Educating Archie in French
Tout suite for words – rescue dog falls for volunteer’s accent
STAFF at Harefield Dog Centre have had to adopt French accents when speaking to Archie the jack russell.
The dog was taken in as a stray and restored to health at Harefield rescue centre by a volunteer who comes from France – and he loves her accent so much that French has become his first language.
Now Archie the jack russell terrier will only fully obey commands if staff copy her distinctive accent.
Archie was found as a stray earlier this year before being brought by the Dogs Trust to its rehoming centre at Harefield.
For the last eight months, nursery school teacher Marie-Hélène Léoni, originally from Savoie in the French Alps, has spent most weekends with him, allowing him to socialise and adjust to a home environment.
Miss Leoni, 57, who became a Dogs Trust volunteer helper after her own dog passed away eight years ago, said: “Archie was very worried when I first met him, but working alongside the canine carers at the centre, I could see his potential.
“So I started taking him home for weekends, and we’d go for long walking holidays together in Castleton, Derbyshire.
“I’d sing him classic French children’s songs, like A la Volette, Meunier tu dors and Il était un petit navire.
“I’d also call him French pet names such as Toutou – which is what children in France call dogs.
“I call him Poupounette too, which translates as ‘lovely doggie’ and mon petit chou, meaning ‘my little darling’, and after that he started trusting me more and more.
“And because Archie was responding so well to what I was saying, staff at the centre started to speak to him in a French accent.”
Lizzie Smith, a canine carer at Dogs Trust, added: “Archie had clearly had some bad experiences before he was rescued.
“But following the groundwork carried out by the Dogs Trust team at Harefield, Marie-Hélène’s patience, love and devotion has helped return his confidence and made such a difference to his life.
“She does have a lovely French accent, and it’s astonishing to see the way Archie will only react when he hears it - which means during the week when he’s back with us, the staff try to replicate Marie-Hélène’s accent, with varying degrees of success.”
Miss Leoni moved to England in 1977 to improve her English skills, and now owns her own nursery school in west London.
She said: “After my dog died I still wanted one in my life, and when I discovered what Dogs Trust was doing, in terms of rescuing and finding new homes for dogs, I wanted to help.”
Staff at the Dogs Trust centre say Archie is now ready to find a loving new home.
He is described as shy and sensitive who takes time to get to know people, but once he does he will make a loyal companion.
To enquire about Archie call the Dogs Trust on 01895 453930 or see w w w. d og s t r u s t . o rg . u k / our-centres/harefield
n BONJOUR: Dogs Trust Volunteer Marie-Hélène Léoni with Archie the Jack Russell