Thursday Meetup! + Jeton (do you know this handy word?)
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Breizh is a name and a place and a dog in France

Cabanon melisse

Exercising restraint after posting a recent slew of dog photos. Enjoy some flowering melisse (lemon balm) and this stone cabanon instead. (More about dogs in today's column...)

Breizh (pronunciation uncertain. Here we say BREZ)

    : in the Breton language, Breizh means "Brittany"

Breizh, le nom breton de la Bretagne, vient lui d'un ancien Brittia. (Wikipedia)
Breizh, the Breton name for Brittany, comes from the ancient "Brittia".

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

Our Dog formerly known at "Braise"

The photo at the end of Monday's post led to a few alarmed emails: "Is everything OK with Braise?" one reader wrote in. Another was more direct, "JUST WHERE IS SHE? WHERE'S BRAISE?"

Clicking shut the emails, wave of guilt rushed over me. It's true, my thoughts began. You always photograph Smokey! You never post pictures of Braise. Why is that? Why?

And here, right now as I type this, caring words from my Dad return, just in the knick of time: "You think too much! Relax and enjoy life.") 

1-smokey tomato

One of the things I enjoy in life--one thing that relaxes me greatly--is photographing our 4-year-old golden retriever, Smokey. Training my lens on him--framing him within a variety of botanical backdrops--helps calm an overactive imagination (read "worry,"not "creativity"). In between writing and doing housework, chasing Smokey around the vegetable patch with my camera soothes a certain "go nowhere" agitation--the feeling that I should be doing something consistently, or face the fact: no matter how busy I'm nothing more than a sack of lazy bones.

Braise hollyhock

Blame the news (pestilence, war, climate change), but lately photographing Smokey has become an obsession--to the point where my social media feeds are clogged with dog.  I'm still reading the news, but these photo shoots help not to focalize on it.

But today's post is not about Survivor SmokeyBack to alive-and-well Braise (Smokey's 9-year-old mama--pictured above!). While she may not be my camera's muse, she became an inspiration in her own right the instant we met her at the dog pound. The year was 2006....

If a golden retriever could be homely she was--there in the shadow of her porcelaine-faced sister. Peering into the small cage, our family--including a then 10-year-old Max, an 8-year-old Jackie--were amazed by the rejected pups. Who would give up a couple of golden retrievers?

"Their mother was a breeder..." the woman at the animal rescue explained. "This was her last portée, or litter, and there were no buyers for these two." 

The trailer floor creaked as we stood up in the office of the animal rescue, where the puppies had just been abandoned. Huddled together now, it was time for our little family to make a decision. We had not set out on a search for goldens ("mutts are more intelligent," my Mom had hinted, when we began our search, which led us, eventually, to the French town of Le Muy--and down a dusty back road to a dog dump.

Kneeling to the floor once again, we gazed into the cage when the runt of the litter--the homely girl who initially cowered back--stepped forward in her little cage, leaving her beautiful sister in her shadow.

"I would like to call her Breizh*" Jean-Marc said, locking eyes with her.

"OK..." I agreed. A big deep breath later and we were barreling out of the dog orphanage, lest the owner come to her senses and reclaim the golden angel she'd given up.

In retrospect we should have taken both goldens. Kept the sisters together. But at that moment in time, one dog was as big of a decision as we were able to make. And when four years later Breizh gifted us with a baby, Smokey (the only male in a litter of 6), it was as though the heavens forgave us our oversight.

As for oversight, it took seven years to learn how to spell my dog's name. When my husband suggested "Breizh", I heard "BREZ" and wrote it down as "Braise" for the stories I would write about her. But I would like to correct that error now and, from here on out, pen our golden girl's name in Breton. "Breizh" is how the locals up north would write it. Breizh it is.   

Speaking of locals, a motley cast and crew is calling me now, brightly-colored characters from the backyard veggie patch! The tomatoes and basil and hollyhocks--and we'll see what else is ripe--they're ready to frame Smokey, once again. I think they're as obsessessed as I am. Anything to take their minds of climate change!

See you next time,



Sarriette (savory), strawberries, basil, estragon (taragon)... they love sharing the spotlight with Smokey. Need to mark "fines herbes" on that upended ash shovel (swiped it from Jean-Marc)


A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation.

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