Rosie’s been gone for six months now and I still miss her every day. I blame that on the herd of five deer that has roamed our property for as long as I can remember.Yes, there are always five. Obviously not the same five. But every spring a couple of new fawns join their moms while two adults seem to disappear. An antlered dad stops by from time to time. Last year’s imposing buck has been replaced by a younger, sleeker version with just two rows of fuzzy antlers on his emerging rack. For some reason he reminds me of Harry Styles.
As many of you know, Rosie made an arrangement with the deer just as soon as she was old enough to patrol the expansive grassy area between the house and the barn. Everything within the electric fence was her turf and she made sure the deer knew it. She rarely chased them. She didn’t even bark.
Still the deer knew exactly where the fence line was and would comfortably cruise the perimeter eating their fill while she looked on. They also knew they could cross the grassy plot to get from one stand of trees to the other as long as they didn’t linger. But should they dare to stay a little too long or nibble on my prized magnolia trees, Rosie would slowly rise up from her observation post by the front door, walk a few steps into the driveway and stand perfectly still, her great black and white tail swishing ominously as she stared down the herd with her Border Collie eyes. They never stopped to dine.
Now that grassy area has become the Whitetail Café.
It took only a few days for Rosie’s scent to evaporate. At first, one of the moms would slip up to the magnolias for a quick nibble or two before dashing back to the safety of the woods. But, as fall approached and this year’s youngsters matured without ever seeing the legendary black and white dog their parents warned them about, the herd began stopping by more and more often and staying longer and longer.
Now, about 10 a.m. every day, I look out and there they are, within 10 feet of my front door, grazing like horses enjoying a routine morning in their personal pasture. Yesterday, I was headed to the kitchen when I looked over to see one of the youngsters with his black leather nose pressed up against the dining room window watching my every move as his mom stood next to him devouring my arborvitae.
The only problem is my little brown and white pit bull Jack. With Rosie gone, he obviously believes it’s become his job to keep the deer at bay. He wants to chase them in the worst way and the minute he spots them through the glass, he throws himself against the windowsill barking with such frantic vigor I’m afraid he will have a stroke. Of course, I can’t let him out. He’d run charging into the herd and someone would surely get hurt – probably him.
The deer have figured out that I won’t be opening the door. I hate watching Jack’s humiliation as they calmly enjoy their breakfast, completely ignoring his fiercest attempts to scare them away.
We gave Rosie a lot of grief because she flunked so many classes, including sheep herding. But we obviously misread her. She did have the coveted herding instinct. She just chose to herd deer out instead of sheep in. And she did it with a gentle skill that was pure Border Collie.