Deer Hunting: No Longer What It was

Long-term readers of this blog might remember that one of Ollie’s favourite activities was to chase Deer. Over the years, he has managed to chase the three main varieties found around Beetley; Roe, White-Tailed, and Muntjac.

Of course, he never managed to catch one, and rarely even got close. Their ability to jump outclassed him, often leaving him confounded by wire fences or wooden gates. Besides, I would have called him back if he had got too close, as I would never want him to hurt one.

Over the past year, my old dog has slowed down considerably. On some occasions when we have spotted deer as close as 60 feet away, he has not even bothered to run after them. But in the close confines of the woodland area on Beetley Meadows, there are numerous Muntjacs to be found. Often not much larger than Ollie, they tend to run short distances, then go to ground in Brambles or Holly. The sharp spikes don’t seem to bother them, but Ollie knows better than to hurt himself by following them in.

We are just back from today’s walk, and in the woodland area, Ollie flushed out three of them. The two larger ones headed east, and a smaller one ran north, passing a few feet in front of us. Ollie watched them go, and made no attempt to chase any of them.

So, Deer hunting is no longer on the agenda for my old friend, it would seem.

He has realised his limitations.

Ollie: Treatment Complete

Yesterday, Ollie had the last of the medication for the current round of treatment.

He has had a lot of tablets, both antibiotics and steroids, as well as daily ear drops for some time now.

We finally managed to get him to swallow the tablets with no fuss, by concealing them in a small chunk of Brie. He lets me give him the ear drops without resistance, though he flinches every time I insert the tube deep into his ear.

I would flinch too.

His fur is slowly growing back, but some of the bald patches are still clearly visible. The head shaking has stopped, and he has been sleeping and eating well.

Once the steroids are out of his system by the weekend, I can start to give him his Arthritis tablets again. Despite being stiff-legged now, he still manages his walks.

Earlier this week, he even chased a Muntjac deer into some reeds by the river, and the animal escaped Ollie by running through the water and leaping out onto Hoe Rough.

On the 12th of February, Ollie will be 10 years old. Around 80 in human years, for his breed.

You can bet he will get a birthday tribute!

Hunting ‘Bambi’

On Sunday’s dog-walk, it was one of those perfect days. A temperature of 21C (70F) made even more pleasant by a gentle easterly breeze, just enough to move the long grass.

With 90% of the area now dry ground, and no need for boots, Ollie and I made a few tours of Beetley Meadows, then twice around Hoe Rough. He only went into the river once to drink, and didn’t seem to be feeling the heat at all.

The whole area was unusually quiet, leading me to suspect that most people had headed to the nearby coastal resorts, or decided to have family time and barbecues in their gardens.

When we got back and started to head for the woodland area, I saw some other dog walkers. A family with a small poodle cross, and a man with a terrier. Then in the middle of the widest path, bold as brass, we all saw a young deer, nibbling happily at something by the edge. It had long, spindly legs and big eyes that made me think of Disney’s Bambi. It surely had no idea about where it was, and showed no fear of me as I approached.

But then all three dogs spotted it, and the hunt was on!

Although the dogs didn’t know each other, pack mentality took over, and they rushed off together barking, yapping, and yelping.

Fortunately for the juvenile deer, instinct kicked in, and it took off bounding gracefully, easily outstripping the three dogs as it jumped the three-bar fence back into the woodland.

We were left with three frustrated and panting dogs, who had participated in a very short and fruitless hunt.

Ollie: An Eventful Walk

For the last few days, Ollie has not had much fun on his walks. Many of his regular doggy pals have been notable by their absence, and the few dogs he did encounter didn’t seem to like him that much, including one tiny terrier who attacked him on sight.

The day before yesterday we got a real soaking in unexpected rain, and yesterday we only saw one other dog, in more than two hours of walking around.

Today was sunny to start, with ‘showers’ supposed to arrive after 3 pm. So I set off a bit earlier, and it proved to be a good plan. Ollie soon met up with a couple of friendly Spaniels he knows, and the new arrival of a small white Staffordshire Bull Terrier proved to be a friendly encounter too.

Over on Hoe Rough, there seemed to be no dog-walkers today. But halfway round the right hand path, Ollie spotted a white-tailed deer crossing the path up ahead, and took off in hunting mode. No chance of catching it of course, but until it went to ground in a dense thicket of shrubs, he had a good chase.

Then he decided to track the animals route, nose to the ground, sniffing like a Bloodhound.

He was excited enough to need a long dip in the river before we started on the return journey to Beetley Meadows. Once back over the bridge, Ollie was delighted to see little Lola, the affectionate Shih Tzu. And she was in the company of Zen, the feisty miniature Chihuahua.

The three of them had a good meet, with strokes and cuddles all round, and lots of sniffing and running in small circles.

By the time we got home, Ollie was ready for his dinner, and he is now sleeping soundly next to me, after his eventful walk.

Ollie, the Moose, and a Deer

By the time it came to take Ollie for his walk on this Sunday afternoon, it had been raining here for almost 24 hours, non-stop. I was not in the best of moods, having been awakened early by a particularly torrential downpour whilst it was still dark outside.

I also had to wear my new Wellington boots for the first time, as last year’s ones had sprung a leak somewhere, forcing me to invest in a new pair. As we set off, I wasn’t looking forward to a couple of hours walking in heavy rain, trudging through mud and six-inch deep puddles. The new boots were not too uncomfortable, though the left one was rubbing my little toe enough to have me limping after less than an hour.

Ollie was looking around, in the hope of seeing some other dogs for company. But nobody else was risking the lunchtime downpours, and he couldn’t find any doggy pals to run about with.

Fjui X30 008

I decided it was up to me to enrich his playtime, and fell back on the old standby of telling him to search for an animal to hunt. For some unknown reason, I chose to mention a Moose. Now Ollie wouldn’t know what a Moose is, as we don’t have them in Britain. But my secretive tone, and half-whispered “Find the Moose, Ollie. Where’s that moose?” had him off and running immediately.

Nose to the ground, he crisscrossed the whole of Beetley Meadows in search of the non-existent animal. Every so often, he would stand stock still, lift his head, and sniff the air. When he had decided that his search was in vain, he ran back to find me, looking dejected. Trying to keep the momentum going, I took him through the gate into the small woodland area, talking to him as if he was a person. “It’s in here, Ollie! Find the Moose!” In the heavily overgrown woodland, his search was more difficult. Avoiding the nasty clumps of thorny brambles, he soon gave up.

I led him back through the gate onto the Meadows, and turned right. Around 250 yards straight ahead, a small white-tailed deer was busy nibbling some berries from a bush overhanging the path. It hadn’t noticed us as we walked from the gate. Ollie took off at high speed, sensibly making no yelping noises, and with the long wet grass muffling the sound of his galloping paws.

I became concerned that he might actually catch the small animal, which was no larger than my dog. So I picked up speed as best as I could, hampered by the new boots, and muddy ground. Just as I was convinced that Ollie would grab the little deer in his jaws, it turned and spotted him, at the last possible moment. Bounding off as if it had springs for legs, it took the route through the overgrown central area of Beetley Meadows, meaning I could not see Ollie at all as he continued in pursuit.

I carried on in the general direction for a few minutes, until Ollie finally returned to find me. His face was frothy from the chase, and he was panting hard. When I asked him “Did you get it, boy?” he snapped his head around to look, in case it had come back.

He may not have seen a Moose, or caught a deer, but he was happy for having had the chance to try.

Mankind 1. Nature 0.

I was very pleased to hear that one of my oldest friends had reason to visit Norfolk this week. I arranged to meet him yesterday at a seafood restaurant on the north coast, in a small place called West Runton.

After a dismal damp morning in Beetley, the short drive north saw a welcome change in the weather. By the time we were sitting down to eat, it was pleasantly warm, almost too hot. We had a good catch-up of course, as we had not seen each other for close to two years. The food was fresh, and very tasty too. A pleasant way to spend a couple of hours indeed.

On the way home, I took the quiet country route. Driving in pleasant evening sunlight, even though it was past eight pm, I reflected on what a nice place this is to live, when the weather is fine.

Approaching the village of Guist on a narrow road, a deer suddenly ran out from the bushes to my right. Despite hard braking, I could not possibly avoid it, and I hit the animal at a speed of around 50 mph. The poor thing was catapulted along the road before coming to a stop on the left-hand verge. I saw it twitch briefly, and then it moved no more.

It was a difficult place to stop, on a small fast road, close to a bend. I concluded that getting out to check on the deer, which appeared to be a female Roe Deer, was potentially too dangerous, and continued my journey. When the road became wider, I stopped the car by some houses in Guist, and checked for damage. One front panel was out of alignment, though easily popped back with a hard push. Otherwise, the car appeared to be undamaged.

I carried on to Beetley, feeling very sad for the unfortunate deer, who had fallen victim to a technology that was not in its nature to anticipate.

Ollie The Tracker Dog

Just lately, Ollie’s tracking and hunting instincts seem to have reached a new peak of efficiency. Out walking yesterday, he suddenly picked up the scent of something, and took off, nose to the ground. In torrential rain and slippery mud, I had trouble catching up with him. But when I finally found him almost ten minutes later, he was standing by a thick clump of brambles, one front paw raised. On my arrival, he set off in circles around the brambles, snuffling at every branch. After some circuits had been completed, he stopped and stretched his neck, sniffing the air intently.

Suddenly, two small fallow deer emerged from the brambles, one was close enough for me to touch, had I not been holding an umbrella.They bounced away to the left, with Ollie in hot pursuit. It took me a while to find him again, and he was once again nose-to-the-ground, making zig-zag movements around Hoe Rough. He was so determined in his smell-tracking, he didn’t even notice me appear behind him. But this time, the deer had got themselves close to a fence bordering private land. So when Ollie finally located them and flushed them out, they escaped easily, by jumping the fence in one leap.

The weather was a little kinder today, and we even had some sunshine, despite a strong cold wind. After walking around for some time, Ollie became very interested in a tree, one in a group of six or so, some way from our usual route. He sniffed around the bark with great precision, returning again and again to one small section. Then he got his nose to the ground, and began to trot off ahead. I suspected that the deer may have returned, and anticipated a repeat of the previous day, trying to keep up with him. I kept him in sight, and stayed on the path as he headed north, on the diagonal. He stopped by the gate through to Holt Road, so I caught up with him quickly.

To my surprise, I found him staring at an elderly man by the gate. The man was wearing walking clothes, and carrying a map case and a walking pole. He seemed embarrassed as I approached, perhaps because I noticed that he was fiddling with the front of his trousers. He nodded at me, muttered a “Good afternoon”, and walked through the gate. A few minutes later, it dawned on me what had caused Ollie to track him in that way. He had probably stopped to pee up a tree, the one that Ollie had been so interested in. No doubt he had some on his shoes as he walked away, and Ollie was sharp enough to detect it. His trouser-fiddling was probably because he realised he hadn’t zipped up properly.

Ollie had done well. So the next time someone goes missing around here…

Mud, and car problems

After some films and music posts as a diversion, I’m afraid it is back to woeful tales about the weather, and problems with technology. In other words, situation normal, in the world of beetleypete.

I am struggling to remember a (recent) year when the Winter dragged on for so long. OK, 1963 was a nightmare, but I was only 11 years old then. Since I last wore my shorts in October, it has been month after month of cold, rain, and even heavy snow for a time.More than six months of what feels like an endless Winter, confirmed by heavy rain all last night, and a foggy cold morning to wake up to today.

Walking Ollie in thick mud has been the subject of quite a few posts recently, and today was no exception. It is actually hard to keep upright once again, as I slip and slide trying to keep up with my dog. This wasn’t helped today, when he spotted a small Muntjac deer over on Hoe Rough, and took off after it excitedly. I had no chance of keeping Ollie in sight, let alone managing to follow him closely enough to make sure he was safe. Those small deer are not much bigger than him, but they are tough, and have tusks and antlers too. If Ollie managed to corner the frightened animal, he could have been injured.

But I could make little progress in the heavy mud he was skipping over, and it took me almost fifteen minutes to find him. He was hot and panting, but had obviously not managed to come into contact with the deer. So instead, he jumped into the muddy river to cool down, plunging into deep water up to his chin. Once he emerged, I had more than had enough, and began the slow stomp home, in mud-covered boots.

Yesterday, I had planned to go on my usual trip to the supermarket. But after starting my car, I was unable to get the gear selector out of Park. (It’s an automatic gearbox) No amount of fiddling around would seem to shift it, so I had to take Julie’s smaller car instead. On the way, I popped into the local car dealership where my car is maintained, and explained the problem. They don’t send people out, they told me. Nor do they arrange to collect cars on a trailer, to bring them in for repair. If I could get it into them, they could put it on their diagnostic scanner, and try to find the problem. I told them that if I could have got it there, then it would have been outside for them to examine, but they didn’t get the irony.

Last night, we contacted a friend of a friend who is a mechanic. He sent some advice by text. We also looked online, to discover many other owners with a similar issue, as well as some videos showing how it might be fixed. Many of these cars have a small opening into which you insert a screwdriver, to ‘reset’ the micro-switch that tells the gear selector to come out of Park. Mine being a so-called ‘Sport’ model, it doesn’t have that of course. More research revealed the electrical intricacies of a system that relies on lots of information to tell the six-speed gearbox when to change. This ranges from a connection to the rear brake lights to tell the car it is slowing down, to something on the rev counter that informs the gearbox to change up. I was past the limit of my car DIY skills, that was for sure.

I resorted to ‘fiddling about’ this afternoon. Turning switches on and off, and applying and reapplying the brakes. Still no joy. Then I remembered the ‘Sport Mode’ switch on the console. This changes the gearbox ratios, to give a sportier feel when driving, including stiffening the suspension. I never bother with this function usually, but tried switching it on and off anyway. Eureka! The gear selector freed out of park, and I was able to move it normally. Of course, I have no idea if this will provide a permanent fix, or if it will just stick in Park again tomorrow. So, it is booked in for that diagnostic scan next week, the earliest they could do it.

What happened to hitting things with a hammer?

Ollie’s stag hunt

Out walking with Ollie yesterday, I was not surprised to see that the river had flooded its banks, after the heavy rain earlier. I set off over to Hoe Rough, but it was hard going, diverting around the deeper flooded parts once again. As is my habit, I eventually settled down for a rest on my favourite log, tired of splashing around in the mud, after over an hour of walking. Ollie stood nearby, having some drinks from the different pools of rainwater that had formed around the trees.

After ten minutes or so, I heard some excited yapping and barking. It seemed to be coming our way, and sounded like a fair number of dogs were responsible. Ollie’s ears pricked up, (or in his case, moved forward) and he stood looking in the direction of the sound. I was startled to see a large stag appear, a fully-grown animal with a full set of antlers. It was running at a good pace, and glanced in my direction as it passed, seemingly unconcerned. Ollie looked around at me, as if to say “Can I?” The yapping grew in intensity, and two Springer Spaniels crashed through the shrubs, in hot pursuit of the deer.

From the noise they were making, you would have thought that there were at least ten of them. Ollie saw them running, and needed no further permission to join in the chase, quickly overtaking the tired spaniels. I stood up to see where he was heading, knowing I had no chance of catching up. I began to follow, and soon passed the two Springers, who had given up, and were returning to their shouting owner. Ollie continued into the corner of Hoe Rough, and disappeared from view. Despite his stocky frame, he can move very fast, when he wants to.

I found him about ten minutes later. He was pacing back and forth along a fence line, sniffing intently. I assumed that the deer had easily jumped the fence into adjoining private property, leaving the hapless Ollie with no option but to try to trail him by scent. We didn’t see any more of the noble stag that afternoon, but he provided a moment of excitement, and some good exercise, for my dog.

Ollie and De Niro

Sounds like a tenuous link. A sharpei dog, and a 71 year-old famous American actor. What could they possibly have in common? It will all be made clear…

Yesterday started well. The sun was exceptionally bright, and a sharp frost gave a crispness to everything too. I was enthused to do some housework, and as I knew that we had arranged to eat out at the local Thai restaurant that evening, I was looking forward to that too.

Ollie almost finished me off though. During one spell of cleaning, I was on a small step ladder in the bathroom. This allows me to reach across the corner bath, and clean the tiles at the point where they meet the ceiling. Despite telling Ollie to stay on his bed, his desire to be close to me had overruled his obedient nature. I was unaware that he had crept into the small bathroom, and stationed himself at the bottom of the ladder. As I came down backwards, I had one foot on the far edge of the bath, and the other on a ladder step. Moving that leg to the floor, I connected with Ollie’s furry back, to my great surprise. He tried to get up, throwing me off balance. The other leg slipped inside the clean and shiny surface of the bath, and I ended up doing a very undignified version of ‘the splits’. Only fractions of an inch away from certain hip dislocation, I managed to save myself by grabbing the edge of the sink as I fell. Ollie had seen all this, and by the time I recovered, he was sitting quietly on his bed, with an innocent expression.

When I had calmed down, and finished off what I was doing, I got ready to take him out for a walk. Still bright and sunny at 2pm, it was bitingly cold though, so I wrapped up well. At weekends, his normal gang of doggy playmates have other agendas, and we rarely see them. So, after a quick tour of The Meadows, we headed off to Hoe Rough. It has been very muddy over there recently, but the two days of cold has hardened much of the walk into a crisp and crunchy path. Most of the ground and surrounding vegetation was still white with frost, but despite the chill in the air, it was bracing, and most enjoyable. The wider open space of Hoe Rough is always a joy for Ollie. He scampers around, sniffing like mad, and breaking into seemingly pointless mad dashes. There is a main central path, and two circular routes, that run alongside the river, or into the woods on the other side.

We had completed the main path, and started to walk at the side of the river, on the more overgrown section. Ollie was sniffing around some bushes, when I saw what looked like another brown dog, about fifty feet ahead of us. Not much larger than Ollie, it looked to be on its own, and I could see no person that might have been walking with it. As it raised its head, I saw immediately that it was a deer. It was young, possibly a juvenile Roe Deer. As it spotted us, it took off, heading east towards the woods. There was a good five hundred yards of open scrub-land to cover first, and Ollie had noticed the movement. Needing no second bidding, he scampered off in pursuit of the hapless herbivore. Although he is not from a fast breed of dog, and his stocky frame is better suited to things other than running, he can certainly get up a speed, when he is inclined to do so.

The deer was visible by its fluffy white tail, which appeared at intervals above the bushes and plants. It was not running as such, rather bouncing, as if it was using hidden trampolines to make its escape. Despite his determination, poor Ollie was having to run five steps to every bounce of the deer, so had little chance of catching it. I doubt he would have harmed it, and probably saw the whole thing as a great game of chase. They were soon out of my sight. I started off in the general direction, but it was heavy going on mounds of turf, and through sharp brambles, in clumsy wellington boots. Peering into the distance, I could hear Ollie yelping in frustration; his inability to catch the animal had caused him to howl like a hound. I spotted the white tail, just in vision; it raised high above the undergrowth, as the deer leapt the wire fence into nearby private land.

It took me a good five minutes to find my dog. By the time I got to the fence, he was off trying to find another way in. After lots of calling and whistling, he appeared, frothy-faced, and panting hard. This was not going to be his day to catch up with a deer, but he had tried his best, and had some very good exercise as a result.

Like Robert De Niro’s character in ‘The Deer Hunter’, he had learned respect for his prey.