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Creek Running North

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September 22, 2005

Odocoileus hemionus

There is a strip of land at the base of our hill. An empty bare-dirt lot the past three years, the city of Pinole is developing it as a park. A century-old farmhouse has been moved to the site. Every day Zeke pulls against the leash, hoping the park will be open.

Except today. Today he moved to trudge past it, not turning his head from the pavement a foot in front of him.

A hundred feet from us, across the chain link fence, a black-tailed deer stood watching us. He was majestic, calm and content. He did not flinch.

This land is two blocks from the center of town. It is surrounded by busy streets, separated from the hills by eight lanes of freeway. There are dogs and speeding cars. The buck got there anyway. He was a five-pointer: four on one side, one on the other.

"Zeke, look."
His leash taut, he stopped. Looked back at me.
I walked up to him. "Look, Zekie! a deer!"
He sniffed desultorily, head pointed away from the buck.
I knelt. I took his head between my hands, turned him to face the deer.

There was a second of confusion, and then his whole being came to attention. His back straightened. His ears erect. His eyes flashed, their cloudiness suddenly gone.

We stood there for five minutes, Zeke staring at the buck, me watching Zeke. A doe, diminutive and cute, emerged from the brush behind the row of houses.

A squirrel ran out, darted between the buck's feet. Zeke's left ear flicked briefly.

At long last the buck started to move, heading into the oaks and buckeyes beneath the Methodist Church. The doe followed, meekly. Zeke didn't move. He resisted my tugs on the leash. For a full minute he stood there, staring at the spot where black tails had slipped between the trees.

His pace, on the way back up the hill, was a little faster.

Posted by Chris Clarke at September 22, 2005 09:38 PM TrackBack URL for this entry:

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decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs


I've done that head-pointing thing for my dogs many times. I'm sure they see a lot of stuff I miss, but when I do catch something I know they'd find especially interesting, I always try to aim them at it. It's my duty as a hunting partner, and I think it gives both of us pleasure. :-)

Posted by: Hank Fox at September 22, 2005 10:07 PM
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Awww! And you call him "Zekie". How sweet.

Posted by: KathyF at September 22, 2005 10:45 PM
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you go Zeke!!!

Posted by: Anne at September 23, 2005 09:54 AM
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the zekester just needed a nudge to remind him about the important things. like all of us do, sometimes.

the late, great annie-dog used to guard the yard by barking at deer on the hillside behind our house, in her younger days. until we moved in with dogs and installed a fence, our yard was apparently a well-beaten path to the streets below. [the fence was not much of a challenge, but the deer traffic slowed, between that and the dog.]

one day -- it was as annie was beginning to feel her age -- i saw a big buck deer in the back yard. annie was down by the house, hunkered on the ground, just watching him intently. perhaps he got the hint -- that was the last time we saw a deer in the yard.

annie is gone now, and the herd on the hill no longer sees our yard as one of their paths.

Posted by: Kathy A at September 23, 2005 10:47 AM
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Too lovely. One thing I don't miss about living in the North bay is the pain of watching grimy humanity encroach on the wild and splendorous natural beauty of the area. But tableaux like the one you've presented here (written, as always, with a fine ear) are always lovely.

Deer (also mostly blacktail up here, but some mule deer, as well as elk at certain times of the year) are always a menace to my garden and my horse food -- my dogs have the habit of barking like maniacs and running them off. My bitches be alert, yo!

Posted by: teh l4m3 at September 23, 2005 11:40 AM
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I took Fraiser with me to pick up some veggies from an organic farmer. His farm sits between 2 others that raise horses. Apparently, Fraiser had never seen a horse before. I stopped my car by the side of the road for about 20 minutes while he sat in my backseat and stared at the horses, totally focused.

The next time we went, I took him for a little stroll while the farmer filled our order. Two of the horses ambled over to their fence to stare at us. Fraiser went nuts. Thank goodness I had him on a leash. He was trying so hard to get at the horses, that he was taking this tiny hops on his hind legs. I was holding onto his leash so tight that he should've strangled himself on his collar The horses walked a little ways from the fence, but then, when they realized that I wouldn't let him get any closer, they came back and stood there staring at him as he barked at them. I finally had to drag him away because he was making so much noise. I think he feels he has to dominate any animal bigger than he is.

Posted by: Nikki at September 23, 2005 11:29 PM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs