I’m driving home from the gym one dusky late afternoon in January. The gratitude I feel for life pumps to the Bee Gees “Stayin’ Alive” blaring from the radio. A challenging day has been rewarded by a workout with friends Kathleen and Bethany. I’m looking forward to a quiet evening with my husband Gary and dog Lucy.
I pull into my garage a little after five. When I open the car door, I hear Lucy barking like she’s defending our yard from terrorists. I exit the man door (yes, the door made for people to walk through is called a man door) of our detached garage and see Lucy’s backside near the left corner. She’s barking with such ferocity that she’s practically lifting from the ground.
I walk towards her to find—around the side of the garage—a deer. Actually, a large buck with imposing antlers—standing about 12 feet away.
A big-ass, mangy buck. Just standing there. In my yard!
I have no experience with wild animals and have never been this close to one in my life.
I recall stories of deer kicking and injuring dogs. I yell at Lucy to stop, but of course she does not. She’s in what we call Catahoula mode where her brain is entirely controlled by instinct. For over a century, Catahoula’s have been bred to hold animals at bay until the hunter arrives to…well…you know. A well-trained Catahoula will back off when given a command.
A Lucy is not so well trained.
I wave my arms and yell at the buck. He just stands there. I start towards him, waving and screaming. Lucy moves closer to him, still barking. I yell at her to stop.
He doesn’t move, just stares at me with blank, black eyes.
I wonder if he has the rabies. I’d recently heard a podcast where a woman told a story of being attacked by a rabid raccoon. She was severely injured and it took her months to recover.
Amidst the chaos, the buck just stands there. Staring. Unblinking.
Every horror movie I’ve ever seen comes back to me.
The buck must be a zombie.
Suddenly, he lowers his head and takes a step towards Lucy. Oh God no—he’s going to skewer her!
I ramp up the arm waving and cursing. I wish I had something to throw at him. It seems like forever—but is probably only 15 seconds—before he turns, trots to the fence with Lucy in hot pursuit, and jumps out of the yard. I race to look down the alley to make sure he’s gone.
When I turn, Lucy is taking a poop.
As I walk to the house, trying to calm my heartbeat, I call Lucy to come. She’s laying in the grass. It’s coated with rain and she hates rain. I check her out and see no blood. She slowly gets up, limping behind me.
A few years ago, she had luxating patella surgery on both knees, which makes her susceptible to an ACL tear. My heart sinks at the possibility of having to choose between another surgery or euthanasia.
I enter the house, my gratitude flushed into the putrid cesspool of self-pity. Thanks to this crazy buck, my dog could be facing grave consequences.
Gary reports that he’d let Lucy outside and heard her start barking. He called her and tried to see what was going on, and was worried about her for the half hour it took me to return home. His mobility issues and impaired eyesight makes it impossible to see much.
Lucy eventually loses her limp and passes out on the sofa, content in the knowledge she is Rin Tin Tin for the day. We praise her valor.
The next day, I tell my sister—who lives in a city and was raised like me with no exposure to wildlife—about the incident. She urges me to call the authorities. “That’s a potentially dangerous animal.”
I imagine the police dispatcher’s response to such a call. It would be the same as a 911 call I made some years ago when I found a stray dog wandering around the yard.
“Ma’am, this is not an emergency.”
“It is to me.”
She’ll hang up, go to happy hour where she’ll tell her friends, and they’ll all get a good laugh at the moron who is afraid of a deer.
I tell my sister my plan if the buck comes back—I’ll throw a skillet at him.
A friend who lives on the outskirts of town tells me that deer freeze when frightened. I had no idea. She assures me that because of his traumatic experience, the buck probably won’t return, but advises me to get some deer repellant and spray it around the perimeter of the yard and on some plants.
I do this and the next morning Lucy runs around the house barking and whining. I look outside and in the dim light see two doe standing in the middle of the yard. I rush, cursing, to shoo them away.
So much for deer repellent.
I used to think deer were graceful, almost spiritual animals. Now I’m not so sure. That buck scared the crap out of Lucy and the wits out of me and is responsible for making me no longer trust deer. I scan the yard a few times a day, wary of his return. I suppose I’ll have to live with post-traumatic deer syndrome for a while. In the meantime, I’ll keep a skillet handy.
For an entertaining view of a deer acting crazy, watch this news clip.