When we were contemplating moving to Geneva, I had three concerns: 1. Could we bring our dog? 2. Could I watch American football? 3. Can I watch The Mindy Project? Obviously I am a very deep, complicated, intellectual person. So anyway, we moved our dog with us to Geneva. He flew on the same flight as us but a day later. He was taken to our temporary apartment while I was house hunting. My very brave (and allergic) mother in law received the dog while I was out and reported he did just fine with the transition. I’m so grateful that Crockett had not turned crazier on the flight over. He was just his normal two-year-old Lab crazy self.
Being a responsible dog owner, I thought we should get him set up with a doctor here. After some research (you can’t just go to a doctor or vet here because you have to make sure they speak English first), we ventured across town to an English speaking veterinarian, me, Forest and the dog. It was a particularly cold and gray day as we parked our car in the dim light of the evening (please note it was maybe 4 pm but the light was fading, nonetheless). Crockett, unaccustomed to the leash and collar, was excited to be in the vet’s office, sniffing around after dogs that had been there that morning or the cat in her carrier waiting for her owner to pay. I was just hoping desperately that we would avoid what I refer to as “the PetSmart move.” I call it that because PetSmart is where Crockett, anxious after seeing the groomer and probably smelling all sorts of things, lifted his leg next to the shoplifting detector and peed all over it as we last left the store in Houston. PetSmart has actually been the location of many of our favorite Crockett stories like the time we left him for dental work at the PetsMart in Roanoke and they informed us that it would be a six hour procedure. When Josh asked why, they explained he would be completely sedated and they would closely monitor his waking up process. We said we were not planning to stay around for six hours and could we pick him up earlier. We would somewhat closely monitor his waking up process. The vet assistant said no. Josh asked if they would like to keep the dog forever. She did not get the joke. Come to think of it, it might not have been a joke.
But, back to the Geneva vet. There we were, standing in her office, me silently willing Crockett to hold it and Forest trying to eat anything he could when the doctor came in. She was German and very efficient. She checked Crockett out and informed me that to register him in our canton, I would need to go to a dog theory course (three hours long) where the teacher would educate me about owning and caring for my dog who I had already owned for two years. Then, Crockett would need to complete obedience training with one of the state-approved training agencies. Nevermind that he had done hours of training in the States and can find a duck from 350 yards out. These are the same people who let me bring a human child into the country without a parenting theory course or even obedience training. Parenting humans? Yeah, they’re probably fine. Owning dogs? Gotta make sure they know their stuff. So true confession: I just never registered him. I was too scared and figured it was easier to ask for forgiveness than request permission.
Fast forward eight months. Crockett went out one morning and didn’t come home. He’d done this before and usually came back after a few minutes sniffing around the neighbor’s trash can. But soon ten minutes became two hours. We skipped church reasoning that we should be at the house in case he came back. We drove around the neighborhood calling “Crockett” which everyone things is actually “Croquette” meaning small potato. (No one here has heard of Davy Crockett, hero of the Alamo. As the mother of a Texan, I am embarrassed for them). Then I got a phone call.
“Yes, I mean, oui?”
It was the police. They responded to a call about Croquette and had him in their custody. They did not speak English but somehow we worked out that they would bring him to our house. They did and asked to see his medallion (translation: registration). I explained that we hadn’t done the necessary courses but that we would. Again, they didn’t speak English so that was not really understood. They left and said we would get something in the mail. We assume it will be a ticket. I’m pretty sure it will be for either ten francs or a thousand. Fines are rarely reasonable.
The next morning, I left Forest and Croquette with my brother, Charles, who happened to be visiting, and went to register the dog. I thought they would ask for the training paperwork and I would have to explain again all the work he’s done in Texas. And I figured it would all be in French. And I thought that if I failed, I would either be arrested or have my dog taken away immediately. So I took a deep breath and walked into city hall- which is in a beautiful converted home surrounded by parks. It did not look nearly as intimidating as I feared.
“Bonjour,” I said tentatively, “medallion pour un chien?” Translation: “medal for a dog?”
“Oui,” the petite woman with perfect hair behind a desk replied. Then she started speaking French very rapidly. I must have looked confused because she said, “Parle vous francais?” When I indicated a very small amount, she started in with English. She took my paperwork and handed me a small, orange plastic, triangular tag, roughly one inch wide. “I’ll send this off but you’re all set.” And that was it. Eight months of fear and anxiety for a one inch plastic tag. Eight months of feeling like a criminal, hoping the police would never come to our house and discover my unmedallioned dog. At least now, when Crockett runs away again, I’ll be able to say “oui” when the cops ask for his medallion and avoid the ten to one thousand franc fine. I’m still waiting for bill in the mail.