Essentially Ashland: Barking reindeer

Dogs come in shapes and sizes and, like most of us, have their respective strengths and weaknesses. Some like to burrow after critters while others prefer fetching waterfowl that have been downed by a mighty shotgun blast. Still others are natural herders who do not rest until the sheep, or your children, have been tucked away neatly into the pen or barn.

I have before made mention of the two bucks that live in my yard, though most of the time they stay out of sight while munching on this or that.

I thought that they needed some socializing, so I asked my good dog Spooky what sort of holiday present he was going to give to the deer, as they had jumped into the front yard in an attempt to play with my Cocker/Labrador mix, whose attempts at frolic usually consist of spinning in circles while barking madly at the two squirrels who man the walnut tree and toss nuts at my pampered pooch.

I came home one recent afternoon and immediately ascertained that something was amiss. The dog was nowhere to be seen, and one of the deer was missing along with a $10 bill. I hit the alleys on my Segway and spotted the deer being walked on a leash by my loyal best friend and, to be honest, I was quite impressed with the sight.

It is not everyday that a dog takes his deer for a neighborhood walk while holding the leash in his mouth, and the sight was most fetching. By the time I arrived at the scene, both animals had jumped a couple of fences and were nowhere to be seen.

The search area increased, and I was soon downtown where dozens of people were busy comparing photos snapped by their cell phones. It did not take me long to realize that the common photo in question was of a deer being walked by a dog that seemed proud of his prancing charge. The word on the street was that a small Labrador was helping Santa by taking a reindeer out for a walk, which was as plausible as anything I could imagine.

Just then I spotted the two photo opportunities as they hopped into and down an alley. I burnt some rubber and soon was in hot pursuit. In a flash they were gone, leaving me to troll about in search of my slippery subjects.

After a couple more hours of peeking over fences, hopping hedges, and talking to friends and strangers, I dejectedly headed home, passing by a coffee house on the way. Out of the corner of my eye I saw something suspicious and wheeled in for a closer inspection.

Sitting outside were the dog and the deer, sipping on a latte while splitting an onion bagel with cream cheese. I slithered out of sight while keeping one eye on the buck's bagel and the Lab's latte, wanting to see how the two interacted.

The end of the leash was wrapped around the legs of the table as the two communicated in a high, whining pitch. I was exultant at what I saw and was only slightly surprised when they both finished their morning snack by dabbing a napkin around their mouths. I noted that their tip on the table was exact as they resumed their walk homeward. I darted soundlessly behind them as the deer was taken to the yard and his leash and collar somehow removed.

Then the two of them settled under a tarp and were soon snoring.

I heard a noise and spun around to find my wife, Annette, standing close by as she asked, "Well, nature boy, what do you know for sure?"

Failing at any attempt to seem scholarly, I simply replied, "The buck stops here," and then went inside to take a nap. was last seen walking his dog and a deer around the block as dozens of digital cameras and cell phones clicked away like the hooves of Santa's reindeer.

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