Piedra: Living life in Paris by The Korn Dog Principle (column)
“Paris is always a good idea,” Audrey Hepburn once said. I agree. Paris has a unique charm; a place where, for centuries, people who could afford to live anywhere chose to reside.
I find that I like myself better in Paris, surrounded by great art, excellent cuisine, beautiful parks and interesting people. One walk around the block in my neighborhood in the Marais provides an inexhaustible number of interesting situations and extraordinary characters going about their daily routines.
One such character was Monsieur Korn, an elegant older man of aristocratic bearing whom I would invariably meet as he walked his two magnificent Afghan wolfhounds. At first, we would nod politely at each other when we crossed paths, but after a time, we began to exchange amiable bon jours until, one day, we started to have brief chats.
From these random encounters, I learned that he had lived in Colorado as a younger man and that his ancestral home was in the Loire Valley but that he found himself spending more and more time in his Paris pied-a-terre, across the street from my apartment.
As the years passed, the Afghan hounds were replaced by a pair of whippets. I missed the grace and refinement of the hounds — two virtues the whippets sorely lacked. These hapless animals had the air of canine juvenile delinquents; showing a nervous temperament, darting furtive looks and behaving as if they were planning some dastardly deed that they were too cowardly to execute.
Over time, I noticed the whippets were often being walked by Monsieur Korn’s gardener or the maid and I saw less and less of my old friend. Then I learned that Monsieur Korn was suffering from dementia and was in a home for the elderly. Little did I know what this change in dog-walking habits would entail.
One early evening last fall, my wife and I were walking home from a movie and, as we approached the intersection of rue Saint-Claude and rue des Arquebusiers, we saw the maid and the two malignant whippets standing at the corner. We went around them and said a polite bon soir to the maid when, suddenly, I felt a sharp pain in my left leg: The more revolting of the two dogs had bitten me. This mutt, in his unprovoked attack, had gone through my trousers’ leg and almost my own leg.
I jumped back, startled by this unexpected turn of events and cursed the stupid dog with a suitable Gallic expletive but kept my sang-froid and somehow managed to resist the urge to give it a good kick in the butt. I then limped home for the remaining hundred yards, examined my leg and cleaned and bandaged the area of the bite.
People who know me will tell you that, as a rule, I am a kind soul and that I handle life’s surprises and reversals with great equanimity. Not this time. I was livid. My peaceable after-movie stroll home had been interrupted by the repugnant encounter with this abominable mutt, and the gratuitous and wanton nature of the assault made my blood boil.
Fortunately, the French have procedures for everything, from how to eat a banana (with a knife and fork) to the proper shape of a wine glass (round for burgundy, oval for Bordeaux) so, naturally, there would be a procedure to follow when one is bitten by a dog. And, indeed, there is. It is called “Obligations reglementaires applicables aux chiens ayant mordu une personne.”
The dog’s owner must appear in person at city hall, report the incident, have the dog examined by the same veterinarian three times within a 15-day period and also have it undergo a psychological evaluation.
Now both the gardener and the maid walk the whippets. When they see me, the dogs feign an air of unconcern and look at each other as if saying, “We don’t know this guy, do we?”
For my part, I am adhering to what I now call the Korn Dog Principle: Avoid dog walkers, especially if they are whippets and belong to Monsieur Korn. My love for Paris remains undiminished by this unfortunate incident.
Lino Piedra, a retired car company executive, divides his time between Vail and Paris.