Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Found and lost

It’s amazing what you can get used to. I often marvel at things second nature to me now that I once could never have imagined myself doing. I think about this again as I jog awkwardly down my driveway in clomping winter boots slipped hastily onto bare feet, holding my down vest closed with one hand while the other gingerly clasps the detached lower leg of a deer.

An icy wind whips down the road and takes my breath away as I turn my face and cross the short expanse in four long strides to the ravine on the other side. The ground drops sharply away from level here and I pause at the edge, look down through the tree trunks to the serene gray-white scene below. Then I pull my arm back and toss the leg into the trees. I turn away as soon as it has left my hand and I imagine it turning end over end through the air. “I’m really sorry little deer,” I call into the wind.

It is not a well thought out plan I tell myself as I sprint back to the warmth of the house, it won’t be long before one of the dogs finds it again and I’ll be running around looking for a spot to put it. But I couldn’t bring myself to stick it in the freezer to wait until we can take it to the dump.

We live on the edge of a vast tract of Crown land that becomes a major thoroughfare for hunters in the fall, so I have become used to finding deer legs, the bit from the ankle joint to the toe, about the length of my own arm from elbow to wrist. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have stood on the walking trail holding a deer leg over my head with two dogs at my feet eyes turned giddily skywards, bodies rigid beneath tap-dancing paws waiting for me to throw the tasty morsel.

I usually head off the trail into the thick of the forest, leg held aloft, until I find the crook of a tree, just the right height, and then tuck the leg there out of reach, secure it in place while trying not to look too closely at the rich, tawny fur and shiny black hoof that still seem so full of life, and certainly not at the bit where the fur is frayed and the pinkish-white rounded bone of the joint protrudes.

This latest find was sniffed out of the bush by Bear and carried carefully home. I watched her from the window as she swaggered along the road from our neighbours’ place, head held high, tail swishing triumphantly, the stick-like object clamped securely in her mouth. It took me just a second to realize it was a leg.

She placed it gently on the deck before walking casually, innocently, into the house. “Good girl,” I said, and slipped out the door behind her.

Not too long after I return from my mission to the ravine, Bear paces anxiously at the door, throwing looks of deep concern my way. “It’s gone Bear,” I say apologetically and open the door for her to see.

She leaps out on to the deck, ready to scoop up her prize, but stops short of where she’d dropped it, snuffling incredulously around the glaring emptiness. “I know I left it here,” she seems to say with her hunched shoulders and frantic sniffing. I tell her again that it is gone. But she won’t hear it and sets about investigating every square inch of the deck, pressing her nose right up against the hard packed snow, air whooshing noisily in and out, as if she can will the leg to re-appear, reshape it out of nothing.


  1. Ah yes, we have even hung frozen legs in trees until dump day, or until we spot it again when spring comes around :)

    Spoke to the neighbours today and they just took a moose leg to the dump on Sunday

    I briefly thought of using the deer leg and our woodsled, to make sleigh tracks and hoofprints in the snow, like Santa and his reindeer for our neighbours
    granddaughter. I mentioned my plan to the neigbours and we had a good laugh.

    It was at that point I realized that I might have become too desensitized to life around here, and I went and gave Bear a hug.

  2. Puzzled! Why take the prize away from your dogs? A nice juicy bit of REAL meat and crunchy bone for them, instead of the stuff that comes out of those tins!

  3. Excellent question. I can hear my dogs saying "yeah!". I have considered this as well, but after having dealt with Murdoch's guarding, Bear's tireless - bordering on crazy - obsession, the potential for dog fights and cleaning up a regurgitated mess after someone inhaled a "treat" so fast so someone else wouldn't get it, we decided avoiding all that usually seems the best course of action.

  4. Hunters leave deer legs in the woods? Well maybe that solves the 20 year old mystery of the time that Jessie came trotting back to the house proudly with a deer leg, much to my horror. We lived in a very wooded area at the time, but still... I was in disbelief! I knew (or thought I knew) that Jessie would never kill a deer. But I have always wondered about it.

    And I see that I am getting "caught up" on my blog reading in the wrong order! I should have started in the back and worked forward - now I get the "tiny reindeer" comment! LOL!

  5. The legs are left behind by hunters or they are the leftovers from a wolf or coyote. Either way, the dogs are great at finding them!