The investigation has begun. I mean, I knew I was onto something when I first wrote about the begging dogs. But now I know just how big this thing is.
And I want to blow it wide open.
My morning-evening walks to and from work are my prime surveillance opportunities. I watch and take mental notes, all the while being careful not to look for too long or make eye contact so as to be guilted into throwing some cash their way. (I have a strict no-handouts policy. Though I probably could start mustering some dog treats.)
I have tried to dig up more information on the interwebs, but all I could find were the following three "facts":
1. Bums with dogs get more coin.
2. Bums with dogs are not allowed in shelters (except for this temp winter shelter on the Seine).
3. About 600 people per year are hospitalized for injuries sustained from slipping on dog shit on the sidewalks. (This was reported by the NYT in 2001, apparently.)
This is investigative journalism at its finest, people.
Anyway, here's what I'm on to. The bums remain the same, but the dogs are changing. For example, this little lady is long gone, but her bum is still a Marais mainstay--now with a new dog. And I've noticed it with some of the other guys closer to Republique, too.
So what is happening to the dogs? They are not puppies, so surely there is no market for their sale. Besides, who would buy a raggedy middle-aged dog from some street hustler? I have a couple of theories, one of them easier on the emotions than the other.
Maybe there is a big meet-up spot (I imagine it something like a bum commune) where the bums congregate during the non-begging hours and, well, they just trade out the dogs. In that case, maybe my little girl is still around, but now she's with a guy that runs his game in another part of town. And the new dog that's suddenly appeared with my favorite (because he's the most stylish... boy, can he rock a paisley sweater) bum was formerly with another bum unbeknownst to me. This is the hypothesis that's easiest to swallow: the dogs are just moved around and I can't keep up with it.
The other thought that comes to my mind is that these dogs meet a cruel fate at the hands of the bums, so that a newer, cuter pup can be put in their place. *shudder*
In my internet "research" on street dogs in Paris, I also learned of another troubling phenomenon. Apparently, many Saudi families summer in Paris. While here, their kids beg for a summer pet and since there is no stigma surrounding dogs here, the parents relent. But then their stay in Paris is up, and they can't bring the dog back with them to Saudi, so the dogs are left to die/survive on the streets or simply put down. At least those post-Easter bunny rabbits are usually brought to shelters in the States. These poor dogs aren't so lucky.
But back to the bums and their dogs. I would like to think that they develop an affection for their doggie companions (though I did see one pup sent to howls when smacked with a frozen pizza by his arsehole bum-dad), but if that were true how could these guys just "off" their dogs?
So I have no real conclusions, and my lack of interaction/conversation with these bums will probably stymie my "investigation"... but I know that I'm on to something.
Stay tuned for more news as I dig it up.