I hurried down Flynn Street with Bala heeling at my side, just like at puppy class, when something stopped us dead in our tracks. It was predawn, almost December and most of the community was still sleeping. The Christmas decorations at a house near the corner of Rye Street caught my eye, so I used my dog training voice and called, “Sit!”
Bala plopped her hind end down on the cold, snow spotted asphalt and we stared at a large plastic reindeer poised under a fir tree, half hidden behind a hedge. The reindeer stared back at us, and then it blinked. Bala stiffened to alertness, but remembered her ‘friendly neighbour greeting’ lesson and remained quiet and still.
It wasn’t an artificial reindeer, but a large doe that we’d disturbed at breakfast on the neighbour’s lawn. We all froze. The deer’s eyes met mine and something primal was exchanged. She read my mind and saw no malice, and Bala – who could have been an enemy, didn’t flinch. The doe’s neck bent slightly and she resumed her breakfast, then changed her mind and stared at us again. Minutes passed as we measured and judged each other. She didn’t seem like a wild animal – she was just a resident I hadn’t met before.
Who was the native and who was the newcomer? Was there a threat, or could we be friends?
We heard the oncoming danger at the same time. A roaring engine, throbbing bass and spinning tires. “Heel,” I yelped to Bala and we darted off the road and into the ditch. The doe whirled on her toes like a figure skater and bounded away. The white underside of her tail flipped like a hand wave as she fled for the scruffy undeveloped bushland that borders the road.
Rainwater splattered by the speeding car soaked my dog as we scrambled for safety. The blue sedan, vibrating from the blasting speakers, hesitated at the stop sign and roared around the corner.
The minutes of quiet reverie and the chance to understand that beautiful creature, whose ancestors predated modern habitation were lost. The driver of the car, oblivious in his rush and electronic boom of power had endangered us and ruined something precious. But maybe there was a lesson.
As we say goodbye to the complex dynamics of Canada’s 150th birthday and move on with the relentless march of time, let’s all slow down, turn down the modern world’s noise, and look at the fragile natural beauty that’s still around us. Like the vanishing deer, it will soon disappear without our protection.
Sharon Frayne is a writer and artist. She is a member of the Canadian Author's Association, the Niagara Writer's Circle and the Pumphouse Art Gallery. She looks for the universal experience and the mystery in everyday things.