Parisians shared their city with animals: livestock en route to slaughter, fish and fowl in the markets, horses bearing riders or pulling coaches, more dangerous or exotic creatures on display for pay. The rhinoceros Clara spent five months in the city in 1749. The residents of the capital had lice in their hair, bugs in their clothes, and mice, if not rats, in their homes. They kept birds, cats, and especially dogs as pets. We see canines in the center or corner of more than a few paintings of rural and urban, public and private scenes. We find them in fables, in travel accounts, natural history, and police records. Tame dogs followed their masters through the parks. Wild dogs hunted for foodscraps in the streets and sometimes chased or bit pedestrians.

Oudry, Louis XV’s Polydore & Greuze, Le Fils Puni

What do dogs have to do with sex between men? Not much, but the archives include a few colorful references. When Joseph Helophe suggested quick sex, the decoy he had propositioned objected, “What, in an alley, like dogs?” (AB 10257, f. 351).[1] Like animals, without foreplay, without passion, and, more to the point, at least for the decoy, without a chance of getting Helophe arrested? Speaking of passion, Louis Gérard declared to a decoy, “Ah, little dog, how I love you. If you wish I’ll put it into you up to the hair, and later I’ll introduce you to fine folks who will be delighted to see you and have relations with you.”

Naval officer Courcelle accosted a man walking a small dog by telling him that “he had a pretty little animal,” caressing the dog, inviting its master to sit down next to him, and shoving his hand into his breeches (AB 10255, f. 331). Louis Gouffier broke the ice with a decoy on the Pont au Change by calling his attention to a man bathing a dog in the Seine. “He told me that the dog was cold, that the water was cold, that he did not think a man who bathed could get hard in the water, and that a man who left the water was hardly in a state to amuse himself. He had seen one, however, who was as hard in the water as if he were in his bed,” which aroused him, Gouffier (AB 10256, f. 108).

Several other police reports mention dogs as attractions or distractions (AB 10258, ff. 29, 62, 68).

[1] For derogatory usage of the word see also 10831, f. 194v; 10925, f. 189; 12058, f. 30.

Author: Jeffrey Merrick