Last week on an early morning run on Nose Hill I lost Pal.
The sun was rising in the distance and when I exhaled I could see a long stream of icy breath. I was wrapping up an hour of running and tight on time, knowing a work meeting was on the horizon and a shower and change was in order. Cupping my mittened hands to my face I yelled his name, and then I began running, following the trail I had just hopped off of.
In less than a kilometre I saw a small grey head poke out of the bush and immense relief filled my body. Thank God, I have not lost my dog. The head bobbed up, then down again. I could tell he had found something but was unsure what he’d located. I continued to run towards him when he wobbled out of the bush, half carrying, half dragging something with him.
Remains of a dead deer.
I did the most cliched thing possible and screamed at the top of my lungs, out of horror, out of disgust, out of sheer shock. Pal continued to struggle with the carcass and drag it towards me. In the past he has found half deer skulls, parts of ribs and spine on the hill, but this was the first time he drug out most of a dead deer, not yet fully picked clean by the packs of coyotes that roam the hill.
The carcass had a dreadful smell and the skull remained attached to the spine, the pelvis still in tact and two femurs connected to the pelvis. Blood, ligaments and hair clung the to remains of the deer along with one solo eyeball, dangling sadly along the ground as Pal trotted towards me. I could feel panic and dread welling up inside of me, paralyzing my limbs. I’m not good with blood and I’m easily freaked out by small wounds (I almost passed out last time I got stitches – at 31 years old). We were supposed to wrap up this run, but I knew I couldn’t leave the hill with him carrying a decaying animal.
Pause, and weighed my options.
- Run as fast as possible and hope Pal got discouraged by having to drag the dead deer, drop it and forget it.
- Wrestle Pal for the deer carcass.
- Leave the dog on the hill and hope for the best.
With number three firmly off the plate and my desire to touch the deer at 0%, I decided a quick lap would demoralize Pal and he’d give up. I took off in a hurry, sprinting up the hill. I could see a well-dressed couple carrying Starbucks in front of me and inwardly groaned. As I moved towards them I exhaled a long apology and mumbled something about my silly dog. I could tell when Pal passed them because the woman let out a long, bloodcurdling scream.
At one km into my “run so fast Pal gets discouraged plan” I turned to see my dog had broken off the femurs of the deer to make it easier to run with the carcass. I finished the loop and stood at the bridge separating me from the short path home and had a long moment. I was going to have to wrestle Pal for the deer. He sat down and looked me square in the eye. I put my hands on my hips and for a moment we stood, squared.
I won’t give up, dog. I glowered at him.
I won’t give up, woman, he glowered back.
I lunged for Pal and he turned his head, flinging the skull and it hit me square in the kneecap. I howled, not because it hurt, but because I was grappling with the disgust and distain I felt for the task at hand. I grabbed his ear and pulled, I grabbed his neck and pulled. The deer stayed stubbornly put. Finally I put my body weight down on his body and pinned him to the ground. The deer pelvis cracked under my legs and the dog, in the moment of struggle, released the deer and I picked him up like a small child – all 65 pounds – kicked the carcass off the path and struggled over the bridge home. When I finally put Pal down I discovered my mittens and tights covered in blood, my dog covered in blood. I sighed. We jogged the rest of the way home after I discarded most of my clothes in a bin in the park near home.
After a shower for me and a bath for Pal I mused out loud as I was leaving the house:
No one is going to believe me. I looked at Pal, sitting by the door. I shook my head and smiled.
I could have sworn he winked back at me.