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November 16, 2009

Ozzy Offers a Comment on Rules

…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” transcended 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.



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