November 2001
This summer I cruised to Belgium and back, and I learned so much about barge travel.  It's really cool, once you get the hang of not falling overboard.

Toby at the door of a hotel bargeOne of the best parts of cruising is mooring at night near other boats.  Boaters are so friendly. Soon it became apparent to me that all boats had one thing in common, they all carry lots of good food. I like the big hotel barges. The aromas that float over from their kitchens are real attention getters. They can even wake me up from a nap. As soon as I get a whiff, I go over and sit by their kitchen door.  I give them my perpetually optimistic, I'm a little hungry look, and wait. The staff, seeing me sitting there so politely, almost always give me something delicious. Of course, after the first treat I stay right where I am and wait patiently for another.

When my folks find me begging they always say the same thing, "You would think we never feed him." They should know by now that food is my life. I am always happy to stay at one port for at least a couple of days, because then I can learn which boats will feed me. The next morning I am back to those boats in a flash.  I have really honed my hungry look this summer.  It works like a charm every time now.

While traveling we often go out to lunch, and the tables in small cafés are usually pretty close together. This gives me a chance to meet people. One time I met this nice man who was sitting at the table next to us.  He liked me a lot.  He gave me bread soaked with gravy. I gave him my best look, and he gave me more food.  He said he wanted to take me home, and I think he thought it was friendship for life. After his lunch, he went to the bar for coffee. My attention went to another table near me.  They had treats for me too. Wow! A few minutes later the first man came back, saw me giving my look to the other table and said to my folks, "Il est infidèle." He left looking a little disappointed.

Toby at a Paris cafeParis was one of my favorite stops this summer. We spent a lot of time there, and we went often to a café on the Champs Élysées where they always served me water in a Champagne bucket. I felt just like a movie star as I sipped from my bucket. People kept pointing at me and smiling as they walked down the boulevard.

On our trip north we entered one lock where we met a friendly French dog named, Luc.  His master was the lock keeper, and he showed us that Luc could do several clever tricks.  My folks began putting me through my paces to show how smart I was. I could do almost every trick that Luc could do, but he won the contest with donne la patte. When my folks tried to get me to do the same trick I did not know what they wanted. They had never taught me to shake hands in English, let alone in French.

As soon as we left the lock, my folks began to teach me this trick. We worked on it during the summer, and on the way home this fall, we entered the same lock and there was Luc. The lock keeper told Luc to sit, and so my folks told me to sit. Then Luc was told to lie down, so I was told to lie down. Suddenly it was the International Dog Olympics, the United States against France, trick against trick.  I heard my folks chanting, U.S.A! U.S.A!

This time I vowed that things would be different.  I took a couple of deep cleansing breaths and imagined myself performing perfectly. I pictured myself winning. I was focused.Proud Toby sitting before an American flag

Luc was good, and he looked confident. He thought that he would win again with his hand shaking trick. When I was told in English to shake hands, I did. I looked at Luc and saw that he looked a little worried. I listened carefully for the donne la patte command, and when I heard it, I gracefully lifted my paw and shook hands. I did it. I had concentrated and understood the command in French. Luc's master threw in the towel when he saw that I was bilingual.  I won because of my French language skills.

I was proud to win for my folks and for my country.