When Skye Swan, founder of Los Angeles-based Cause4Paws, came across two Bichon Frises being held at a high-kill shelter in Lancaster, California, she knew she had to step in. The dogs, who were approximately 2 years old at the time, had been there for a few weeks and their time was almost up.
Swan pulled the dogs from the shelter and decided to foster them until they could find forever homes. The moment she took them in, however, she realized how closely the dogs were bonded and decided they had to stay together.
She began posting about the dogs, named Hector and Hugo, online, asking her social media and animal rescue network to help find the dogs a new home. But no locals seemed to want to commit to adopting two dogs at once.
“Due to the fact that LA is overwhelmed with unwanted homeless pets, it was very difficult to find forever homes here for them,” she says. “It’s difficult to find one dog, let alone a bonded pair. The shelters here are in crisis mode and bursting at the seams.”
As it became clear that no one in the Los Angeles area could help, news began to spread to Swan’s friends across the country. Eventually, the photos of Hugo and Hector caught the eye of a European dog lover, Matthew Fraser, who expressed interest in bringing the pair to live with him in France.
“I saw a photo of Hugo on Facebook. He’d just been abandoned at a shelter in LA [and] he looked emaciated and un-groomed,” Fraser says. “I was very far away in Paris, but I wrote a message on the Facebook thread saying: ‘If someone will please go and rescue this poor little dog, I will give him a home.’”
Fraser had previously owned Bichons in the past and was very close to the breed. In fact, his last Bichon, Oscar, died just months before he found the dogs online.
“Initially I had no plan to adopt another dog, but when I saw Hugo’s photo, I reacted spontaneously by proposing to give him a home,” he says.
After connecting with Swan about Hugo, Fraser found Hector, who of course needed a home as well. “I told her to bring both of them to Paris,” he says.
The next step was to prepare the dogs for travel, which Swan says was no easy feat.
“We don’t normally adopt out of state, or for that matter out of the country, without doing a home check first for the safety of our pets,” she says. “I always wanted to go to Paris, so why not [make the trip for the] love of dogs?”
It took close to six months to prepare the dogs and their paperwork for the trip. Some of that was due to Swan’s schedule, she says, and the fact that it was the very first time she’d ever try to do an international adoption. “It was very stressful and took a lot of work, but was well worth it,” she says.
Swan and a friend accompanied the dogs to Paris, giving them first-class treatment on the 11-hour flight from California. Upon their arrival, the pups met their new owner and it was love at first sight.
“As soon as we got to my place, I took Hugo and Hector for a walk on the Champ de Maris under the Eiffel Tower,” says Fraser. “They were totally normal, running around like two happy little dogs. It was as if they’d just crossed the road, not flown half way around the world. From the first day, they were perfectly normal and adjusted.”
Since their arrival in France, Hector and Hugo have been loving their Parisian lifestyle.
“I am a university professor and writer, so I’m at home quite a lot,” says Fraser. “I live right on the Seine near the Eiffel Tower, so they go for walks in the most beautiful part of Paris — along the river, in the Tuileries, on the Champ de Maris, around the Invalides. It’s a luxury life for two Bichons in Paris!”
And though it took an enormous amount of work to pull of, Swan couldn’t be happier with how it all turned out.
“Hector and Hugo have a wonderful life in Paris,” she says. “They literally went from rags to riches. And they’re very much loved.”
Images via: Matthew Fraser
Nicole Pajer is a freelance writer who lives in Los Angeles with her husband, energetic Doberman, and rat terrier.