When the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that a doe entered a Mt. Lebanon yard and attacked and stomped an elderly blind terrier, I knew this would be a tough issue for animal lovers.
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If you love dogs and you love deer, how do you react to this kind of story? Which animal do you root for? What should be done? The dog's owner has said she loves all animals and has no desire to see that doe -- or any deer -- killed.
The dog nearly died in the May 29 attack, but is recovering after surgery. I expected to receive e-mails from people concerned about the dog, and I did receive a lot of those.
I wasn't expecting to receive e-mails from people criticizing and blaming the dog and the dog's owner. E-mailers and letter writers said deer won't chase dogs unless the dog chased or attacked the deer. Residents in the Twin Hills neighborhood, who witnessed the attack called police and came to the dog's aid, said the dog was doing none of those things. The terrier was in his own yard, contained by an invisible fence.
An incident involving a Bethel Park beagle was included in one of the stories about the Mt. Lebanon dog. That dog needed veterinary care, too, and is recovering. The owner said the dog was chased out of the woods and stomped by a doe, admitting the beagle may have been chasing the deer. Some e-mailers said the dog got what it deserved.
I wasn't expecting people to accuse the reporter -- who happens to be me -- of having the facts wrong. And I really wasn't expecting to get e-mails from people accusing the Post-Gazette in general, and me in particular, of "demonizing deer."
OK, so I only received four of those kinds of e-mails, but they were very unpleasant and did not have "real" names or telephone numbers. At least the two critical letters to the editor in South last week were written by people who signed their names.
"Is this really news?" asked one e-mailer?
Well yes, it is news, because it happened, and people need to know that this is how deer might act in May and June, when they have very young fawns they are protecting.
I received e-mails and phone calls from four people reporting that their dogs also have been attacked recently.
A Mt. Lebanon man was walking his cocker spaniel after dinner earlier this month in Cedarhurst, when the dog sniffed under a bush. A doe ran up to the man and the dog and tried to stomp the dog with its front legs. The dog was terrified, but the man was able to chase the deer away. There may have been a fawn hidden in the bush, but the man said he didn't see it.
A beagle in Allison Park was tethered in its own yard while its owner was in the house tending to her toddler. When she heard her dog screaming, she ran out to see a doe stomping on the dog. The woman chased away the deer. The dog was not badly injured.
Another Mt. Lebanon woman said that she and her Labrador retriever, who was being walked on a leash, were chased by a doe in Virginia Manor.
A Peters woman said her dog was attacked in its own fenced yard more than a year ago. She also said there are many reports on the Internet about deer attacking dogs.
She's right about that. I did a Google search on "deer stomping dogs" and got many hits, including a May 22 first-person report in the Monterey County Herald in California. Writer Karen Ravn said she and her pugs were attacked by a doe. Ms. Ravn suffered a badly broken arm when she fell while trying to chase the doe away from her dogs. The dogs are OK.
So what's a dog owner to do?
I would suggest we all be very careful, and very observant. The Pennsylvania Game Commission does not discount reports of deer attacking dogs. Officials say that can happen at this time of year.
By the time you read this column, the danger may have passed. Once the fawns are big enough and strong enough to run with their mothers away from what they perceive as danger, the does will not be so aggressive, the game commission says.
Linda Wilson Fuoco can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-3064.