Shutter dogs of March

What’s a shutter dog?
A shutter dog is a piece of hardware mounted to the outside wall of a building, and it’s designed to hold a shutter open so the shutter doesn’t flap around in the wind. If you do an online search for “shutter dog,” you’ll get results for hardware companies and blacksmiths who make hardware that goes by several names: tieback, holdback, hold-opens, shutter stays, and my favorite, shutter dogs.

Here in France, the term for a shutter dog is arrêt de volet (shutter stop) or the more colorful bergère de volet (shutter shepherdess). We also see tête de bergère (shepherdess head), or when the head is obviously male, it’s a tête de berger. The word is pronounced bair-jhair.

I think they’re wonderful, and I stop to photograph them often enough that I have a pretty good collection of photos. Now I only make a photo when I see a form that I don’t already have, or when the color or setting is interesting.

I invite you to meet some of my favorite bergers de volet.

The fellow above, in sky blue, is fairly typical in southern France. There are a lot of blue shutters, and the tête (head) is sometimes painted to match. As I was working on the photos for this story, I began to realize that each of them has a clear personality, which I describe in the captions.

This berger is in a nearby town, and well above ground level. From below I thought it was a lion, but with the close-up photo I realized that it’s a dragon. Photo by Lana Turner.
This berger, however, really is a lion.
A splendid fellow seen in Italy (love the mustache).
This berger looks strong and wise, and rather biblical.
A fierce berger to protect the house.
A minty bergère, with a flower.
I named this one “Puzzled Bergère” because she has faint frown lines.
It appears that this berger has a second job working in the coal mines.
Purple shutters seen in Durfort.
This berger looks to me like the parish priest of a sleepy village.
A patrician bergère.
This bergère wears a string of pearls and resembles Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
This is the same figure as the coal miner above, but something about this one reminds me of Corporal Radar O’Reilly on M*A*S*H, so this is the Radar Berger (no spectacles).
This design puts me in mind of the World War II-era Women’s Army Corps, so she’s a WAC Bergère.
From the Pink City of Toulouse, we have today’s final selection, a lovely bergère with a rose.

March happenings
I wanted to get this post finished in time for National Pi Day (USA), which is Tuesday, March 14. In the U.S. that date is written variously as 3-14, or 3/14, or 3.14, and if you remember from geometry, 3.14 is pi, the ratio of a circumference of a circle to its diameter. So here’s to all the mathematicians out there!

Other noteworthy dates in March:
March 8 : International Women’s Day
March 15 : The Ides of March (hail, Caesar)
March 17 : Saint Patrick’s Day
March 20 : Vernal Equinox, the first day of spring
March 25 : Annunciation Day (Annonciation in French)

The photograph above is from Paris, and I included it for the circle, its circumference and its diameter. But it’s also an arrêt de volet—a shutter dog—its mount loose enough that it could swing freely and scribe the perfect partial circle into the wall.

2 thoughts on “Shutter dogs of March”

  1. Hello Cathy, thank you for writing today! I’m glad you found this post interesting, and thanks for letting me know that I wasn’t seeing things when I saw Sandra Day O’Connor cast in iron and mounted to the side of a house!


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