Nature photography, political rants, and Martyman laughs from the ten-time award-winning author Marty Essen

The deer and the slow dog

Marty’s photo of the day #4027: Animals amaze me on how they are able to communicate among themselves. For instance, how is a mother deer able to stash her fawn, and the fawn will stay in the same place—barely moving—for a day or more? Human babies, on the other hand, seemingly can’t be stashed at a busy supermarket for even a minute (and then the cops show up). I think that’s why we have so much wildlife on our 25-acre Essen Wildlife Refuge. The animals seem to understand that once they reach Deb’s and my property they are safe.
 
When our previous generation of dogs grew old, the deer seemed to know it. For the last few years of Lucy’s (our border collie mix) life, the deer were quite aware that the old, slow black dog wouldn’t take more than a step our two to politely suggest that they leave Deb’s garden alone. Now, however, we have Nellie (who looks like a black lab, but is actually part golden retriever, part Australian cattle dog, and part dingo), and word is still getting around the animal community that the slow black dog has been replaced by the fast black dog.
 
Of course, we train all our dogs not to chase animals, but for the sake of Deb’s garden, Nellie insists on at least keeping the deer on the far side of the gravel driveway that wraps around our house. And if her momentum takes her a short distance farther, what’s a dog to do?
 
In the summer, however, Nellie is usually up on the front porch with me, where I have my outside office and the steps on each end blocked with baby gates. The doe in this photo has been hanging out very close to our house for the past few weeks. I think she’s the deer that has been stashing a fawn a few hundred feet in front of our house. She’s either very brave, or hasn’t yet figured out that the resident black dog is now incredibly fast. Either way, she and her fawn are safe here—although I can’t promise her that Deb won’t storm out on the front porch and give her a good scolding if she insists on grazing in the garden.

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