Luka and I have been charged by deer just beyond our house four times this spring. Yesterdays confrontation came close to being as bad as the time she was assaulted by a deer a couple years ago. I’ll tell that story first. This is going to be a long tangential post.
I was still doing construction and had just gotten off work. I took Luka for a walk by the gully near our house. The evening was beautiful; the sun soft and setting behind the mountains. She was on leash and we’d just crested the rise above the gully beside the community gardens. I breathed in the cool air thinking how blissful this moment was when a young deer popped up the ridge just fifteen feet from us. I was taken by surprise and stared at it for a second then waved my hand and said ‘Git outta here’ but it didn’t move and it seriously looked like it was scowling at us. Then it charged. I was so shocked it blasted right past me and started pummeling my dog with it hooves. Luka fell backwards and slipped out of her collar. I screamed, swung her leash and whacked the deer across its back. Luka bolted down the hill and I hollered ‘Run!’ which was ridiculous; she was already running. The deer knocked her down again and was stomping her. A guy on the other side of the fence in the community garden yelled ‘Get some rocks!’ I looked down but there were no rocks at hand. Luka got up but stumbled again getting hit by the deer each time.
They were heading straight for the busy road. I shouted ‘Stop!’ and caught up to her. The deer dropped back down into the gully and the two of us ran the block back home. Both of us were shaking uncontrollably. I checked her quickly, she was bleeding from gashes on her legs. I called Darby at work to come home right away.
After I hung up the phone I dialed my brother’s girlfriend to warn her as she walks her dog in the same area. After I fumbled out the tale she cautiously asked ‘What time did this happen?’
‘Just now like 15 minutes ago!!’ There was a pause and a deep exhale. She said ‘I was just across the street on the clay banks with Meggie (her previous dog -r.i.p- was black like Luka but a bit smaller) and there was this small deer she took off on. I tried to stop her but they were so fast… she chased it across the street into the gully… where you guys were… I’m sorry I think this was instigated by us.’ I was still shaking but we started laughing. ‘The deer must have come up the rise and seen Luka and been like Fuck you mother fucker and attacked!’
I have to admit when the deer shot after her, in my shock the first thing that came to my mind was (and I’m not kidding) this is the zombie Apocalypse and the animals have turned. I thought that, with the setting sun, the world was about to burst into flames and rain blood. I say this in a totally atheistic non biblical way. I guess in the heat of the moment that’s where my head turns…I suppose that’s what being raised on horror movies does to a young mind.
Darby called the emergency vet line. The attendants on call have always been amazing. She told us to press on Luka’s gums and depending on how quickly the blood came back it would indicate internal bleeding. We checked over and over to be sure and it looked good. She was moving fine, didn’t yelp when we pressed her limbs and ribs, ate like she usually does with voracity so we felt it was safe to wait till the morning to take her to our vet for a check over. I don’t think I slept that night. In the end we were very lucky, she was bruised and gashed but otherwise fine. After this we heard many stories from people who lost their dog to a deer attack. Their hooves are razor sharp and usually rupture the dogs internal organs. Since then Luka has always ran the other way when she sees a deer and the deer are plentiful here.
I resumed walking in that area though cautiously. If I saw any we went the other way but this spring there have been instances where we’ve been stalked. Each time it has appeared from behind and even if we tried to get as much distance from it as possible, it’s chased us. One time I stupidly had my ipod on listening to Thor really loud. Luka tried to take off and I turned around to see a deer creeping up from the trees. We ran across the street. Fortunately the road was busy and it couldn’t cross but it trailed us from the other side for at least a block.
Yesterday afternoon we walked the neighborhood where there is a small bricked in power station. There is an old grove of trees I thought would be a nice shady place to let Luka sniff around. A deer emerged from the upper road and charged. We ran but it kept coming. I turned to face it and morphed into a god damn wolf mother; gnashing and snarling, making my self as menacing as possible while holding Luka tight by the leash behind me. It held its ground not ten feet from us and as we backed away from it, it did not relent. It didn’t want any business with me but every time Luka came more into it’s view it would lunge forward. I kept shrieking like a banshee hoping it would give up. I backed onto a rock twice the size of my fist, snatched it quickly and hurled it as hard as I could at its rib cage. The deer bolted up the small rise in the trees but when I threw the rock Luka also slipped out of her collar and the deer seeing us apart, charged again. I grabbed Luka by the scruff of her neck and we ran to the road and all the way home.
Our hearts were pounding. Luka panted and trembled then slept for five hours. She surfaced at sunset needing to go out again.
To be safe, this time we headed down the hill to the beach where the deer usually only go in the early morning. We ran into my friend Cole walking his black lab. He was wearing mardi gras beads saying they were to get him psyched up to go to his studio after the walk and work on some paintings. I told him what happened and was still so amped the words stumbled out of my mouth in such a mess I knew I needed to write it out. He laughed ‘Would the vegan kill the deer?’ I told him I kept thinking I was going to have to tackle it if it got her and then what would I do? Wrestle it? Punch it? As we approached the bridge over the creek I yelled ‘I blame NAFTA!’ Cole looked at me out of the corner of his eyes and let out a laugh that whistled through his missing front tooth.
I do blame the Free Trade Agreement because our valley use to have a strong apple growing, soft fruit industry but after NAFTA, Washington state which subsidizes their apple growers started dumping their fruit into our Province on mass. Even during apple season if you go into any of the supermarkets all the apples for sale have USA stickers on them. It reached the point that the growers here couldn’t afford to pick their own crops. We were over saturated with cheaper fruit from the states and because the local fruit was more expensive none of the markets would stock it. The orchard across from my parents house had a thousand trees and he had to let all of the fruit rot. I remember looking across the road and seeing the biggest stag of my life in that orchard feasting on apples. The governments response to the fruit growers distress was ‘There’s money in wine grapes.’ Thousands and thousands of trees were mulched and now we have rows upon rows of vines. With wine grapes being a fragile crop came deer fences. Previously the fruit growers left their orchards open and the deer had safe pathways to and from the lakes. Once all these fences sprung up the deer routes were displaced and herds started to settle in town closer to the water. Now there have been several generations born in town, surlier; more or less fearless. I’ll sometimes have five or more deer eating the Hawthorn tree in my yard.
A few years ago we were building what Cole called the most hideous structure he has ever had the embarrassment of putting a tool to and I called it the white albatross. It’s a wine manufacturing plant and was built over an old apple orchard just up the road from my parents house. Technically it was built on agricultural land reserve and should have stayed agricultural but the money behind it ranges in the billions so it was easy for them to just pay off who ever they needed to. That’s another reason I quit construction. The small company (of whom I love each and everyone of them) I worked for took on high end jobs. I kept witnessing the privileges of the rich and it made me sick and angry. All of the environmental rules could be broken at a cost. It is so ugly and even though we all thought it was ugly, at the end of the day we were pawns to it, our pay checks came and they came on time if we kept our opinions to ourselves and kept working.
I wondered for years why Cole was missing his front tooth but was always too shy to ask. Thankfully one day on a lunch break he told the story. He and his girlfriend were driving down the coast and came across two women and a Volkswagen van needing a push start. They hoped out and gave a hand. Cole immediately noticed the amazing pair of cowboy boots one of the women was wearing. They pushed the van till the driver was able to turn over the engine and as they paused to celebrated, he said ‘Hey by the way you’ve got a great set of boo-‘ Wham! He woke on the ground lip split open, blood streaming from his mouth and his front tooth missing. She clocked him right in the face thinking he wasn’t saying boots. Years later he sold a few paintings that left him with enough money to get his tooth fixed but then it was busted out again in a rugby match and now as a single parent of two kids he just leaves it as is and whistles when he laughs.
A couple doors down grazing on landscaping shrubbery.
I’ll finish off this deer tangent with one of dad’s favorite stories about taking me to see Disney’s Bambi on a Sunday matinee. I don’t remember how old I was but I hadn’t quite coherently grasped language yet. I apparently talked a lot but it was a babble only my brother seemed to comprehend. The theater was full and dad said at the opening credits I stood up wide eyed and clutched the lip of the seat in front of me. Bambi kicks off pretty brutally with the mother being murdered by hunters. The terrifying orchestral music as Bambi’s mother screams ‘Run Bambi Run!!’ Then a C-R-A-C-K. Silence; save for crows and ravens cawing at the disturbance. Bambi emerges from the thicket quietly calling ‘Mother?’ Dad said the theater was muffled with sobs as parents, irate that Disney was forcing them to broach the subject of death in an animated feature, tried to avert this by consoling their children that everything was fine. But it wasn’t and from the back sixth row a single voice shrilled out ‘Some Bloody Hunter Just Shot Bambi’s Mother!!!!‘ The theater erupted like a volcano. He said parents were carrying hysterical children out in droves while he sat there laughing and clapping proudly that I had just put together my first linear sentence. I was completely unfazed by my out burst and transfixed by the dancing meadow and introduction of Thumper & Flower. The term ‘bloody’ comes from my Australian mother who to this day still says ‘Oh bloody hell’ on a regular basis.