Early Monday morning I was awoken by Tucker barking a steady, strong alarm downstairs in his crate. I’d never heard him do that before, so I got out of bed and peered out the window into the darkness. There was a car parked off the road right in front of my house, and in its headlights I could see a woman moving around outside. I thought she maybe had wrecked her car so I pulled my boots and coat on over my pajamas, grabbed my Maglite, and stepped outside.
A man emerged from the car and explained that they’d hit a small deer right in front of my house. It hadn’t done much more than break their car’s headlight, but the deer was lying by my mailbox, still alive. They didn’t know what to do with it.
“I have a small knife in the car, but I’m on my way to work and wearing a white shirt,” the man said.
“Just leave it,” I said, hoping that it was injured enough that it would soon die on its own. The couple got back in their car and continued down the dark road.
As I got ready for work I kept checking on the deer, which had enough strength left to flop circles around the quince bush by the mailbox. As I approached it each time, it tried to run but appeared to have one or more broken legs. As it got later it appeared to lose strength, and its eyelids drooped and were closed by the time I left the farm. Unfortunately, it was still breathing.
From work I called the county police to send someone out to shoot the deer, which they did. They also claimed VDOT would be along to collect the body.
Of course VDOT workers have better things to do like stand around staring at potholes, and when I got home from work the deer was still there, now with a fresh bullet hole in its chest and minus its eyeballs and intestines thanks to a flock of gigantic vultures. I couldn’t have this animal rotting in my front yard, so I tied a piece of twine around its neck and began to tug it, revealing a dark blood spot and spent red shell case under the body. It was much heavier than I was expecting–I’d guess at least 65 pounds. In short bursts I dragged the deer all around the perimeter of my property line into the field behind my house. I took the long way to avoid dragging its scent through my yard, trying to avoid enticing my dog to follow the trail.
The creature grew heavier when we hit the thigh-high grass of the hayfield. I had to stop every few feet just to rest and readjust the twine that was cutting into my hands. Each time I started up again the deer’s leathered snout banged against the heels of my boots.
I found a nice hollow several hills away from the house and pointed the sightless body west, the direction it was traveling when it was hit. I tied the twine into a bow around the deer’s neck and walked away. When I got back to the site of the kill even the shell case was gone, carried off by the red-attracted scavengers who still watched from a nearby tree, wondering what I’d done with their dinner.
It was only late that night, lying in bed, that I realized I could have loaded the body into the tractor bucket and saved myself the grisly march. Though the idea of washing blood and guts off the tractor has similarly low appeal.
Three days later what’s stayed with me from this experience, other than the pearly whiteness of the inside of a freshly opened eye socket, is pride in Tuck’s developing guard/alert dog skills. He’s still young and actively figuring out what’s normal versus what’s not, and I am doing a lot of work to try to communicate the level of vigilance and warning I expect from him. For example, he still doesn’t reliably bark when people drive in the driveway, yet will sound off in response to a perfectly normal truck just passing by on the road. He is literally, right now, finding his voice. For him to alert me on Monday so calmly but effectively to a very abnormal scenario on the road in front of the house impresses me, and it bodes well for the partnership we are building.