Cross­ing the Line

The Hound of the Board­walk

Canadian Running - - FEATURES - Steve Crab is an es­say­ist, pho­tog­ra­pher and dog lover, based in Nanaimo, B.C. By Steve Crabb

With my morn­ing run all but com­plete, I in­creased my pace for the last kilo­me­tre, which was a mix of boggy trail and board­walk. As I tran­si­tioned onto the slick boards, I knew my speed was too fast, but I wasn’t wor­ried about slip­ping – I’d run it a mil­lion times. The morn­ing sun had pen­e­trated the for­est canopy enough to cause a mist to form along the planks. Through the haze I no­ticed what looked to be a mid­dleaged woman and a men­ac­ing Labrador about 200 me­tres away. Even from this dis­tance I could see that the woman was wear­ing the req­ui­site West Coast garb – rain-shell and gum­boots. She was mov­ing pur­pose­fully, in­tent on her morn­ing walk. The dog looked young and sleek; its fur was shiny and jet black. It was out in front of her, leash-less and run­ning two and fro, head down and sniff­ing ev­ery­thing in sight. The board­walk was about a me­tre wide, too nar­row for us to pass with­out hug­ging each other on the way by – one of us would have to re­lin­quish the right of way. The trail on which the board­walk was perched was slightly wider than the board­walk it­self, al­low­ing for a one­foot di­vide of wa­ter­logged trail be­tween the board­walk and the for­est. I stepped off to give them pas­sage, my trail shoes slosh­ing along the soggy ground. It was at that pre­cise mo­ment that the dog no­ticed me.

Now, I know a thing or two about dogs, so I was very at­tuned to the ag­gres­sive pos­ture it was ex­hibit­ing when it aban­doned its trail­sniff­ing ac­tiv­i­ties and stared right at me. In spite of this, and I ad­mit, fool­ishly, I kept run­ning hell-bent to­ward it. My eyes os­cil­lated be­tween trail and dog as I nav­i­gated the nar­row cor­ri­dor: one leg next to the board­walk and the other brush­ing against the sword ferns of the en­croach­ing for­est. But as the gap be­tween us de­creased, the dog be­came my pri­mary fo­cus. Sud­denly, with­out warn­ing, I felt in­tense pain in my quads. Stopped dead in my tracks, I col­lapsed to the ground. I looked up to see what on Earth had lev­elled me.

Hid­den by sword ferns be­side the trail, was part of a fallen tree: a half-foot di­am­e­ter log about a me­tre from the ground, but par­al­lel to it – and treach­er­ously cam­ouf laged by a com­bi­na­tion of fo­liage, mot­tled sun­light and mist. I was stunned and dazed; I imag­ined this must be how a bird feels af­ter it has f lown into a win­dow. Then I heard it – nails on the board­walk – and mov­ing fast.

I looked up to see the Lab run­ning hard to­wards me. I was still ly­ing in­ca­pac­i­tated, half on the trail and half in the un­der­growth, and the hair on the back of my neck stood up as I braced my­self for the im­mi­nent en­counter. Be­fore I could move, the dog was on me. I quickly turned away to pro­tect my face. I felt its breath on my ear, and then it at­tacked. I strug­gled to get up as it vis­cously licked my face, bat­tered me with its wag­ging tail and squealed loudly into my ear. The woman had fi­nally caught up and was at­tempt­ing to leash the dog that had now dis­cov­ered my bleed­ing leg and was re­lent­lessly try­ing to lick it. I slowly man­aged to get to my feet as the woman as­sessed me. She was very con­cerned as to my phys­i­cal (and psy­cho­log­i­cal) con­di­tion, not com­pre­hend­ing why I had run smack into the log that was clearly vis­i­ble from her di­rec­tion. I pet­ted her dog’s head and tried to ex­plain, but found I couldn’t tell her the main rea­son I had run right into the log was that I was so fo­cused on her “dan­ger­ous” dog – the one that had just tried to lick me to death. I half-ran and half-hob­bled away in em­bar­rass­ment, look­ing back and as­sur­ing her I was fine as the Lab stared af­ter me, head tilted and tongue hang­ing out, won­der­ing why play­time was over.

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