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by Don Drewniak

For reasons that have long since departed from my memory, my wife, Dolores, and I began taking karate lessons in the late 1970s. We each had progressed to an orange belt after two or three months.

I was also running five to ten miles a day, six days a week. My favorite route was a near exact 5-mile loop that began and finished at our home in lightly-populated Princeton, Massachusetts. The loop was a triangle formed by three roads. Both sides of the roads were heavily wooded with no more than twenty houses scattered along the route.

Running clockwise, the final mile was predominately downhill. Situated on the downhill was a house set about thirty-feet back from the road that had been unoccupied for well over a year.

I was about halfway through the downhill on an early-morning run when three small yapping dogs bolted from the front porch of the house and made a beeline toward me. Two of the three stopped at the edge of the road, while the third (the largest of the three) kept coming, caught up to me and bit the back of the running shoe on my right foot.

Instinctively, I went into the stance of the latest karate move that Dolores and I had supposedly mastered, Crash-of-the-Eagle.

I’m going kick the #@*&!$% to Chuck Wagon Heaven.

Instead, I kicked the back of my left foot with my right leg. Down I went as the dog continued its efforts to use me for its breakfast. On the edge of the road to my left was a thin tree branch about three-feet in length. I grabbed it and swung it at the dog. It was rotted and broke into pieces.

At that point, a woman dressed in a housecoat materialized on the front porch and yelled, “Why don’t you run somewhere else?”

I hurled every invective at her that I learned as a kid growing up in Fall River, Massachusetts and often used while in the U.S. Army in the late 1960s/early 70s. A man (her husband) came out of the house wearing only a pair of pants and called off the dog who then retreated back toward the porch. He said something to his wife and pointed to the front door. In she went.

I am certain that at this point he feared a lawsuit, especially if I was hurt. With bare feet and arms by his side, he walked slowly toward me. I was standing at the time and was not hurt, but was pissed.

“Did the dog bite you?”

“No, just my running shoe.”

“We’ll pay for new ones.”

“Not necessary. No damage.”

“Do you run by here often?”

“Yes, I live around the bend on East Princeton Road.”

“I apologize for my wife. We just returned from England two days ago. I promise you that I will have a chain-link fence put up as soon as I can get someone here to install it.”

“Good enough.”

We engaged in small talk for about ten minutes, shook hands and I then completed my run. The fence was in place four days later.

Karate lessons ended two weeks later when the instructor was hit and killed by a bus when walking across a rotary in downtown Worcester, Massachusetts.