Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Oh deer!

Yes, I'm way behind. This working-for-a-living thing really has its drawbacks. On the bright side, Hathaway has a brand spanking new, personalized (!) mat under his dinner dishes that is keeping the kitchen floor much cleaner ... that is on the days he doesn't rummage through the trash.

Those days are fewer and farther between. Our encounters with wildlife this fall, however, are definitely more frequent. No, we haven't had any more coyote adventures thank goodness. But there are the squirrels and turkeys and deer, oh my!

Our deer encounter was by far the coolest. Bambi wanted to play.

In late September, Hath and I took some early morning walks, usually strolling through the cemetery across the street just after the sun came up, enjoying the last bits of summer before the autumn chill set in.

I usually have him off the leash over there, since we are away from the cars and he's really not too spontaneous. He never bolts after anything, and he comes when he's called. So we are walking along. He's sniffing and peeing. As we came around a bend, I see two fawns about 30 yards away. I'm so surprised, I stop in my tracks, hoping to have a moment to look at them before they run off.

The deer, however, aren't paying much attention to me. They are watching the fawn-colored pit bull walking along the edge of the path. Hathaway, oblivious, is sniffing and peeing. As he got closer, they got curiouser, still standing quite still, but raising their ears and twitching their tails. Their noses were sniffing like mad and the bolder one took a step forward.

Though he was now only about 10 yards away, Hathaway still hadn't noticed his company. I hadn't moved much, wanting to see what they would do.

When the deer finally started to move, Hathaway looked up and stopped. His tail went up and he sniffed. He looked at me, and looked back at them, then tentatively took a couple of steps forward, then a couple more. I was getting a little closer to take pictures with my phone, but Hathaway got to within about 5 feet.

The bolder deer, to my amazement, not to mention awe, stretched his front legs forward, neck bent, butt raised, in the classic play position. "Bring it on, pit bull," he was saying. "We want to run!"

Hathaway doesn't even chase squirrels, so he certainly didn't know what to make of these two creatures who were more than twice his size. He watched them and sniffed then, and then he did it -- he chased them.

Sort of. He trotted forward, at not even half speed. The deer took off, running about 10 yards, then circling back to wait when they saw he wasn't following. They did it again and again -- Hath sort of chasing, the deer running away, then coming back to wait for him.

The three of them played for nearly 15 minutes, working their way through the cemetery until I finally put him back on his leash. They were getting closer to the busy street at the bottom of the hill, and I didn't want any of them taking this game into traffic. We did another lap around the cemetery and one of the deer followed us a for a short distance before running off.

People who have pets know that animals are very effective communicators. They let us know many times a day what they want, what they need and what they do and do NOT like. They may not use words, but their body language says it all.

They do it between species as well. The deer told Hath that they wanted to play, and he obliged them with a little game of chase. It was the most incredible moment (to date) in a series of special moments with this dog.