Seven dog-years have passed since. Still miss him.
Dr. Ruth claimed that the house would be needed for a family member. Briefly, I wondered why she bothered to rent it to me, knowing the circumstances and all. No, moving a second time within four months was not in the plans or in the budget. I favoured abandoning the entire book-writing adventure along with the Laurentians. An empty-handed return to the relative sanity of Toronto was preferable compared to the prospect of running into another flaky situation.
Things got weird. I guess she was afraid that I might have chosen to stay in the house and force her to honour the agreement. Honour seems to be an optional consideration when the ideals of Manifest Destiny mix with tenure to breed the Ugly American spirit. Still, it’s impossible to really know what goes on within the hearts and minds of other people.
For the most part, dogs are more transparent than people and I’m grateful that Ozzie and I were able to spend quality time together. We sure enjoyed those walks!
So long pal.
…Sunday (7/11) is here and the time is right for doggies on the trail, boy. The trail being the Corridor Aérobique, a sixty-kilometer cut that winds through Laurentian forest and stream. It’s used for walking, cycling and jogging by a few, perhaps by more for cross-country skiing.
A government project, the Corridor is equipped with governing rules intended to save us from ourselves as well as to save our government from lawsuits, from the same selves. Many rules have been carefully spelled out or depicted for us through official signage. Several different styles of signs are displayed at the trail’s public entrance points, all competing for attention.
The signs are posted upon a series of erect poles of varying size and position, reflecting perhaps, the hierarchical dominance of various governing bodies responsible for the trail; interestingly, dogs use these poles for the same purpose.
We’re told that cars, motorcycles, horseback riding, and snowmobiles are all prohibited. One icon indicates that dogs are not allowed to be off-leash. Another, funny as hell, declares that dogs aren’t allowed to poop, or it may be that they’re not allowed to squat like a dog when they do. In one section of signs, we’re informed that dogs and horses aren’t allowed at all. Along the trail there are signs which provide advice; arrêt, do not enter, wave your bell at the bear. There is also a plethora of directional signs around; I think that’s what they are, though I can’t be sure since they’re written in the French language.
To reach the Corridor Aérobique, Ozzy and I bypass the public entrance in favor of a path we pick up from the edge of our property. Following this through the woods, we eventually emerge onto the trail like Batman and Robin from the Batcave. The eight or ten kilometer stretch of the corridor that we access doesn’t seem to be used very much. During the countless hours we’ve spent on the trail, the total number of people we’ve met is less than fifty. We’ve seen more than two people on the trail in twenty-percent of the time we’ve been on it. Forty percent of the time we’ve seen only two people and, have not seen another person the rest of time.
Ozzy is eight dog-years old, the human equivalent of fifty-six. He is a genuine character and exudes charisma and gentle charm. Upon meeting him, people are frequently smitten, often reduced to unabashed cooing in both official languages; the kind of serious gurgling a person makes when they see an infant child they really do find adorable. Oz has also been described as a wimp by several of those of his acquaintance.
A sunny, errand-free day called for an extended hike up the Corridor. Apparently it was the call heard by many and we met more canine traffic in two hours than we have on any other five days combined. When Oz and I are in the woods the only time we need to consider a leash is when another dog appears.
Before we’d reached the halfway point of today’s trek, a beautiful Labrador Retriever came bounding around a bend, fifty yards ahead. The dog was off-leash, distanced from its owner and when he spotted us, broke into an enthusiastic charge. He was large and athletic and, while it’s hard to know for sure, I doubt that he had anything malicious in mind. Ozzy didn’t debate the issue for a second, however. In the same instant that Lab began his beeline toward us, Oz launched like a fighter-jet from an aircraft carrier.
With nary a sniff of discussion both dogs reared up into a jaw to jaw clinch like a pair of wrestlers. The Lab’s aggressive growl quickly escalated to a full-on, bared-teeth snarl. I didn’t see how it happened but Ozzy managed to thunk the Retriever heavily to the ground where it remained in submission with Oz standing over him. There weren’t any physical marks though it was clear the Lab had experienced a profoundly stirring wtf; Sonny Liston looking up from the mat after being KO’d by Ali.
Upon reaching the scene I attached Ozzy’s leash to his collar, thereby releasing the Lab to mope on down the road. At that point the dog’s master, complete with a sneer we found most gratifying, jogged past, presumably to catch up with his dog.
We resumed the walk, leash attached. The aggressive stuff isn’t our venue and if Ozzy’s behavior warrants a correction, I let him know. It seemed to me that his was an appropriate and adaptive response to the situation. Okay, I wasn’t too sure about the surge of pride that hung there in the air; the best response I could figure was to inhale deeply. A couple of minutes later as we were strolling along, Ozzy and I turned to look at each other, right on cue; I’m grinning, he’s wagging his tail. Yes, high-five, lose the leash.
The term “shades of gray” is often used to depict a connective spectrum between right and wrong and has been synonymous, in my mind, with the notion of doing the “right thing”.
Today I’m pretty sure that the “right thing” transcends that dubious scale of judgment. It’s more a sense of un-coerced alignment with a higher form of reason than it is a metric of the tangible absolute; the ending of certain Beatle songs, making an anonymous charitable donation or, the smell of a baby…freshly diapered.
Diversion. All the leaves have fallen though the effect on the forest is more evident by what has been revealed than what’s been taken away. Naked deciduous trees create an angular asymmetrical balance of muted texture, syncopated with strikes of white birch. During our stroll, a young Blue Jay landed on the trail just ahead of us. Tiny in size, its feathers had not yet developed the stunning hue of an adult, yet the arrival of this bird was arresting; no less so than if a red herring had dropped from the heavens.
While the completion of a novel is my primary purpose here, I’ve also been working on several other writing projects. Additionally, there have been a variety of other things going on, trivial background noise, that manage to soak up time and attention like a high-maintenance ShamWow cloth.
Recently, I was engaged in a debate with Dr. Ruth about effective approaches for training dogs. Near the end of the discussion, she asked if I’d ever actually owned a dog. Now, this point had absolutely nothing to do with the matter at hand and within the context, appeared to be a divisive tactic. The question implied that an opinion offered by those without a dog-owner credential would carry less validity than those with said credential. A mutual acceptance of this as factual truth is of course, inherent. My family bred the very genre of canine under discussion as it happens but, I digress. When you spot an O’Henry bar in the swimming pool, there’s only one safe place to go.
There is a technique taught to salespeople that is supposed to help during the closing stage of a deal. When the time comes to get the customer’s commitment, the salesperson is to offer the sales order form and then immediately ask. “Would you like to use my pen or would you prefer to use your own?” Diversion.
One purpose for ploys of this nature is to avoid a confrontation with change. The notion of changing one’s perspective is certain to meet with more resistance than buying a new box of widgets. We’d rather roll around in chunks of odoriferous sea-food de rouge than to consider the possibility of shifting a belief. One contributing factor to the strength of the reluctance to change is that we know the exchange of one innocuous understanding with another has the potential to shake up much more. Like pulling a card from the middle of a house of cards, a personal butterfly effect on the psyche
The thing is, once we’ve been exposed to a new thought, one that resonates regardless of how vehemently we resist, there’s no going back. It becomes like sand in our teeth and it’s just a matter of how long and how hard we choose to fight the inevitable. Many fight hard for a lifetime. Paradoxically, people will pine for a change, certain of the benefits it will bring, and still refuse to surrender.
To prevent parked airplanes from rolling away, a small wedge-shaped chock is used to block the wheels. The plane’s engine can be powered up to spin the propeller to its max and that plane will shudder, shake and roar; but it can’t go anywhere, stymied by the leverage of a simple piece of dead wood. Once that little wedge is removed, the sky’s the limit.