On a daily basis, across four countries, Ruth and I have had agitated dogs barking at us as we pass.  The dogs are almost always chained up or behind a fence, so they are rarely a real threat, though we do occasionally get a shot of adrenaline when they materialize from nowhere in a burst of noise and dog saliva.

I’m not sure why Europeans feel such a need for the security of a guard dog.  I suspect that crime rates are much lower in Europe than North America, but throughout Europe we frequently encounter warning signage and slavering, psychotic dogs.

Full disclosure: in the bifurcated world of pets I am a cat person.  I have never quite understood why it is legal to be on the streets of a modern city with a domesticated wolf.  We have all experienced that sudden jolt of fear when someone’s pet suddenly lunges at us.  Why is that permissible?  When a dog bites or threatens someone, I feel the dog should be destroyed and the owner horse whipped and given a kitten.  

Yesterday I was walking through a rural area on a designated trail, the GR653D.  Ahead of me a woman was walking up her private drive with three dogs.  One of them, of a middling size, was quite interested in me and eventually came running towards me.  It appeared to be friendly, but upon close approach suddenly began barking and lunging at me.  I made a slow retreat, yelling at the dog snapping within a foot of me.  I tried kicking it, which caused the dog to move back a few feet.  This allowed me a second to cast about for a weapon.  I stooped to pick up a few pieces of gravel, which were of some comfort, but of obviously limited value.  Then my eyes fell upon a fist sized rock, and everything changed.  There must have been a moment 3 to 5 million years ago when one of our australopithecine ancestors realized they could amplify their strength with a stick or a stone.  This was such a moment for me.  I picked up the stone and the visceral fear I had been experiencing changed to rage.  I’m not proud to say this, but I was going to kill that dog.  The owner realized this and was finally able to draw her dog off.  She was not the least apologetic, muttering something about her dog only understanding French, or something of that nature.  I said nothing but continued down the trail clutching my stone.  I carried it for another kilometre.

An hour or so later I emerged from the forest into a small village with unusually large parking lots and many references to the Virgin Mary.  “Ah,” I thought, “I’ll bet someone saw the Virgin Mary here.”  Sure enough, a quick Wikipedia search revealed that a local woman, Benoite Rencurel, an illiterate shepherdess, had repeated visitations from Mary from 1664 until her death in 1718.  She also chatted with Joseph on a number of occasions, as well as other saints.  The miracle was officially recognized by the Catholic Church in 2008 and now the town of Notre-Dame du Laus is an emerging Lourdes.  There is a large new convent / hotel, and the opportunity to visit Benoite’s house and other related landmarks.  

A mass was underway in the church as I went by, and I was able to listen to the sermon because it was being broadcast to the overflow crowd seated outside.  At one point there was applause from the congregation for a generous gift given by one of the attendees.  

My trail out of town was also a sort of way of the cross with various stops discussing Benoite’s very real conflict with Satan.  Laus was a strange corner of Catholicism to pass through.

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