Left Bank beagle: Lauren was a beloved chien
By Elizabeth Kiem
It’s easy to fall in love in Paris. It’s as much a part of the expat experience as selecting a café to call your own, a brasserie to patronize regularly, or a garden bench on which to sit and write poetry. Kay Pfalz did it all (choosing prose over poetry). She fell in love with a beagle, and proudly relates the story in her book, Lauren’s Story, An American Dog in Paris.
Less common than either unconditional love for a dog or a former stray that dines elegantly al fresco is the kind of devotion that drove Pfalz from an idyllic lifestyle as a Left Bank restaurant critic to a Motel 6 in the beltway hell of Springfield. Lauren, you see, had cancer and required treatment from a Northern Virginia vet.
After more than a decade in Europe, Pfalz returned to her home in Nelson County with the original intent to treat Lauren. Now, she requires some healing of her own. Lauren passed away two months ago, just days after her devoted scribe received the first galley of what would become her memorial.
Lauren’s Story, published by JN Townsend in New Hampshire, is definitely a book for dog-lovers. Without such sympathies, a reader may have difficulty with passages about the author’s exacting ritual of placing her wristwatch inside Lauren’s dog collar each night, knowing “my watch never wanted the day to come when that collar didn’t encircle it, silently protecting it.”
But Pfalz is wrestling with the heavyweights: life, death, and humanity. And she is trying to tell it from a dog’s perspective (unlike Steinbeck, Pfalz is truly more interested in the companion than the journey).
If you accommodate the grieving that seeps into Pfalz’s tale without the filtration of healing time, there is much in her story to entertain: Lauren’s penchant for confit de canard, the jocular bum on the corner of Rue Moufftard, and Pfalz’s comical sister who keeps a pack of 17 dogs and has a George W. Bush-like gift for word-swapping are well-placed eccentricities. Pfalz’s love for Paris is almost as strong as her feelings for her dog, but it’s enriched with an irony unavailable for Lauren: “The motocrots were motorcycles with long vacuum tubes that sucked up each dog’s crot. Ah, Paris.”
Roseland restaurateur and author Kay Pfalz will be at Barnes & Noble on Tuesday, July 16, at 7pm to discuss and sign copies of Lauren’s Story. Pfalz is also the author of the guidebook A Walk Through Paris.