There are an estimated 200,000 whitetail deer in Iowa.
What does this mean (besides that fact that Iowa has a population issue)?
It means we Iowans get to view these magestic creatures on almost a daily basis. And when they are not crashing into the front of our cars, whitetails can be quite breathtaking.
It also means that on long walks through the wooded areas in our neighborhood, Nala often sees one or more deer and is compelled to run… and run… and run… and disappear for long periods of time.
The average whitetail can run up to 30 miles an hour. Nala can keep up with this rather well and considers them, I have decided, one of the following:
1. A serious challenge
2. Worthy running partners
3. A possible dinner option
I understand that this issue is my fault and that I need to do something about it for Nala’s safety and my sanity. But the chase that took place this morning, instead of showing evidence of her free spirit and sometimes defiance demonstrated her loyalty and intelligence.
My boyfriend, his dog Ozzie (a Swissy) Nala and I were on a walk in said woods when a deer was spotted up the trail. Nala, of course, saw it first and before I could grab her, the deer moved and the chase was on. We kept walking. Usually in these kinds of situations, Nala seems to follow our smell and periodic calls and suddenly appears, soundless, from the trees, often ahead of us on the trail. But not this time.
For 20 minutes after the walk was over my boyfriend and I (loyal Ozzie by our side) called NALA! into the woods. Nothing. Just about the time we were feeling desperate, a couple met us on the trail. “You looking for a dog?” they asked.
“Yes,” we politely replied, thinking something like, What was your first clue? “If you see a skinny brown dog, that’s the one.”
“Oh!” the man lit up a bit. “Well there was a brown dog down by the entrance, sitting by a green SUV,” (my boyfriend’s car.) You must be kidding.
So down to the SUV we went. Sure enough, there sat Nala, panting and watching people on bikes and in running shorts going in and out of the entrance to the park and trails.
Of course my relief overwhelmed my annoyance at her defiance. And, naturally, I was impressed. You see, the last time Nala pulled this I-must-chase-deer stunt, I called for her for about 30 minutes then left. I was angry and I thought maybe if I wasn’t waiting for her when she returned she might learn a lesson. That lesson, in my mind at the time, was “If I run away from my human when she calls, she might not be here when I get back and I might just lose my happy home.” I had a fantasy that this would lead to her no longer running away. I wasn’t afraid she wouldn’t come back, she always comes back. I mean, the dog once found me in a Walgreen’s Drug Store. But I have the fear that she might get hurt out there and not be able to come back. Anyway, I was gone for about 10 minutes and when I returned she was sitting on the trail in the exact spot where she had disappeared. Upon seeing the car she ran happily to her human who was happy to see her safe and, as mentioned earlier, relief overwhelmed the previous frustration.
What Nala actually learned: “When I run off I must then return to the car so I am not left.”
Well, it can’t be said that she doesn’t learn. Clearly my dog is smarter than me.