"If [Roger] Grenier [a French novelist, essayist and editor] suggests that the experience of loving a dog is life-affirming, he means it in the very Gallic sense that life is lived more keenly in the knowledge of death. Dogs help with this, in short, because they generally predecease their owners: 'Because dogs inflict the suffering of loss upon us, the French sometimes call them beasts of sorrow, bêtes de chagrin.'"
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Source: Alison Gillmor, "It's a Dog's Life," an article in the April 2007 issue of The Walrus. In the quote above, the writer of the article is discussing The Difficulty of Being a Dog (University of Chicago Press, 2000) by Roger Grenier. Read Wikipedia about him (in French, alas) here.