April 2002
I may be just a dog, but I still lead a pretty cool life. How many dogs can say that their folks took them to lunch in a foreign country for their eighth birthday?
Toby looking out the back window of our new car
That was the birthday surprise that my folks had for me on March 19th. They took me to Italy for the day.  We went with my old friends Jim and Beth. They stayed with us for awhile at the gîte way back when we all first arrived in France. Now, we were staying with them for a few days in the house they were renting for the winter. It was in Antibes, so it wasn't too far to drive across the border to Italy. When we all piled in our car, I called dibs first for the back window, so I jumped in the back. Everyone else had to take the seats.

As soon as we crossed the border, I noticed that all of the signs were different, there were more cars on the road and the houses were closer together. Once we got out of the car, I could tell that everyone was speaking a border gatedifferent language.  It sounded to me as though they were singing.

When we opened the restaurant door, my group suddenly realized that they couldn't speak any Italian.  They all stood in the doorway pointing at me. For a moment I thought that they expected me to take over, to ask for a table, order and everything. That set my heart to racing, because I have never learned to speak. Then with great relief, I realized they were only asking in sign language if I could come into the restaurant.  Since the Italians are experts at talking with their hands, the waiter knew right away what they meant. He smiled at me, and lead us to a table.

My people didn't have any trouble reading the menu since they are all from San Francisco. There are so many great Italian restaurants there, that everyone learns menu Italian.  But for me, this was a totally new and really exciting experience. San Francisco might have great restaurants, but they don't let dogs come inside.  The only time I got to go to a restaurant back home was when they had outdoor tables.  Before I came to France, I never knew how delightful a restaurant could smell when all of those delectable food aromas are trapped inside the walls.  In this Italian restaurant the smells were deliciously intense. I found that I enjoyed them even more than the much more subtle and delicate French restaurant fragrances. I didn't need to look at a menu, I just wanted to order EVERYTHING!  

I couldn't wait for our food to arrive, so while my folks were busy talking I edged over to the next table. Two Italian guys were in the middle of their meal, and I was optimistic about my chances for a taste of their food.  I knew from my many experiences in French restaurants that my hungry look would probably win them over. But still this was a new challenge for me as a traveling dog. How would the Italians react to my pleading eyes?

Just like an actor, I took a little time to focus on the feelings and needs that I wanted my face and my eyes to express. When I felt ready, I sat up tall and presented them with my best look.

My biorhythms must have been in tune because it was my birthday, or maybe it was just that Italians are perceptive people, but whatever the reason, I was ever so pleased with the results. They started feeding me right away.  First they gave me bread sticks. Crunchy, yummy bread sticks. My tail wagged so fast that napkins were flying off the tables behind me.  This made them recognize me as a true gourmet, and they started handing me the good stuff right off their plates.   
Toby joins an Italian for lunch
In the middle of my scrumptious meal, when I was savoring some veal scallopini, my folks decided that they wanted to take my picture. Honestly, sometimes they are as bad as the paparazzi. I tried to ignore them, but the man I was dining with saw them jumping around trying to get my attention, and he made me pose so that we could dine in peace.

After our plates were clean, I began dreaming of tiramisu for dessert. I was sending out tiramisu vibes, hoping that someone would think to order me some, when I saw the waiter bring some to my folks' table. I said ciao to my new friends, and ran back over there.
Toby sleeping on the way home
 

Like many people who get taken out to a restaurant to celebrate their birthday, I was so full of pleasant experiences that I don't even remember the ride home.