Friday, October 15, 2010

The Young Buck

Monday morning as I drove along La Tuna Canyon Boulevard on my way to drop off Tommy at Starcrest Kennels I hit a deer. He suddenly appeared, seemingly out of thin air, like a ghost, though his massive body hurling against the right side of my car was certainly of the corporeal world. Stunned, I pulled over to the shoulder to survey the damage and get my bearings: The windshield was all in one piece. The only problem I could see was the side-view mirror smashed up against the passenger window.

With trepidation I looked behind me to see what had become of the deer, but then caught a glimpse of him loping up the hill to my left across the road. There were two of them, each with a young set of antlers. I wasn’t sure which one I had hit. They both seemed to be fine, although I couldn't be sure. I didn’t stay long as Tommy, tethered in the back seat, went berserk at the sight of them. I continued onto Starcrest.

Just last week I’d seen five deer running up the same hillside. It was a beautiful sight but I worried then about their fate traveling along such a busy street. In the three years I’ve been taking Tommy to Starcrest, I’d never seen a deer. My theory is that the devastation from the Station Fire that burned thousands of square miles of the Angeles National Forest forced the deer down to these hills, the Verdugo Mountains, to search for food.

I felt shaken up all that day, awakened to how unpredictable life is: you step out the door and go about your daily mundane business and a deer flies out of the sky and smashes into your car.

But I know I was lucky. It could have been much worse. He could’ve slammed into my windshield. I could have been impaled by a rack of antlers.

These are humbling thoughts. I’m grateful I wasn’t hurt. I’m also really, really sad. Animals don’t stand a chance having to share the planet with us. It’s heartbreaking.

Whenever I contemplate the problems that weigh heavy on my heart, my impulse is to go into fix-it mode. What can I do to prevent deer from running onto a road and getting whacked by a 2-ton barrel of steel? The answer is, of course, absolutely nothing.

A few days after I found the Hahamongna Chihuahua, I had dinner with a friend in the Franklin Hills area of Los Feliz. As I drove down St. George Blvd, which runs along Marshall High School, I saw a dog up ahead in the middle of the road. Not again! I spewed out a string of profanity. It was late. I was exhausted and had to work the next morning. Did I really want to stop and try to catch another stray dog? As I reached the intersection, I saw that the dog, who had run up Griffith Park Blvd and now stood motionless in the middle of the street, was in fact a coyote. He looked frightened and confused. I kept driving. My brain kicked into problem-solving gear as I considered how I could help him: maybe I should go back and try to shoo him toward the park or into someone’s yard away from traffic.

Then I thought, really? You think there’s something you can do to help this lost coyote?

And the young buck and others like him?

Some believe the decision to hold off on stopping the Station Fire within the first 24 hours was motivated by the desire to save money. I don't know the truth, but I hope it's not that.

The past year has been filled with depressing news of environmental catastrophes: the Gulf oil devastation, the orange sludge poisoning communities in Hungary killing everything in its wake. Last night The Story featured Echoes of Kentucky, about a town where, ten years after coal sludge poured into their community, they still can’t drink the water.

On a positive note, a lot of people are working hard to change the destructive path we’re following. Today is Blog Action Day, and the 2010 theme is water. It’s the kind of thing that gives me hope: thousands of people around the world writing about a critical issue, millions of readers participating in the discussion.

Here are a couple of participating blogs as well as a charity that provides water to children in Africa:

Blue Kitchen

Pasadena Daily Photo

Drop in the Bucket

"The good Earth—we could have saved it, but we were too damn cheap and lazy."
— Kurt Vonnegut, from A Man Without a Country

"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not. "
— Dr. Seuss, from The Lorax


  1. I remember having to keep an eye out for deer growing up in Michigan, they do just appear. In Alaska we had moose which would also just appear but cause a lot more damage than deer


  2. In Colorado it was an every day affair to hear about humans and wildlife colliding. Sometimes it had more tragic consequences because it was mostly elk who were hit by cars and because of their massive size, many humans were killed in the process. People living in the mountains had to deal with herds of elk tramping down the street or hanging out in their backyards, eating their plants and trees - and they complained. I was intrigued and irritated - coming from New York where the occasional deer was seen in the wooded park areas. Often, I would think to myself while living in the foothills of Evergreen, Colorado: "WE built our houses on THEIR land, THEIR homes. And yet we complain that they are in our way! It would be like building an underwater village in the ocean and complaining about fish and sharks swimming around in our backyard! Why are we so selfish? They have as much right to be here as we do and we have to learn how to respect the wildlife, share our space with them in a way that won't put then or us in harm's way." I realize there is not a lot we can do about the deer who runs in front of our car. People do that, too, especially down here in San Diego where the freeways are dangerous terrain for the border-crossers. Best thing to do is to pay attention to our surroundings and keep an eye out when driving - especially in foggy or other inclement weather when these things happen the most frequently.

    And Sue - although you want to stop and help every stray you see and find a way to prevent a young buck from being hit by a car, it is not always possible to save the whole world and you have to give yourself a break. You are doing your part by just CARING about it and GETTING THE WORD OUT through your writing. Don't fret. You are one of the GOOD ones!

    Love you! xoxo L.

  3. Kari, one of my sisters lives in Vermont and they have to watch for moose too. Both she and my dad have hit deer. I know it's quite common.

    Liz, that was beautifully said and with amazing imagery. I remember seeing elk when I was a kid and being awestruck. That's exactly right: we've encroached on their habitat. How can people not see that?! Thanks for your sweet words.

  4. Susan, Thank you for your post. I am so glad you and the deer came away safe.

    I know your feeling about wanting to save every animal you see in need of help. I often find myself in the same situation and it is an awful feeling.

    I tell myself I am only one person and I'll do the best I can with my time, energy and money. Yet it seems so little. Then again it's more then if we did nothing. I'm sure all the animals we have saved surely feel we have made a difference, by saving their lives.

    Miss you and Tommy,
    Tigger, Ohno, Einstien, Vinyl and me.
    (yes... four dogs, I must be nuts)

  5. I wish I'd seen this sooner. It's a fine piece of writing, Susan. I'm the same way about every stray animal I see. We can't all be like Veronica, but it would be nice if we all cared.

    On a grand scale, the Vonnegut quote's not too far off. The latest environmental disasters have happened because people were being cheap. Cheap! Trying to save a few bucks and look what happens. It's outrageously shortsighted, and says a lot about what some people value: dollars over the future.

  6. Yes, I don't think the eternal struggle is between doing good and doing evil -- it's between doing good and doing nothing at all.

  7. I am so impressed with your compassion and your drive to actually get involved and do something about it. We need more people like you in the world. I love that you spread the word about all these important issues. We need you out there saving little chihuahua's and equally we need your word out in the world to inspire and guide us where to learn more.

    You are right Liz Berry Wagner from Colorado - "We build houses on their land and yet we complain that they are in our way" Very well said Liz. You are my kind of people. It seems all your friends on this site as I have been reading the comments section are pretty cool compassionate group of friends ;-)

    What I think is great is you (Susan) know your passion. To be awake, conscious, compassionate, walk the talk, stand up and do something about it. Cheers to you! Keep going. Spread the word.

    Great story. Sorry about the deer, sorry about your car. I'm glad you and Tommy are OK.

  8. hi sue
    I often wonder everything that you have said. The little bears who end up in our back yards, the elk, the moose and the little deers. Oh dear all we can say is that love will have to conquer all of this and thereafter. We are never going to give up on our love or our dream of love for this earth and all of the children and animals who need our protection. We are all so glad that you are ok (cause those deers are strong and big) and that Tommy was there to protect you, again that Tommy your angel from heaven above.
    Take care honey and keep on keeping on with your heart and messages.

  9. Terri, you have four dogs now?! You're amazing.

    Petrea, thank you. It's frightening to see how short-sighted people are. Do they think they are immune from the destructive forces their decisions unleash?

    Hiker, that's an excellent point.

    dog rescuer, you inspire me with your commitment and passion. And yes, it's a good bunch of people visiting this blog, yourself included.

    Kristen, I know how your heart is wide open for the animals. Thank you so much for the doggie book! You made my week.

  10. I'm rather disturbed by the idea of hitting a deer. I have rarely seen any in the Verdugos. I'm not sure I've actually seen a deer there at all; a few bobcats. Are there any wildlife corridors coming from the San Gabriels? The Verdugos are locked in by freeways on all sides.

    Missed the theme day but did attend the Station Fire gathering at the federal building. Incredibly crowded but interesting because I was sitting on the isle next to the LA times reporter Paul Pringle (who was standing.) He's been the lead news investigator that didn't roll over when people dismissed the fire with the "nature of chaparral" theory. Mr Pringle keeps a poker face but whenever those being questioned started to bull-s I knew it by the way Mr Pringles corner lip would break into the slightest smile.

  11. SO scary. Glad you and Tommy are fine.

  12. PA, I don't know the Verdugos well enough to know if there are any wildlife corridors from the San Gabriels. Perhaps my theory that the deer came from there is off-base. Wherever, it's very disturbing they're on that busy road and in danger - and *very* disturbing to hit one.

    I haven't kept up with the LA Times coverage of the Station Fire nor did I make it to that meeting. But I love the observation you made of that reporter. I'm intrigued by Mr. Pringle now.

    Miss J, thanks so much. Me too!

  13. re Paul Pringle: Maybe not so much a smile as a sneer?

    Did you hear about that deer that was hit on the 210 (near Suicide bridge) a few years ago? I remember hearing about it as a sig alert when I was on my way back from the Westside. I once counted 17 deer in the hills surrounding (and on the perimeters) of the Annendale golf course. A wayward escapee. Terrifying for both deer and the inhabitants of the car that hit it

  14. I forgot to tell you that my wife has been very involved with an a rescue group. Here's a couple of link relating to a really bad bite she recieved while participating in a rescue transfer.

  15. PA, I finally had a chance to read some of Paul Pringle's articles about the Station fire. I can see why he'd sneer at that meeting. It's so depressing to think how the devastation could've been prevented had actions not been dictated by saving a few bucks. It's shameful.

    I hadn't heard about the deer hit on the 210 a few years ago. Yikes. It is so terrifying. It's so unpredictable. You can't really do anything to prevent it, other than not driving - which is not a bad idea but not exactly practical in Southern California.

    Pat Tillett, I checked out that post. That is one nasty bite your wife endured. I hope her hand has healed.

  16. Susan, a very well-told story. I seem to be seeing more and more deer as their habitat and food supply diminish. It's almost to the point where I EXPECT to hit one sooner or later.

    Do you know William Stafford's chilling poem, "Traveling through the Dark"? You can probably google it (maybe it's at or Helluva poem.

    You deserve the applause you're getting for your kindness toward animals. I hope it spreads.

  17. Banjo, oh, that Stafford poem just kicked me in the gut. I'm all choked up now. Yes, a helluva poem.

    Thanks for passing it on. Thanks for reading and for your kind words.

  18. Hi Susan, I'm really late to this post, but find it really interesting. I haven't killed a warm-blooded animal with my car yet, thank goodness, but some drivers behind me may have cursed at my braking to spare the life of a skunk or squirrel. The worst place to drive is Australia at twilight, where the kangaroos wait by the side of the road and leap out right in front of the car as you go past, kamikaze style. It's impossible to stop, and the outcome isn't good for the roos and wallabies. I guess they will need a few more centuries to evolve an awareness of what car lights actually mean.

  19. Hi Bellis, thanks for stopping by. I've never heard of that problem in Australia. What a horrific image! You describe it well. I hope the animals are still around in a few more centuries to evolve that understanding. (I like how that sentence reveals your scientific mind.)

    Poor roos and wallabies.