Totes Paris: A Dog’s Travel Guide
Bonjour messieurs dames. (bone joo-were messy-er dahm) Good day ladies and gentlemen.
The first rule of etiquette in France, and one that I learned quite quickly, is that you must always address someone with a proper “hello.” This will open a lot of doors for you.
My journey in making this book, Totes Paris, actually began with my dog Totoro. She was a spritely black and tan ‘mame’ shiba inu who was my world for almost 17 glorious years. I originally named her Totoro, after a favorite Hayao Miyazaki animation, because Totoro is a fantasy creature that only children can see. However, she was quickly nicknamed Totes, for being toted around the globe. She was my staunch companion and protector, my best friend, my Obi-Wan and Yoda, my unicorn of rainbows and butterflies all wrapped up in this magical fur baby of perfection. She would stay stoically tucked in her travel bag without making a peep for endless hours to make it across the Atlantic to her favorite home away from home, Paris.
A month in Paris was always a good idea, as we traveled from New York, alternating each month for ten years. And dare I say, in this age of lock-down, I now long for my extra baguette and miniature bottle of wine from Air France, always served by an unusually happy and strikingly gorgeous French flight attendant. I miss that feeling of excitement as we landed at Charles de Gaulle on yet another misty melancholic morning in Paris.
On arrival, Totes was always welcomed with open arms. “Elle est magnifique!” (L ehh mah-knee-feek) the Parisians would coo. And I concur. She was magnificent. Every day in Paris was an adventure with Totes. Together we would navigate how to get around, where to shop for the finest — from flea market finds to luxury goods — wander in parks, visit national monuments, and learn “l’art de vivre” (lar duh vee-vruh; the art of living). This mostly meant finding the best pain au chocolat (pan oh shock-oh-la; chocolate croissant) or having un petit café (uhn peh-teet ka-fey; espresso) at le petit café (luh peh-teet ka-fay; the small restaurant).
The idea for our story was in my head for almost a decade, but I didn’t quite know where to begin. I wasn’t sure how I envisioned it coming to life, and it wasn’t until after Totes had passed that I actually picked up a paint brush, and the writing followed. Once I had painted her portrait, everything fell into place. The bulk of the book was done in three months. The remaining 20% probably took another few months. I set it as a goal to create a piece for myself. A kind of proof of concept that I could make a book. I didn’t know how to shop it around, I didn’t have an agent, but I began by researching and sending cold submissions to publishers. Responses of “while it’s very cute, it’s not what we do,” would come back. At least it wasn’t too negative. I self-published a small run, because I wanted to see it come to life. Sometimes it takes just one other person to believe in what you’re doing. I sent it to a friend in the publishing industry who shared it with her boss. I feel very fortunate and thankful that Ryland Peters & Small and CICO Booksdid just that. They believed in it — in us.
This book is an homage to Totes and my way of sharing a bit of her enchantment with you while imparting some knowledge of what we learned along the way. I will never completely understand the French culture, or the language, but it was a pleasure trying to learn the nuances of this enigmatic and brilliant city of love we spent so many years discovering.
Making this book was a labor of love for myself and for Totes. I simply wanted to create something that documented our time together as our own personal travel journal, but it has sparked a desire to create more books, and to see where this can go. I have always loved children (of all ages) and dogs, and to combine the two worlds in this way has been a dream come true.
Thank you for exploring my book, and never stop learning or reading.
We will always have Paris.