sense of smug self-satisfaction, he sauntered off to his next course.
Over the past months, I’ve discovered the entire village is cognizant of our friend Butch. None of them acknowledge they still feed him, but all have confessed to such a moment of weakness in the past. Butch’s master is the owner of a failed local English pub called Wankie Tankie. The tavern we speculate closed due to a minimal client base, poor management and perhaps a harebrained choice of name. The promotional signage in front of the gated and chained tavern promises the closure is only temporary, but after three months and counting, one draws their own conclusions.
Butch may indeed have such an owner, but he is owned by no one. The roaming dogs of Fabrezan can all relate.
Marques Vickers will be contributing monthly columns sharing his experiences as an expatriate in Languedoc.
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