I had an amazing encounter with a stag yesterday. I was walking my dog, Rudy, at 6:30 in the morning. It was quiet—no other people or dogs out that early since it was a Saturday. Our destination was a meadow near my house. It’s about the size of a soccer field, and is surrounded by a creek and woods on one side and my subdivision on the other three sides.
We saw the stag the second we stepped from the paved sidewalk onto the wet, muddy grass of the meadow. Normally I would have turned around and saved my shoes—I wasn’t expecting mud—but the stag made that small inconvenience worthwhile.
He walked slowly away from us. I expected him to break into a run the closer we got—flight is the behavior I typically see in our neighborhood deer—but he never did. Instead, once he reached the edge of the woods, he turned and faced us.
Until then, I had allowed Rudy to lead me toward the stag. Rudy was not acting like the ten-year-old dog that he is: He was prancing and bounding and straining at the leash, and clearly had an early-morning deer chase in mind.
I’m not good at judging distances, but I believe I allowed Rudy to get me within fifteen feet of the stag (deer is too tame a word for this majestic animal). I got chills when I noticed that his fully-formed antlers literally sparkled in the sunlight. (My logical mind knew them to be wet, but his behavior made me wonder if he was magical.)
He stood his ground, showing us no fear. Head held high, his eyes squarely meeting ours, he might have even stamped a foot on the ground. He engaged in a subtle dance with us: As we passed him he slowly pivoted, so that his antlers were facing us at all times.
I was grateful for the leash, because for the first time in my life I felt afraid about what antlers are capable of. I didn’t allow Rudy to get any closer.
The stag won the face-off. We moved away, finally turning onto the bridge that led us over the creek and out of sight of him. When we returned, five minutes later, he was gone—much to Rudy’s disappointment. Mine, too.
I’ve always wondered why J.K. Rowling picked a stag for Harry Potter’s patronus. Now I understand why.
Love Trumps Logic
Coming soon from Second Wind Publishing