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The Buck Stops Here
Dogs and deer don't mix
Even deer who appear relaxed should be left alone.

When friends and family complain about pesky wildlife, I can’t resist reminding them that we've invaded their habitat. Even when skunks burrowed beneath our chicken coop or chipmunks squatted in our garage, my biggest concern was saving their poor furry souls from our prey-driven pack. That summer rabbits raided our vegetable garden? I didn’t mind eating cookies instead of salad for dinner. (And the dogs appreciated the extra piles of protein they left behind.)

At one time, I would’ve naively asserted that deer are the gentlest of woodland creatures. My dogs and I have come across them many times while taking long walks along the river. Typically, my Pit Bull mix, Shelby, air scents them, and as I follow her gaze, a doe will gracefully dart away, her white tail flickering like candlelight. 

A few days ago, I was walking my Dalmatian, Jolie, and Dutch Shepherd, Ginger Peach,  in our semi-rural neighborhood. It was dusk, and I was eager to finish our route before it got dark since there are few street lights. The dogs suddenly dove into a ditch, their noses hot on the trail of something. About 40 yards away, I heard a loud crash and saw a white tail disappear into the woods. I chuckled, glad the dogs missed seeing the actual deer because they were so busy following its trail.

We continued forward until I saw a loose dog up ahead. One of the farmers allows his Jack Russell free reign, and I just didn’t feel like heeling both dogs past him. We turned around. As we approached the spot where the dogs flushed out the deer, a magnificent eight-point buck trotted across our path. He stopped a mere 20 yards away as we passed.

Having never seen a buck up close before, I was mesmerized by his size and beauty. I stopped. The dogs and I stared at him,  studying him. He broke our gaze and trotted through a row of bushes. Slowly, he positioned himself behind us. He stood tall. Jolie and Ginger Peach became absolutely still.  Everything around us was quiet. Looking into the buck’s dark brown eyes, I finally realized what the dogs had likely known the moment I stopped. He did not appreciate our company.

We quickly moved away. Ginger Peach let out a little yips in protest, but Jolie was all too happy to get out of there. As we rounded a corner, I glanced back to see the buck cross the street again, no doubt returning to the doe we had scared off earlier.

After sharing this story with friends, I heard terrifying accounts of deer hurting people or dogs during breeding season. (There are hundreds of videos on YouTube demonstrating their strength in graphic detail.) I was grateful that my naiveté did not inadvertently cause harm to my dogs. Has your dog ever encountered  deer? What did you do?


Julia Kamysz Lane, owner of Spot On K9 Sports and contributing editor at The Bark, is the author of multiple New Orleans travel guides, including Frommer’s New Orleans Day by Day (3rd Edition). Her work has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Poets and Writers and Publishers Weekly.

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Submitted by LynnSusan | November 11 2011 |

Two weeks ago at 6:30 am, I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and let Gracie (my 100+pound American King Shepherd) into the yard. She took off as though she was shot from a cannon. There, not 30 feet away, was a magnificent 6 point buck (the same suspect who ate all my impatiens, hydrangeas and made a salad bar out of my hostas)
Gracie detoured around the patio (while I shrieked my fool head off---not a cool way to handle this, I know) and made a beeline for the buck. In a heart-stopping second, I could see the buck weighing his options. It is rutting season, and I think he considered standing his ground. Discretion is the better part of valor---and he high-tailed it across the yard and easily launched himself over the fence, in a wondrous display of strength and grace. My Grace was inches from his hooves as he became airborne. She veered off at the very last second.

As she proudly trotted back to me , standing in my nightgown in the middle of the yard, I think I heard her say she doesn't like venison, anyway.

Submitted by AnnieS | November 14 2011 |

LynnSusan, that was so much fun to read I felt as though I was reading a chapter in a novel!

Beautifully written....and oh, I am also glad that Gracie returned unscathed from her pursuit and was allowed to retain her Shepherd-like dignity.

Submitted by Debbie Jacobs | November 11 2011 |

My border collie has on two separate occasions herded deer to me. Once it was a fawn the other an adult white-tail. Both times I was able to call him and my other dogs away, though from the looks on their faces I suspect they thought I was a complete fool for doing so.


Submitted by Carolyn | November 12 2011 |

A mama deer with 2 newborns attacked my little dog, who is not in the least prey driven. She tried to stomp and kick Maggie who was absolutely mystified and terrified. So was I -- it all happened so fast. Somehow I managed to snatch Maggie from under her hooves and head back to the house carrying the dog -- mama deer charged us repeatedly, bleating in fury. She'd literally worked herself into a lather and foam flew from her muzzle. We were both extremely shaken up but luckily, unhurt. I'm sure this particular deer saw us walking the same route daily, but the newborns added a brand new dimension and every protective instinct she had must have kicked in. Maggie darts behind me whenever we encounter a deer -- which is often, we have so many where we live -- and gives them a very wide berth.

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