Until Thursday, I never knew that deer made sounds.
Thursday was a warm day, the warmest so far this year. Having a touch of spring fever, I took off early from work to go with a buddy bike riding. Raleigh has such nice greenways and they give us city dwellers much needed time to commune with nature.
We were on the lower end of the Crabtree trail near Laurel Woods when a bird’s nest caught our attention. We heard some young birds fussing for food and saw Mom darting into the nest to calm their racket.
Across the creek, a woman was walking in the brush along the edge. She started to call out, not to us. It became obvious that she was calling her dogs that had wandered too far away.
We went back to our bird watching when we realized that both the calling from across the creek and the barks of the dogs had changed their tones. The dogs were running, yelping and growling. The underbrush was rustling with the new activity.
The woman began to yell the dog’s names and new phrases. “Stop! Get off!” She picked up a big stick and was swinging it at the dogs, which was no small feat since she had her other arm in a bright blue cast.
That’s when we heard it, a bleat similar to a goat or sheep. It was the sound of terror and pain. It was a wild animal sound that I’ll never forget.
A lady from a nearby apartment came down to the trail. She heard the commotion and recognized the bleat that we didn’t. “A deer,” she said. “I remember that sound from living in Maine.”
We called out to the woman across the creek. She was pulling the dogs away and was attaching the leash she had been carrying.
“The dogs ran up a deer,” she called.
We called after her to see if the deer was hurt and to get her name, but she took off quickly through the ticket not saying another word.
We backtracked down the trail until we could cross to the other side of the creek. We found the thicket of briars, wild roses and brush.
Lying there was the young deer. It’s leg broken, bone protruding through the thin flesh; a hunk of meat missing from the rump and another from the neck.
It tried to stand, to run away. Instead it hobbled and crashed into the creek. The lady, a nurse, rushed into the cold creek and held the deer’s head out of the water to keep it from drowning.
Remembering the cell phone, I called 911. “Is it OK to call 911 for a deer?” I asked. No one knew for sure, but that was our only choice we felt.
The 911 operator was patient with us as we tried to describe where we were on the bike trail. This was no easy task given that there aren’t many identifying markers in the woods.
We explained that we were near the Golden Corral headquarters on Glenwood. That’s where the animal control officer parked when she got there a little later.
By this time another walker had joined our little group. He supplied a yellow, plastic poncho that the animal control officer and the lady from the apartment managed to get under the injured deer.
Forming a human chain, we passed the injured animal up the creek bank, but once we were on dry land, the officer gave us the bad news. The deer was too far gone and too badly injured to try to save.
She said as we carried the deer to the officer’s truck that she would go to a vet’s office where the deer would be humanely euthanized. She wouldn’t suffer too much more.
With a heavy heart I walked back down the trail to my buddy and my bike. My only thought by this time was not of the injured deer, but of the woman with the cast.
She had thoughtlessly allowed her dogs to run free, attack one of God’s creatures, then committed the worst sin of all, by leaving the injured animal to suffer and die.
I wonder if she was able to sleep that night. I know I didn’t.