We have a resident deer that I believe was born in Balsamea. We saw it three times, beginning with the day Buddy flushed the tiny fawn out of some brush. As it leaped out of the brush it made a blood-curdling wail like nothing I’d ever heard before. Something like the sound of a lamb’s bleat, but without the staccato, just a single note, broadcast hard, steady, and seemingly long but only for a slightly timeless instant, shattering the peace of my saunter. It bounded across the path about a yard in front of me and disappeared into the woods so fast, surprising Buddy so much that I had enough time to tell him to stay, which he did politely, for me, despite his instinctual nature.
Three more times we’ve had a small deer in the yard, which I suspect may be our resident Whitetail Balsamean. These poor photos are from the second of those three times. The third time, the deer was “mowing the lawn” within 15 feet of my bedroom window, giving me a nice opportunity to observe it closely for several minutes.
When Buddy flushed out that fawn, it wasn’t because of aggressively going after it. He was quietly snooping around a big pile of half-rotted tree trunks, branches and sticks that I’d made several years ago, clearing the route of that trail. (I’ve always assumed such piles were good critter cover. Now I got to see it.) He may not have spotted the fawn visually because of its camouflage.
(I’ve seen Buddy walk right past two deer standing nearby. Once he sauntered past a big buck about 50 feet away, in its best camouflage outfit.)
So as Buddy got close and the fawn leaped out, Buddy was probably as surprised as me. It was as if we had made the last turn of the crank on the jack-in-the-box, for the first time.
If Buddy ever catches an animal, I don’t think he’ll understand that it does not want to play with him. The only animal he’s likely ever to catch is another dog, and that dog had better be friendly, because if Buddy’s in a fight, I am too. As a friend put it, I’ve got his back.
Once when we were still getting used to living together he got into a scrap with a dog and I pulled him off. Later I decided not to do that any more. I’ll join him.
For me, the emotional connection is now so strong that I’m pretty sure it would not matter if we were outnumbered. I’d go down with him, driven by that sort of insanity that comes with adrenaline and a bunch of other hormones and lizard-brained instincts that come to bear when somebody or something is attacking you or your loved one (or so perceived). I would not have time to think about what to do. I’d just be doing it. I know what it’s like to be in that state. You don’t decide it. It just happens.
Buddy had one more minor altercation with a very friendly Retriever with a turf issue. I did a flying tackle onto the opponent, pinning him into deep snow. He surrendered immediately, being, like Buddy, incapable of hurting people, not even in self-defense.
It is beyond amazing how successfully we have bred people-loving dogs. But we’ve been doing it for 100,000 years, so I guess over time we got the hang of it. Now we need to learn to breed out the unloving ones.
I have a bad attitude about aggressive dogs. I was mauled as a kid — nearly lost an ear — and in 2003 hospitalized four days on four kinds of intravenous antibiotic after surgery to save my right hand … the one I rely on the most. So I’m intolerant of nasty beasts, and no longer will I be the only one wounded when it’s over.
After getting the blood flow under control with many paper towels, I went after that hand-biter, a dog I had known on good terms in frequent visits to his home for six months. I would have given him hell, but relented at the pleading of his owner, a friend, who promised to euthanize the old dog (possibly growing senile). We barbecued him two weeks later. KIDDING! They gave him a humane send-off, then had him stuffed and mounted on the back of the barn for target practice.
I have always loved dogs in general. I grew up with a Collie-Shepard mix the same age as me, who died when we were twelve (the same year another Shepard tried to undo my ear).
After my parents retired, they adopted a puppy. She was everybody’s friend. I heard that there was only one person that she ever growled at, the very first time she met him, and he was not doing anything wrong at the moment. Knowing that person, we understood her intuition about him. Someone referred to that dog as my sister.
There have been many dogs in my life through connections with friends and family. Buddy is my first sole-ownership, full-time companion … 24 x 365 except when a brief time apart is unavoidable, and we both hate it.
I have always felt as deeply as any dog owner that the pet is a family member, a sentient, emotional being, in a deeply personal bond with people. However, they are, unlike humans, something owned.
We are responsible not only for loving them (as with all life), but for controlling them as individuals and as populations. It is our mishandling of the populations of cats and dogs that causes many of the problems we have with them. It’s not like they invaded us like bird flu or rock snot (invasive species in rivers). We, humanity, domesticated them and then failed to control some aspects of their breeding, training, and socialization.
We have to control deer populations (and don’t do enough of it, professionally, I mean, not for sport) because we knocked off their predators. We have to control dog and cat populations because we created them. They would not be here if it were not for humans domesticating them. They’d be gone with the deer predators that they came from.
There are too many dogs and far too many cats in the country, leaving too many to be neglected, mistreated, abused, improperly fed and medicated, some feral, running wild or pestering neighborhoods.. There are too many dogs owned by people not qualified to own any pet (and probably not suitable to bear children either, but we do distinguish between dog breeding and human breeding rights). A dog-care and basic control training course should be required with every dog license issued, and the fine for unlicensed dogs should be raised to $500. And you forfeit the dog for a second offense in your lifetime, whether it’s the same dog or any other you own.
Last time I looked into it, about 5 years ago, in NY the fine for an unlicensed dog was, and probably still is $25 for first offense. That’s not a fine. It’s a gift. You let your dogs go unlicensed for several years, saving the licensing fee, and out of the savings have to give $25 — if you are chosen for it. The license fee should be $50/year, not $10, to fund the education and law enforcement needed to reshape the dog-owning culture. If you can’t afford a $50 dog license, then you can’t afford to feed and care for a dog properly.
Since pet possession and exposure to non-owners is SO common, basic pet care, vaccinations, handling, socialization, health and safety risks, and training should be taught in public school. It’s a universal, public issue, so we should teach it to everybody.
Since domestic animal control and welfare are universal issues throughout society, take a couple bucks a year in taxes from those who can afford it to fund programs to change our culture from dog-stupid to dog-savvy.
We have a responsibility to breed out and cull out bad and unwanted dogs, to euthanize violent ones and non-adoptable homeless ones (which may mean ones we just don’t have the facilities to house, feed and medicate indefinitely). Only professional breeders, operating under stringent federal licensing requirements (designed to shut down the senseless puppy mill profiteering racket), should be allowed to own dogs that are not sterilized. Due to overpopulation, it is inhumane to let people wantonly breed dogs that they then can’t accommodate. If you want five dogs, get them from shelters or buy them from breeders.
It is strange that dog euthanasia is an issue at all, in a culture that is insanely addicted to eating grossly excessive amounts of animal flesh “farmed” and drugged with super-germ-causing antibiotics, artificially fattened with growth hormones and garbage food including brains of their own herbivore species, jammed up against each other their entire lives in lifestyles worse than hell, but we whine about painlessly, humanely releasing a canine from its unhappy or unhealthy life.
How many “no-kill shelter” enthusiasts have looked closely at how their pork chops and steaks are made, from birth to supermarket shelf? Pigs are as smart as dogs (look at the ones we allowed to breed feral — they are much harder to catch or kill than dogs ever could be). We slaughter them without a thought. Hey, man, it’s BACON! Some people cry over the family cow’s death as much as the dog’s. Quite understandably. But when the cow stops giving milk, it’s meat.
For me, it is not only about euthanasia for homeless dogs in overpopulated shelters. I see euthanasia as the humane thing in other circumstances, too. Buddy and I are brothers in many senses of the word, but I would euthanize him if he became violent against people (unprovoked), possible with some diseases, or if he had a severe disease or injury that I could not afford to properly treat. I’d let him go in peace, and then maybe get another nice dog from the same place I got Buddy — homeless on the street.
Don’t compare it to raising human children. “Would you shoot your child if you could not afford their medical bill? Or if they committed a heinous crime?” When it gets down to certain kinds of critical issues, people who equate child rearing to pet ownership should be allowed neither.
It will hurt me beyond description to give Buddy that final injection when the day comes. Then for a long time there will be a big hole in my life. But that pain of mine is about me and my self-interests. Buddy deserves the best death I can give him. Call it a lethal love.
I will not reject blog post comments or private email from “no-kill shelter” advocates and others who may argue that I’ve got the wrong attitude about anything mentioned here. But don’t be surprised if I seem unmoved or don’t reply to some kinds of statements. You probably won’t change my mind, but maybe someone else reading your comments will find them useful, or entertaining.
And if you LIKE something here, please take a minute to say it in the comment box (or email).
So … whether on deer or dog issues or the pictures of Buddy, got a pro or con thought on anything? Are there authorities you’d like me to read or hear, to help support or try to change my views? Nifty links?
Anybody got a good support group for post-euthanasia dog owners to fill each others holes?
From the bowels of Balsamea, Buddy and I bid you brisk, breezy, partly sunny Autumn days.