Sunday, December 5, 2010

In Which the Mighty Huntress Catches a Deer

Coraline caught a deer today. We were in the woods, and she was running circles around me at top speed as she often does. A deer sprang up, maybe ten feet away from me. Coraline must have run right over it. The deer tried to run off, but it crashed through a thicket and then ran right into a tree with an audible impact -- SMACK. So much, I thought, for the innate grace and amazing survival skills of wild animals. The deer staggered and limped a little, then ran right by me. It was young, probably a summer fawn, and looked kind of mangy. At this point Coraline gave chase, and the two of them headed off into the woods. Usually when I watch Coraline chase a deer I can see the deer increasing the space between them with every stride. Coraline is faster than any person but she is not very fast for a big dog, and she is no match for either a deer or a dog built for speed. This time, though, the mangy young deer, either because it had just stumbled awake, or because of its impact with the tree, or because it was just a doofus, was not gaining at all. Then Coraline put on a burst of speed, closed the space, and struck the deer with her front paw. The deer stumbled and said, "Maaaaa." (This is the noise of deer, the vowel a cross between a short "a" and an "eh.") Coraline backed off a step. I yelled at her to come. She hesitated and the deer gained a stride. Coraline started to resume the chase, so I yelled at her again. She ran back to me. She is not the world's most obedient dog, so I imagine she must have been a bit confused to give up the chase so easily. Was it just that she never really thought she would actually catch a deer, or was she puzzled that, having let itself be caught, the deer didn't want to play?


Bundle Brent said...

I suspect that Coraline is deeply, deeply disappointed in you. Here she is, tracking down deer for you every time you're in the park, and you haven't killed a single one!

Dogs have been selectively bred to emphasize certain wolfy characteristics and to minimize others. While wolves eye, scent, stalk, chase, and kill, we have encouraged dogs to do everything BUT kill animals, so they work better with human hunters. Once a wolf or dog has a faceful of warm, bloody deer intenstines, its hard to separate the dog from its prize - but if a human does the killing, the dog is content to await his allotment.

My dogs are pretty much the same - they excel at scenting, spotting, chasing, and even cornering prey, but once all that fun is over, they wait for me to deliver the coup de grace.

Since I never do, I expect they are perpetually dismayed by my ineptitude. I am always impressed, though, at how perfectly suited dogs & humans are to hunting as a pair. Just think how many deer you could have eaten by now if you'd followed her lead!

John said...

Except that she mostly chases them AWAY from me.