Death of the Old Doe


dead deer

Blood and nasty green stomach matter gushed from her side. The Old Doe had been hit. The arrow flew from the old oak tree, just off from that feed plot where all the deer had been feeding all through the late summer and early autumn. It was aimed at her heart, and the doe was hit a bit far back.

And now she was running wounded. Death was coming, but it wasn’t fast enough.  The agony of the deer was now replaced by the terror and panic that she must run from the predator, the danger that that revealed its with that swishing arrow sound and the thud into deer flesh.

She would not be long for this world, but it was not soon enough to remove her from the before the torture of this sort of death would set in.

For seven years, the Old Doe had run these hills. Her mother was a wise old girl, who had dropped the Old Doe and a buck fawn in her fifth spring, and she taught her young ones the ways of survival in summer swelter and through the hard snows of winter. She taught them many to walk into the wind, so they could always catch the scent of what lay ahead, and she taught them to be most wary of man. For man is the only animal that can kill you if he has you in his clear view of sight, and if man can see you, you’d better run like hell.

A pickup truck took her mother on a late March evening, when the doe took her young out to lap some vestiges of the road salt that had been dumped all through the winter. It was an ignoble death for such a wise creature, but it is a death that happens thousands of times on the highways every year.

And the Old Doe became an orphan, but she had her mother’s wisdom, and she had her mother’s band to hook up with. White-tailed deer live in little societies in which the mature bucks live in their own bands and the does and their growing offspring live in their own as well. The old does become really woods-wise, and they pass this knowledge onto their daughters, granddaughters, and nieces.

The buck bands split up when the autumn makes their hormones surge into a state of insanity, aggression, and just plain libido. They run the country looking for estrus does on their own, and this is roughly the same time that men with rifles and shotguns show up and drop them dead as the course the sweet sensual scents of the rut.

But the does stay together through most of this insanity. A buck might run a doe on her own for a little while, but she invariably returns to her sisterhood.

The Old Doe learned from her mother’s older sister, who died at the age of ten, when her teeth were all ground down to the nubs, and there was no way that she could masticate an acorn or beechnut to feed her gaunt form. She starved to death on a late February day, and when she passed, the doe band’s leadership was passed to the Old Doe.

And she ran the hills for four good years. Every hunter and homesteader in that part of the country knew her well. She was a big, stout doe, and she always dropped her twins in the sweet days of late May.  They would follow her out into the pastures on midsummer evenings when the fireflies seemed to rise with the humid vapors of dusk.

Two daughters made it through the gauntlet of slinging arrows and firing guns and speeding cars. They were her lieutenants, and by their second years, they were both dropping twins along with their mother. Coyotes and mowing machines got some. A bobcat got at least one.

The hunters looking for tender meat always took the little fawns as soon as the hunting season started.

The Old Doe lived a life in which death stalked everywhere, and it was always just a matter of time before someone was shot or impaled or lifted from a sleeping form.

But she lived all through that horror, and her band thrived as well as deer could.

In the end, the Old Doe could only avoid a fatal error so long, and on that early October day, she led her band to her favorite food plot, and for whatever odd reason, she chose to slide in with the wind blowing behind her as she passed the big oak.

The steeping sun occluded the hunter’s form as he drew back and let the arrow fly. He was a young man, fifteen years old and learning to be a proper huntsman. He had spent hours practicing in the range. He thought he had that arrow flinging down, and I suppose he did. Even the best of them sometimes shoot a little too far back.

After the arrow thudded into her side and out the other, the Old Doe ran with her band for the coverts. But the loss of blood and the spurting green stomach matter slowed her advance.

And in panic she ran as hard as she could. She didn’t know the direction. She just ran and ran. The thorns from the multiflora rose pierced her legs. She just ran and hoped that all the terror and pain would cease.

And then she fell and fell hard. Her neck twisted the side. She flailed for about five minutes and bleated as if she were a lonely fawn calling out for her mother.  And as she bleated, the strength sapped from her existence.

Her sides rose and fell and legs flailed a bit longer.

But she was gone.

And all that knowledge of being a deer in these hills was wiped away.  Minutes ago she was animate fur and flesh, and now she was a pile meat, hide, bone, and organs.

The night began to drawn in around her body.  A trio of roaming farm dogs caught her scent and trailed down to her final resting place.  They tore at her hide, but not being experts at dissecting carcasses, they made a mess of the whole thing. Indeed, most of what they did was tear into her flank a little as they torn into each other as they fought over this bounty that they had suddenly discovered in this part of the dark woods.

And so the Old Doe died, and her carcass was discovered that morning when the young hunter and his father managed to pick up her trail in the early morning sun. The meat was not whole, and the stomach contents had fouled most of the meat as she decomposed in the early autumn warmth.

At least she wasn’t alive anymore to suffer, but her body would be left to rot and stink and feed the vultures, foxes, and opossums. They would live well off her body, for in death there can be promise for more sustenance, more life. And if nature’s rules are adhered to, all flesh goes to the carrion beetles and the decomposing bacteria.

And so we can think of the Old Doe’s death as a tragedy, a wasteful death that ended a lifetime of horror.

But the white-tail evolved to live lives of horror. They don’t have complexes about it. They simply live while they know of constant terror, and pass on what they know to their young. And they have done so for millions of years on this continents, millions of years before the first Siberian hunters came down from Beringia and took that first white-tail for a bit of meat.

Their bodies have fed countless numbers of humans, and they’ve fed such teeming multitudes of predators that it would be foolish to count them all. And in the hills where they once grazed among the Mastodons and fleeted away from American cheetahs, they now live in the oak woods, where the rifles crack and arrows fly.

They live their fleeting lives of constant terror. But they live them well and so nobly that few humans can ever approach their dignity, even when they fall in such folly as the Old Doe did.

But it is the way of these creatures. Their evolution as prey made them be this way, and we must accept that their deaths must come, if not by the hunter then by the speeding car or horrific starvation.

So it should be.









anka is not a snob

Until relatively recently, I had decided to keep my online presence as so-called “dog expert” as limited as possible. Over the years, I had grown tired of the online dog scene. Almost everyone I used to cooperatively blog with had either decided I was a “fawkin’ eejit” or had moved onto better things.

In the meantime, it became fashionable for people who thought they knew something about real dogs to use what little remaining lives they have to trash people, to shame people, and to act as the most self-righteous asses possible.

Twice, I’ve tried to have a Facebook group associated with this blog, and twice, I’ve given it up. The first time was when my larger group, which had been in existence for several years, became infiltrated with a bunch of self-righteous Millennials, some of whom are nothing more than dog show wannabes and the rest wannabe “dog whisperers,” who probably shudder that I place them in the same category as Cesar Millan.

The second time comes from the simple fact that I’ve changed my life and changed my mind about a certain prick-eared breed.

It is true that I now co-own a top of the line American show-bred German shepherd.  I don’t think he’s crippled, and I don’t think any objective veterinarian would say so either. I like this dog a lot, even though his primary human is my partner. He is a good dog, and if you hate him, I’m sorry. He has nothing to prove to you.

It has been difficult for me to admit that I was wrong about this breed and to accept that I was wrong about what most breeders in the US are trying to accomplish with their show strains of this breed. Not everyone wants that extreme extra angulation in the rear, but just having that angulation is not indicative of a dog that dog is suffering.

But the problem is that I have spent a decade building up a bloody lynch mob about purebred dogs. My views on extreme brachycephalics remain relatively the same. But I am not going to write long screeds about how German shepherds consist solely of structural train wrecks. I do prefer the really good working line dog of this breed, but I do not hate the show ones. And there is room for both types in a breed this useful and loved. There absolutely are dogs that do have problems, but this is not a universal in the breed.

But I have helped build this lynch mob, and for this, I do feel a great deal of guilt. I cannot walk it back it, and if I try to walk it back, I am fairly certain that I will just become someone to throw into the flames.

I have, however, decided that I do need to be public. If you agreed with me about dogs before but disagree now, that’s fine. Maybe you like all the other things I write here and will stay with me.

But I am not participating or feeding into this toxic dog snob culture. I don’t care from which angle the snobbery comes. It just isn’t good for me. I don’t think it’s good for dogs, and I don’t think it’s helping in any way, except stroking egos.

And we all love to have our egos stroked. I certainly do.

But you know what we have to do to grow as human beings? We have to keep open minds. We have to accept that a big chunk of what we believe at any given moment will be shown to be wrong.

When I was in my 20s, I was much more obtuse and obstinate.  I thought I knew a lot more than I actually did, and deep down, I knew it. And thus, I compensated for my lack of any kind of knowledge by being an insufferable angry young man.

Like this:

At some point, though, the angry young man winds up taken aback. His crusade is revealed not just be folly but totally in error, and when he realizes that he can keep being angry all the time or he can allow himself to make adjustments.

My life in the past couple of years has been about making adjustments. I am re-calibrating what I am and what I should waste precious brain cells into fighting over.

So dogs will be part of this blog to be sure, but this will not be yet another one of those “burn down the AKC” blogs. Those blogs already exist. If you want to read them, go ahead. I certainly do read them.

But my own creative and intellectual energies are over trying to produce that content here.

I am going to focus much more on my actual writing craft. As you may have noticed, I am doing much more experimental forms of writing here than I was before. You may not like my “arting around,” but I am doing it anyway.

I have a profound connection with a dog right now, one that I have not experienced in a very long time. She will be a major focus of this work, and I do think that the “retriever” aspect of this blog will be greatly lacking, probably from now on out.

If I could change my blog name, I certainly would. I have disliked it ever since I realized I had named it without creativity. I was seeking approval and notoriety from someone I did admire at the time, but we’ve long since had a falling out.  (I’m sure he would appreciate it if my blog had a different addy and if I went by a different username, for exactly the same reasons).

Right now, I’ve learned that you just have to have your life happen to you, and sometimes,  if you want to be really happy, you have to admit error and move on.

And if you want to grow, you have to admit that you’re wrong. At the very least, admitting you’re wrong is the first step to being right.

And love to be right.


There is already a “German Shepherd Man,” if you’re suggesting I change to that name. He has a great Youtube channel and has very nice West German working lines.




Well-behaved doggy

shiny happy doggy

Today was the first time I’ve been complimented on how well-trained Anka is. The fellow who owns the car dealership across the street has seen me out working with her, and he was just so impressed with her.

Now, I still believe she’s mostly in the raw, and we’re working on making her even more dead solid. She’ probably better behaved than most random dogs you’re going to come across, but she’s no top IPO dog, that’s for sure.

I am not a particularly good dog trainer, but this animal and I have just clicked in a very profound way. She is one of those dogs that loves to play ball, but she’s also one of those dogs that really hates to make her owner cross.

And I guess that’s how it works. I have to have a ball crazed nut to build the relationship, because I do not do well with dogs that require constantly cuddling and treats to form the bond.

I wish I had been able to start with her as an 8-week-old pup, and my guess is she didn’t have a perfect life before I got her.  But she is a dead solid German shepherd, with lots of drive and great nerves. She also has defense drive, but it having a brain and good nerves tempers all of it.

Genetics does play a big role in creating the dogs we have. I wish I could have had her as a little puppy so that I could bring about a very strong foundation on what really is an awesome dog.

Black & Gold

This is a documentary I’m going to have to see!

New Ball

anka new ball

Anka got a new ball from Tractor Supply. I didn’t catch the name of the ball but decided to try it out. It is perfect for this kind of dog. It is soft enough that she can catch it the air and tough enough to withstand the GSD carnassial crunch.


I’m not 25 anymore

merle french bulldog

Over a decade ago, I started this blog. I am not 25 years old anymore.  I have lived a decade. I have seen a decade’s worth of learning, and I have tried my very best to keep my mind open.

Having an open mind is a dangerous thing, for we live in a world in which cliques and support are often unified with a bit of dogma. So when I change my mind about something, I am always a little afraid. Indeed, I think we all are when we hit this point in our growth as humans.

You may notice that have long since stopped the posts that rail against the American Kennel Club. The reason is pretty simple:  The AKC registers only a tiny fragment of dogdom in this country. Those number apparently are not on the increase either. The vast majority of dogs born in this country could be bred exactly outside the confines of various closed registry breeds, and in truth, that’s the whole deal with the designer dog thing.

I came to the point very recently that I am fully aware of all the problems associated with lower genetic diversity in purebred dogs, but I also began to realize that the people who were in purebred dogs were people who actually loved their animals. I would like “purebred” to mean something different than it does now, but I don’t discount the concept of breed.

I would like to have better brachcephalic dogs rather than ban all brachycephalic dogs. Brachycephalic breeds exist, I think, because it is easier for primates like ourselves to see some comradeship in an animal that has almost simian visage than one with the wolf’s muzzle. The extant form of dogs all belong to the subfamily called Caninae, which is characterized by cursorial hunting. I have called these dogs “post canine” because their selection is against the main feature of all Caninae. They are now Caninae by lineage in the same way that whales are Artiodactyls.  They are off that lineage but no longer share those traits that defined their ancestors.

I offer only a criticism of these dogs, not an advocacy for any legislation. My criticism is there because I am oddly attracted to brachycephaly. I am pulled by my primate brain to feel that comradeship, and I know that the owners of these dogs feel those emotions even more strongly than I do.

I think my initial edgelord tone on this issue didn’t do any good.  It might have given me some hits on the blog and plaudits from other bloggers. I may have helped the Retromops project a bit, but I don’t think it helped any pugs or French bulldogs.

French bulldogs haven’t gone down in popularity either. They are now the number 1 breed in the UK, supplanting the old staple of the Labrador retriever.

I miss the golden retriever of my youth very much. Her ghost haunts nearly ever post on this site, and I’ve spent so much time looking for a dog with that amount of intellect, sensitivity, drive, and yes, loyalty, and I have found so many dogs that come close but never match them all.

Anka does. Anka is not a golden retriever, but she is like that old dog, a package that mixes all those things and places them in a different package.

And that means I must say I was generally wrong about German shepherds. I had never lived with one until now, and I never dreamed that I would hit it off with one of these dogs.

But I have.

And if I’m wrong about her, then I surely have been wrong about many things, many things about which I have written to you in a voice that sounds awfully authoritative.

I try to get the facts. I’d rather be right than wrong, and I would like to pare back my prejudices as much as possible.

I’m glad that I am reaching this point in my life, and I only wish that I had reached it sooner, when I could have been less cruel and less maddeningly stupid.

So I am not in my 20s anymore, and I now wish to move onto a better exploration of myself, what I actually think, and what I actually am.

I hope you can stay with me, but I am different now.




The Tribe of Lybica

black cat

The August rains are autumn rains for me. The midday sun may boil the air a bit, but once a torrent falls from the sky,  air is astringent and cool and gives me just a little taste of the coming short days of October, when the sun will cast at the steepest angles through the crimson leaves on the trees.

Though the land is still in verdant summer, I feel this coming coolness and revel in it a bit. Just a few days ago, I was standing out in a bit of post-downpour reveling when I spied a black cat moving softly along the far end of the lawn.

Before we moved here, the cats lived in a paradise, feeding and fighting as ferals do,  and having their kittens on the old outbuildings that abut this property. The constant wanderings of dogs in and out of the house have put an bit of a damper on the cats constantly wandering here.

But every once in a while, I see one moving along the edge of the property, perhaps searching old haunts and checking to see if a giant coyote with a black muzzle still lived at this address.

On this day, though, the rain fell good and hard, and then the stooping August sun peared out to cast a yellow glow upon the land. And the sun rays cast upon the cat’s black coat, and its nearly pantherine form seemed to glow ethereally.

The cat glanced back at me, and I recognized its slender head and gracile form as belonging to a queen and not a tom.  Perhaps, it was the same queen I’d seen nearly month ago, moseying  through the summer grass with four kittens in tow.  Two black ones like their mother and two wildcat tabby ones cavorted all around their mother, who moved with the solemn determination of something wild and untouchable.

Their lives, like all things trying to be wild, are fleeting and harsh Hazards abound. Just few days later, I saw the flattened form of a black kitten on the highway just down from the house. I cannot know whether it was one of the four I’d seen cross the lawn, but I suspect that it was.

I am not a cat person. You will never confuse me with one, but I cannot help marvel at what they are. Many species of small wild cat exist in the world, but only a single form of wildcat managed set up shop in agrarian society.

This wildcat, now known by the name Felis lybica,  found that staking out granaries and wheatfields for mice and hamsters  was a pretty good way to survive. The grain ensured hordes of rodents for the stalking, and man’s hatred for all things large and predatory kept away all the wildcat adversaries or at least kept them at bay.

And over time the cat came to be man’s little wheatfield leopard, stalking and killing and living and traveling over the whole world as the ultimate mesopredator.

This is the Tribe of Lybica, the clan of little predators that don’t cause us much concern, and whole lineages of cats have passed before them. The mighty Smilodon and the American lion have fallen from the land. and even the squalling cougar has passed on from its haunts, though a few claim to see them slipping about in the undergrowth.

The Tribe of Lybica lives at the edge of human civilization, but it also lives in a much vaunted status as a companion animal. The internet worships them in almost the same garish way as the Ancient Egyptians did.  They filled their walls with many images of cats, while we fill our “walls” with memes of “kitters” and “cattos.”

The Anthropocene is the age where the little monsters thrive and the big ones live mostly in forgotten and inaccessible redoubts.  You’ve never seen an Amur tiger stroll down an alley in Pittsburgh, but you’ve surely caught the glance of one of the local ferals flitting away behind a parked car.

So the black cats will thrive well in my neighborhood. The speeding car is their only main concern.  They will stand starkly against the winter cold and driving rain, and we will consider them very little.

But they will thrive, and in the spring, the queens will have their kittens, and a whole new generation of the Lybica will inherit the grounds.

And this cycle will repeat long after I’ve moved on.

As much as I will rail that cats need to be kept indoors and kept neutered, they will thrive so long as human kind thrives.

And when our species goes the way of the dinosaur, their lineage will be spread across the globe. It might be cut down in size once the bigger predators return, or they could evolve into the new tigers and cougars that prowl the world post-humanity.

So the Tribe of Lybica’s fate is linked to ours, but perhaps not as much as we might assume.

Their connection to us will always be tenuous and fleeting but also linked and tied. A remarkable paradox, to be sure.











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