When Max, the Collins’s beloved French bulldog, passed away in 2020, they realized that life would not be put right until they again had a Frenchie in the house. So, they went back to their source, Byrum’s French Bulldogs, in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. While there, they had an epiphany—if one bulldog was good, two would be even better. It was love at first sight. They adopted Cleo, a very young brindle puppy with the official name of Byrum’s Ballad of Cleopatra, nicknamed Cleo, and a year-old cream that could have been Max’s twin called Pearl. Her official name was Byrum’s Somebody to Love. Both bullies are the direct descendants of Max’s brother, Byrum’s Pirate-Jack Sparrow.
Cleo and Pearl are Applewood’s official dogs. It is not that unusual for Asheville estates or manors to have their own official canines. George Vanderbilt often had Cedric, a St. Bernard, by his side. And Cedric and his descendants had the run of the mansion’s first floor. Asheville is a dog lover’s town. There are a lot of outdoor dining areas, beer breweries, and taverns that welcome canine friends. In that spirit, Applewood Manor’s Cortland Cottage is also pet friendly and celebrates dogs of all kinds. Do not be surprised if you spot Cleo and Pearl hanging around the place. And in case you do, let me tell you a little about them.
Cleo, the brindle, is a minx—she is flirtatious and sneaky—more of a lover than a fighter. She likes cuddling and sleeping by the fire. She has a thing about toes and thinks they make good chew toys. So, sandal wearers be warned. Pearl on the other hand is the athlete, full of energy, and jumps with deer-like style. And she has a thing about shoes. Any unattended shoe is at risk, and she will hunt them down!
What most people do not know is that French bulldogs first became popular as pets of “ladies of the night.” The American Kennel Club website includes the following regarding their less that sterling history:
Amid its brasseries and bistros, the Montmartre neighborhood of Paris also had brothels – lots of them. Besides plunging necklines and silk stockings, the city’s belles de nuit often flaunted another accessory: a compact, snub-nosed little dog that sometimes had cartoonishly round, erect ears, and an always outsized personality. Other than companionship, these engagingly odd-looking dogs had a specific marketing purpose: They made very convenient icebreakers and were instant conversation starters with even the most awkward of clients. So indelible was this association between Paris’ fin de siècle working girls and their French Bulldog companions that the dogs began to appear alongside their scantily clad mistresses in risque postcards of the late-19th and early-20th centuries.
French Bulldogs of this period also turned up in more high-brow images, in particular the post-Impressionist paintings of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, the so-called “recorder of Montmartre.” His most famous canine subject was Bouboule, a Frenchie belonging Madame Palmyre, owner of the famous café La Souris (“the Mouse”).
A print of Toulouse’s painting of Bouboule hangs in Cortland Cottage.