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Feb 19

Elegy for a Deer

In Brief—Memories of an autumn afternoon when a little deer came to die.

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Tears for A Little Deer—

unknownShe lay quietly next to the fence hard by the forest and the trail down the side of the hill. Nearby stood the feeder where the birds, squirrels and deer came each day to feed. Autumn’s leaves covered the ground where a cushion of sunflower seeds and shells waited expectantly for winter’s first snow.

She was a small deer, no bigger than a large dog. Her grey-brown coat showed no signs of blood while her long graceful legs appeared to be unbroken. As I looked out the kitchen window at the new arrival, she seemed calm, almost as if resting, but the thought crossed my mind that it was unusual for a normally skittish deer to be resting so calmly.

In an effort not to frighten her, I quietly approached murmuring low, calming reassurance. Her large, dark eyes followed me as if expecting a threat, but she made no move to flee. Gradually, she seemed to relax when she realized I intended no harm. I like to think now that she was merely curious.

A chill was in the afternoon air, so thinking that she might be cold, I went to the nearby garage and retrieved an old blanket. Returning, I gently covered her with the blanket, but she remained still watching me. That alone was unusual. I began to wonder what I should do.

At last, naively thinking that she would be well taken care of, I called Animal Control. In just a few minutes, a truck crunched up the gravel driveway. A man emerged and followed me to the little deer. He bent, looked at her and opined that she may have been hit by a car and made her way to a place of comfort to die. It would be better to put her out of her misery. Shocked, I pointed out that she showed no signs of being in misery. Rather it was as if she simply needed to lie quietly for a while and heal if, indeed, she was injured. Despite this, he turned and went to his truck.

When he returned, he held a small caliber rifle. I knew immediately what was intended. She watched him as if resigned to her fate, her big dark eyes following him. Frozen in horror, I watched him place the muzzle of the rifle near her forehead. It wasn’t loud. One shot brought forth a brief fountain of blood. This beautiful little deer was dead.

He gathered her little legs together and carried her like a rag doll, head lolling, to his truck… and he was gone. She was gone. I stood in disbelief at what had happened. Slowly, almost reverently, I gathered up the now empty blanket and returned it to the garage.

To this day, I wonder if I did the right thing or if I brought about her death. Sometimes, as now, the memory of that beautiful little deer creeps back to haunt me. It will until my last day.

The Weekly Sampler—

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6 comments

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  1. Jim Newton

    Sad and lovely story. Our relationships with animals are part of what makes who we are. I share your shock and sorrow and imagine her there.

    1. Don Bay

      I genuinely appreciate your message. That little deer taught me about myself and about the society in which we all live. The Animal Control guy may have been right in thinking she was injured, but her life was not to be saved, it was to be thrown away. In looking back, I feel I was wrong and should have worked to heal her. Too late now, but I learned an important lesson. An animal’s life is as important as any on Earth. What we sow, we shall reap.

  2. Dave Meyers

    Here in Colorado the deer abound. We take them for granted. They’re everywhere, in and out of the city. It’s not unusual to see them wandering in small groups in almost any neighborhood. Mine is adjacent a vast woodland park so I host them on my driveway and all over my property. They lay at rest on my front landscaping near a water feature, in the shade behind my home under the Douglas fur trees, and often I must slow my car as I make my way in or out of the neighborhood as they cross the street at an unconcerned pace. So used to humans and their machines are they, that even a honk of the car horn does little to speedup their leisurely stroll.

    But the odd thing, and I am baffled by it, is where do they go to die.
    Other than the unfortunate ones hit by cars, I have never seen a dead one.

    As avid hikers we have come to notice that we never see bones on the forest floor. Very rarely we’ll spot an antler on the ground, but they shed those anyway, so that’s not an indication that an animal has fallen.
    We truly am mystified by this. With the shear numbers of them that inhabit the area, we have assumed that we would spot a carcass or a skeleton, or some remnant from time to time……but we don’t.

    This mystery, however, is far more palatable than the reality that haunts you, Don.

    1. Don Bay

      You tell a story of how some of us — the fortunate ones — live close to nature and its wonders. The mystery you relate never occurred to me, but you’re right: where are the remains of the creatures sharing our planet? Beyond the point you raise, we should all take time to learn and appreciate the world around us if for no other reason than we are part of that web.

  3. Susan

    Oh noooo. That is so sad to read.

    1. Don Bay

      Sad and true. Although I’ll carry the lesson to my last day, I learned something about myself and about the society we live in. Until humans start valuing our fellow creatures, humanity can’t consider itself humane.

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