In Which I Ramble About Deer and Assholes

"You're going to want to grab a cup of coffee. This one got long"

“You’re going to want to grab a cup of coffee. This one got long”

I have nothing against hunting. For food.

When taken by a responsible hunter (i.e. permitted, law-abiding, property-respecting, good shot) wild game is one of the most humane sources of animal protein currently available. Unlike our factory farming system, which sentences animals to a life of unspeakable horrors, game animals are more or less bopping around their native habitats, having about as good a life as they can in a world run by people until, ideally, they are quickly and quietly dispatched.

I also have a not insignificant amount of respect for people who interact with their food systems in a way that I don’t, can’t, or won’t. I believe there is much to be said for the hunter who understands, and respects, that he or she is taking a life in order to sustain their own, and then proceeds to put every bit of the animal to use with a near psychotic efficiency.

That said, I have everything in the world against hunting for sport. If your idea of “sport” is stalking a thumb-less and unarmed vegetarian creature while you, an apex predator, are stuffed with beer and strapped to the gills in miniaturized explosives well, I’d like to introduce you to “golf.” Because golf is more sporting than that shit.

And in the name of sweet sweet reason, don’t plaster Facebook with photos of you drunkenly holding the head of your still-warm quarry. One, that is disrespectful—if you do that, you are officially hunting for “sport” even if you eat the damn thing. Two, I just assume that every male who does this is suffering a serious case of micropenis. If you have to kill a deer because it is literally or metaphorically better hung than you are, check how you’re living. And get a hobby. I suggest an actual sport.

Based on the aforementioned opinions, I have a hierarchy of hunters. At the top of that hierarchy, more or less above reproach, is the subsistence hunter. You do you, man. And thank you for not contributing to the US’s deplorable animal husbandry standards. Beneath subsistence hunters—like way, way beneath them; so far beneath them they’d need an extension ladder to lick a subsistence hunter’s bootheel—are the “sport” hunters who all need to read a fucking book.

And beneath even them, down past the Treacherous in what, I’m sure, would have been labeled the Twentieth Circle of Hell (give or take) if only Dante had had a bigger excavator, are the Inhumane Fuckwits.

King of the Inhumane Fuckwits is the canned hunt-er.

This makes the entire municipality in which I dwell—bastion of soccer moms, upscale shopping, and vegan groceries—the official barony of Inhumane Fuckwits. For you see, those soccer moms have become very worried about their soccer vans toting their soccer children as deer run rampant! Hurling themselves into traffic! Launching themselves through windscreens! Mayhem! Destruction! Carnage! There is blood in the streets and its up to the soccer moms’ ankles because deer.

So the precioussssssssss (fuck them) have instituted a canned hunt, which they are calling a deer cull, recently approved by the PA Game Commission (fuck them, too.) This allows them to set up paddocks, spread corn, close the gate, then shoot the captive deer. Not only is this a stupidly ineffective non-solution to the problem, it’s unspeakably cruel. Deer have nothing on us. They don’t have a second amendment and are therefore without firearms, they can’t really bite us to death (not effectively, anyway), and they’re the exact opposite of intimidating. There was that one guy, on When Animals Attack, who was boxed by a deer but, injuries notwithstanding, I think the overwhelming majority of the population just laughed at that. Or maybe that was just me.

This canned hunt removes their only means of defense–the ability to run away–so that people can quickly and conveniently shoot them in the head. And, to add insult to mortal injury, it does it by luring them into the situation. It’s not like the deer just happened to be standing around in this pen so someone closed the gates. Nay. It’s winter. They’re hungry. Inevitably, they find this Xanadu in the snow, where the floor is literally paved with dried corn and BLAM! Someone shoots them in the face. And the last ones to go get to freak the hell out while they watch the other deer get shot in the face.

If you can’t see what’s wrong with that, fuck you, as well. The Humane Society will see you out.

I obviously have a problem with this “solution”, but I also take issue with the underlying premise that anything at all needs to be done about the deer. We have a lot of them, that is true. We also have a fair amount of green space in the community. If only someone could have forseen that parkland attracts wildlife. Woe betide us. But then, I’m guessing that green space and an overall bucolic vibe are likely two features that attracted many of these Inhumane Fuckwits to the Lebo over, say, Larimer.

In addition to a lot of deer, we also have relatively low speed limits. I’ve seen far more deer on the residential, 25MPH, streets than I have on the primary roads—which stands to reason: it’s quieter. Much more chill. They wander around, fairly unmolested, eating people’s Hostas. There are no Hostas on Banksville. So, I mean, I hate to bring up the elephant in the room (please don’t shoot him!) but uhhhhhh . . . if you’re driving 25 MPH or less, pray tell me: why can you not avoid bloody, deadly collisions with large mammals?

Oh right. It’s because you are actually traveling almost twice that speed, but it’s just plain easier to blame the deer than it is to take responsibility. And also, I know you paid your landscapers a lot to maintain those Hostas.

Let me pause here to emphasize that I, in no way, mean to diminish the safety risk posed by Pennsylvania’s crazy pants deer population. Deer-vehicle collisions are at best scary, and at worst, deadly. But in a mostly residential community, with pretty rational speed limits and good distance from the closest interstate, there is no way that they should be as out-of-control scary as our little hamlet would have it seem.

Speeding is a known issue here. Drive half a mile through this community and you’ll lose count of all the “Drive like your children live here!” signs you will pass. As a runner, I have been very nearly run off the road twice, and actually hit by a vehicle once. I’ve been running off and on since 1998, in four states and five cities, and this is the only place I’ve ever been concerned for my safety. Here. In a community that markets itself on its walkability. Which is to say, Mt. Lebanon: you all drive like assholes.

When I pointed this out on a Facebook discussion, I was summarily told “not all drivers!” and also that pedestrians need to take responsibility for not being visible enough. Legitimate overtures could be made to take “It’s your fault!” as our community catchphrase. Isn’t it possible–just possible–that this asshole attitude, combined with the speeding, might have something to do with all your freaking deer collisions? Perhaps we don’t need a deer cull so much as a driver reeducation camp. Because even if the deer cull works (it won’t) these people are still going to need something to break them from their texting-while-driving stupor and a runner works just as well as a deer. Will we then ban runners? Or just shoot them?

Since I acknowledge that there are a lot of deer, and that we are but one community in the midst of a state-wide deer overpopulation issue, I’m not averse to the notion that something, perhaps, should be done. I will at least humor that notion. My first favorite response to overpopulation of deer is allowing the natural coyote population to return to healthy levels.

Except that one time that people in Lebo starting seeing coyotes, they freaked the hell out and wanted to kill those, too. If there’s one thing Lebonites dislike even more than deer eating their Hostas, it’s coyotes eating their Morkiepoos. So obviously that won’t work.

Well, ok. What about sterilization? That was one of the plans under consideration. Does would be tranquilized and sterilized in a mobile surgical suite. What on earth could be wrong with that?

Not fast enough. All the deer would remain alive. An entire deer generation-worth of Hostas would still be eaten. Natch.

So you see, an inhumane eradication procedure was really their only option. Won’t anybody think of Mt. Lebanon? The deer have made them be mean. It’s so sad.

Apparently, the deer have also rendered them terminally stupid, because here’s the thing: once they shoot all the captive deer, freeing their streets and thinning the herd, do they sincerely expect surrounding deer won’t move in? Are they going to build a fence? Do they suspect that the Upper St. Clair deer, and the Scott Township deer, and the Dormont deer will hear what happens in Mt. Lebanon and just . . . stay away? Do they honestly believe that deer even know where the boundaries of those communities are? I know Lebo thinks it’s the center of the universe and that everyone knows it, but I gotta say, I think the deer give about as many fucks as I do.

The deer want the space, we have the space. The deer aren’t going anywhere unless you build a bubble (true fact: there is not presently a bubble over Lebo to contain its rarified air. I repeat: won’t anyone think of them?) So all this really does is begin an endless cycle wherein portions of our green space are turned into mammalian massacre pens.

And you just know someone is going to bitch about having to look at the blood-soaked ground.

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When Running for Critters Runs Into Critters Running. Also, Asshats.

I hope your coffee was super delicious, jagoff.

I hope your coffee was super delicious, jagoff.

Pop quiz!

Not quite one week ago you “rescued” a “traumatized” dog who is scared of people. Today, you want gas station coffee. Do you:

A) Pat pup on the head, give him a Kong, and take your 15 minute leave to walk to the local filling station

B) Pat pup on the head, give him a Kong, crate him, and take your 15 minute leave to walk to the local filling station

C) Put pup in the car and drive the stupidly short distance to the gas station because you don’t want to leave pup, but you really need the coffee and you realize only a serious douchecanoe would tie their dog to a trash can while they ducked into a convenience mart for coffee

D) Walk pup to gas station. Secure him to trash can because I mean, that’s basically their third purpose, behind “trash can” and bike rack, amirite?

If you picked D, I may have met you Thursday. And if you did, and I did, and you thought, “Heavens, that was a polite, if hurried young lady. What a wonderful world we live in! And with such delicious coffee!” I just want you to know that it took absolutely everything good within me to keep from kicking you in the nads.

If that all sounds familiar but you’re just not sure if it was you, allow me to refresh.

Me: smallish, possibly angry-looking female on last leg of run commute hauling ass up Federal street as your dog careened down the middle of it and through busy intersections before Tokyo-drifting around a corner and into morning commute traffic.

You: Douchecanoe who strolled leisurely in general direction of said dog, stopping to chat up passersby and enquire as to the whereabouts of your hound while sipping coffee and explaining, variously, that he “doesn’t run fast” and that he’s skittish around people.

I have a love/hate relationship with ambiguity and, in this instance, I’m feeling more hate. So, since I am kind and want what is best not only for you, but OF you, I have prepared a brief DOS and DON’Ts list for dog treatment in light of the above scenario. Let’s get started with the don’ts, shall we? Get all that pesky negativity out of the way.

  • DON’T secure your recently-rescued, “traumatized” and skittish dog to a trash can and then leave him unattended. How is this even a thing you need to be told? If my dad were alive he’d be asking you if you just fell off the turnip truck while I bashed you in the face with my fully loaded water bottle for being absolutely incompatible with a reasonable and compassionate citizenry. I would completely ignore irony in favor of sweet, vengeful righteousness.
  • You know what, asshole? DON’T secure any dog to any thing and then leave them unattended. This simplifies everything, because if you never do it, you won’t ever do it in such a profoundly imbecilic context as the one above. Even if your dog is the most awesomely well-socialized, friendly, happy, obedient canine on Earth, do you know what kind of PEOPLE are out there? For starters, there’s you. And then it goes down hill. There are people who see a dog and want a dog and steal a dog; people who need bait dogs; people who are seriously fucked in the head and just want to do awful things; jackass little kids who like to pet, poke, prod, or otherwise antagonize dogs because they’re little shits and their parents are cretins. ALL KINDS OF PEOPLE. Leaving your dog unattended is setting them up to be harassed, bite someone, or possibly get freaked out and pull over a trash can before running through the city streets.
  • DON’T adopt another damn dog. Not until you can wrap your mind around the most basic responsibilities of dog stewardship, chief among which is keeping them safe–an ideal fundamentally incompatible with tethering said dog to a trash can. I mean, if you’re ever in doubt, just say that out loud: “I am going to tether my dog to a trash can.” Would you tether your baby to a trash can? What about, like, your favorite leather car coat? You tying that to a trash can anytime soon? Do you even know who voluntarily touches trash cans? NOBODY THEY ARE GROSS AND COVERED IN TRASH JUICE.
  • DON’T, for the love of all that is good in this world, be that insufferably laid back person. You know, the one who’s all, “Dogs are cool, man, you just gotta chill out. They’ll find their way home if they get loose. They aren’t, like, stupid, man. Sometimes you just gotta let ’em run.” Dogs aren’t stupid, but this kind of flippant attitude is. I’m not asking you to be some kind of neurotic, I’m simply suggesting that you check in with common sense every so often and recognize that your dog is entirely dependent on you for all his basic needs, including safety. Just keep your goddamn dog safe and save your chill for the next Burning Man Festival.

And for the dos:

  • DO take a long, hard look at the picture at the top of the page. Because those are YOUR DOG’S BLOODY PAW PRINTS. I first saw them on Phineas Street, almost a mile from where I initially saw your dog. And on my way home, after work, I saw your dog’s bloody paw prints fucking everywhere. All over the North Side. That picture? That was taken on Sandusky, near the Warhol Museum. Nearly another mile from the prints on Phineas. There are miles of your poor dog’s bloody paw prints crisscrossing an entire section of the city. And while I realize that my mental anguish in seeing them is nothing compared to what your dog must have felt, running scared through traffic and bleeding all over the North Side, that shit chaps my ass so bad I’ma have to buy stock in Boudreaux’s Butt Paste. I spent THE ENTIRE GODDAMNED DAY thinking about and worrying about YOUR DOG. So, not only did you fuck up your dog’s day, but you seriously side fucked mine AND I AM NOT OK WITH THAT. It is not ok that I spent the morning imagining your dog being smashed by a truck on 28 and frantically texting the administrator of the local lost dog page. It is not ok that I did all this worrying and texting while thinking of you peaceably strolling down the street, making excuses for why your dog was hurling himself through intersections.

There really are no excuses. Your dog was in the position he was in because you were an asshole. Now, I realize that you and I shared a brief interaction during which you came off as a flippant prick and that may not be the real you. Maybe you realized you put your dog in a world of hurt and you shut down out of embarrassment and sincere regret. I don’t know, and I don’t really care.

But I do care about your dog. Your dog deserves better. If you’re ever reunited, I hope you remember that, and I hope you can somehow dig deep and find the champion that he deserves.

Though, if we’re being honest, I hope even more that some other, really super great person gets your dog and stuffs him full of liver jerky and snuggles on the couch with him. And if that person ever finds, on a blustery Thursday morning, that they really want a coffee, I hope they have a goddamned coffee maker.

Running for Critters: Breaking All the Things

Oh. It's a leg.

Oh. It’s a leg.

PSA: your skin is not SUPPOSED to be all weird and speckly like that. Nor is it supposed to itch like the devil. Turns out, that happens when you run in extremely low temps and the topmost layer of your skin actually starts to freeze, and then thaws when you come inside. Not all deep and gangrenous, like frostbite, but just enough that, after a really unpleasant shower you google “cold run legs itchy speckled” and then recoil in horror at the results because really, eew. Thawing leg flesh.

I FREEZE MY LEG SKIN FOR CRITTERS.

Opinions. We have a surplus.

IMG_3640.JPG

“If I am not allowed on the bed, then you, Calvin, are FOR DAMN SURE NOT ALLOWED ON THE BED GET OFF.”

When I adopted Karmann, I was living by myself in Savannah and I had a particularly strong opinion that she should be able to howl. I have no idea why I wanted this, and I was well aware that not all dogs howled and this was not really something I could teach her. Nevertheless, when we got a particularly lovely night we would go out late and stand in the middle of the street, and I would attempt to recreate the scene from Moonstruck where grandpa is encouraging his own tiny mutt herd to howl.

GUARDE DE LA LUNA KARMANN!!! AAAAA-OOOOOOOOOOOOO!

In the middle of the street. In a quiet neighborhood. And honestly, I don’t even think those are the right Italian words. I was probably yelling at her to lettuce on the moon. But it felt right, you know? So I did it. Occasionally, my upstairs neighbor would come out with his dog and laugh hysterically at us. It was good times. Very Savannah-y.

I think about those balmy, sort of insane southern nights often. Usually when Karmann is bitching incessantly and doing her best “howl”, which comes out as a protracted grumble and sounds quite ornery for a dog who is wagging her whole body. And I think, “Hey! I maybe did that! [bitch bitch bitch] I . . . did that.”

Karmann has a lot of opinions and, thanks to our 1am howling sessions, she expresses them vocally. Moreso as she ages and her filter, apparently, diminishes.

She has opinions on when she should be fed: “arrrrrruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuruuuuuuuruuuuuuuugh!”

She has opinions about how quickly I prepare her food: “Grrrrrrruuuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.”

She has opinions about when she should be taken outside just because she wants to go outside and not, necessarily, because she has to do anything out there other than monitor the tree kittens: “rrrrrrruh.rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrugh.”

She has opinions about when humans should get out of bed: *silence* . . . *taptaptap over to bedside* *silence* . . . *positions snout next to sleeping human ear* . . . “RORK! RORK! RORK! RORKROROKRORK!”

She has opinions about when she needs to be taken out LIKE RIGHT NOW AND IT’S AN EMERGENCY EVEN THOUGH SHE WAS SLEEPING UNTIL RIGHT THIS SECOND HURRY!!!: “auuurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrORKORKORKORK . . . *wagglebutt tapdance* ORKORKORKORKORKORKORKORKORKORKORK!!!”

She does not bark at things. Or people. She doesn’t bark at other dogs. She only vocalizes when she has opinions about things her closely-associated humans are–or should be–doing.

Well. Her humans . . . and Cal. She has a whole crapload of opinions about Cal: what smells he can smell (none of the smells), when he can rest (when she is resting), when he should play (whenever she wants to play), what things are his (none of the things), etc. We run interference on La Diva, so that Cal isn’t endlessly harassed, but that never stops her from trying and sometimes the opinions reach critical mass before we realize she’s ready to unleash them. See also: Christmas.

For Christmas, we got the pups the bobbly little turtle toys with stuffable bellies. Karmann’s opinion on treat toys has generally been that any not in her possession would be considered a declaration of war, so we had avoided them. But hope springs eternal around here, for some reason, and we decided that maybe it could be ok now. So we stuffed the turtles and made happy chirpy sounds and gave Karmann the green turtle and Calvin the blue turtle. Karmann snatched hers and ran, but Cal does not take things, so I carried his turtle for him and placed it in his bed. He seemed suspicious. Possibly nefarious turtle takeover of his bed: quel horreur.

So of course Karmann helped to soothe his fears by looking up, realizing there was a turtle that wasn’t in her bed, and launching herself, while shouting, at Cal who, if he were a human in pants, would have wet said pants. There was shrieking and angry faces and scared faces, and the dog equivalent of “THAT IS MY TURTLE!!!!” and “GET THIS AWFUL TURTLE OUT OF MY BED OH MY GOD” and “IT’S MINE!!!” and “FINE!!!” and “MINEMINEMINE” and “I DIDN’T EVEN ASK FOR THIS!!!”–and that was just in the three seconds it took for humans to realize what was happening and intervene.

We separated them and then tried to re-introduce the turtles at some additional distance, which pleased Karmann but horrified Cal, because for him the turtle is just a thing that takes his bed and gets him yelled at.

I feel like I should apologize to Cal, for all those evenings spent encouraging Karmann to voice her opinions. And I would do that, except that I can’t get a word in edgewise around here.

At least I taught her something?