The Diamond Digest

When Good Poodles Go Bad: A Wild Chase Through the Woods Leads to an Unexpected Rescue

“Dash, no!”

But my words came too late. Some unidentified animal had leaped up from beneath the big poodle’s nose and run into the woods. Adrenaline filled Dash’s brain, blocking out my frantic words. He tore off in pursuit.

As I charged after him, my mind tried to identify the creature. But I’d only gotten a glimpse of it. It was brown, fast . . . and dangerous?

I knew from experience that Dash would never harm another animal. If he actually cornered the beast, his instinct would be to drop into a play bow and wag his tail. Unfortunately, poodle play behavior doesn’t translate across species.

Whatever he chased was too tall to be a squirrel, groundhog or other creature of the daytime. I feared it might be a fox or other nocturnal creature, something seen during the day only when rabid.

Something that, when cornered, would attack.

I charged after him, a good 100 yards behind.

Ducking beneath a low-hanging branch, I slipped on loose leaves. Panic kept me on my feet. Dash and whatever he chased weren’t slowing down.

At least I didn’t have to worry about traffic. Our five-acre property was partially fenced, denying Dash access to the quiet, cul de sac street. What worried me was not cars but the creature he was chasing. What if he actually caught it?

That thought spurred me on. Huffing and puffing, I was actually gaining on him. I screeched Dash’s name. The panic in my voice must have penetrated Dash’s adrenaline-fueled brain. He paused and glanced behind him. I pumped my arms and legs, determined to reach him.

Seeing me running full bore toward him, however, only egged him on. Turning, he continued his pursuit.

I cursed myself for being a bad dog trainer. The terror gripping my brain had clouded my judgment. When I’d had Dash’s attention, I should have turned and run the other way, signaling that the game was with me, not with whatever he pursued. By running toward Dash, I’d communicated my own participation in the chase and given him permission to continue.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Dash suddenly dodged left to circle a large oak tree. For a few frightening moments, the tree trunk blocked my view. I rounded the tree, tripped on a protruding root, righted myself and spotted Dash just ahead.

He was standing at the edge of the stream that bordered our property, staring down into what I knew would be only a few inches of running water.

I called his name. He looked back, flashed his version of a doggie smile and wagged his tail. To my relief, he waited for me to join him.

Slipping my fingers through his collar, I gasped for breath and peered down into the stream bed. Six or seven feet below us, a fawn lay half in and half out of the shallow water, breathing rapidly.

sleeping newborn fawn

Sleep of the Innocent

I knew this fawn. It had been born three weeks ago in our front yard.

I knew this fawn. Our local herd included only one spotted fawn, the one born in my daylily bed three weeks ago. Earlier today, when I was writing, this fawn had appeared at my patio door. It stood there quietly, watching me type. After a few minutes, it moved on.

And now, here it was, struggling to stand in the mud.

But where was its mother?

I scanned the forest around me, startled at how far we’d run. Mother deer often left their fawns hidden in a patch of tall grass while they wandered off and did whatever deer do when they were unencumbered by young’uns. Presumably, this one’s mother had left it near my patio door, expecting to find it there when she returned.

The only way that would happen would be if I brought it back.

Sighing, I released Dash.

“You wait here.”

Once again, I peered downward, searching for an easy way into the streambed. I took one tentative step, then another. My feet lost their traction on the muddy slope and flew out from under me. I slid the rest of the way on my butt.

At the bottom, I dusted myself off. The fawn kneeled with its tail in the air, looking over its shoulder at me. Now that it wasn’t being pursued it seemed more curious than scared. Maybe it recognized me from this morning.

I approached slowly, cooing softly. The fawn didn’t move. I stretched out a hand, allowed it to sniff me, then ran both hands over its body and scrawny legs. Nothing seemed broken.

Placing one hand on its chest and the other on its butt, I lifted until its – no, his – legs were positioned underneath him. He stood for a moment, then folded his legs and laid down.

Apparently, he was exhausted from all of that running. I’d have to carry him.

Bending over, I gently lifted him into my arms. He struggled for a moment, then leaned his head against my chest. Turning, I prepared to retrace my steps – only to find that the near-vertical sides of the stream stretched way above my head.

How the heck was I going to get out of here while carrying my 20-pound fawn?

sleeping newborn fawn

A Dilemma

How the heck was I going to get out of here while carrying my 20-pound fawn?

Maybe if I followed the stream bed toward the house, I’d find an easier place to climb out of here.

As I splashed along, water oozed into my sneakers. Dash wisely stayed on what I now thought of as the cliff above me, paralleling my movements and occasionally issuing a single bark of encouragement. The fawn shifted position, but seemed in no hurry to walk on his own.

The stream bed stretched on, sometimes bending away from the house, sometimes toward it. Up ahead, I spotted an area where the sides sloped less steeply. Using the outside edges of my sneakers for traction, I angled my way upward.

Finally – finally! – I reached level ground.

Only to be greeted by an exuberant poodle wanting to rub noses with his new friend.

The fawn was having none of it. He struggled and I almost lost my grip.

Maybe he could finally walk.

I set him on the ground and snagged Dash’s collar. The fawn loped away, angling up the hill toward the house and, presumably, the spot where his mother had left him.

Boy, would he have a story to tell.