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By Scott Sullivan


Friends and Fiends

Saugatuck Dunes State Park’s friendly white-tailed deer was at it again last week. During Morgan and Luke Mackley’s wedding at the nearby Felt Estate, he bounded a fence and began pulling roses from the bride’s bouquet. Nice photo op.

The Ann Arbor residents said they’d heard of the deer, now a forest legend who’s inspired a million Facebook “likes” after joining Lake Michigan human beachgoers and crashing another wedding here this summer.

But they didn’t expect him to join them, then start chowing down on Morgan’s entire bouquet. Knowing she had 11 bridesmaids with similar bouquets back at the tent, she left it for him. When the couple returned 15 minutes later, all that remained was a single white rose.

Were I a newlywed, I’d cry hearing this. As an oldlywed I cry for a different reason. The reason I haven’t played up these feel-good incidents on these pages is the same one conservationists have: the deer’s safety.

When wild animals lose their innate fear of humans, they become open game for slaughter. All it takes is one wingnut with a firearm in hand and malice at heart, knowing where to look thanks to media, and it’s blam for Bambi.

Plus I’ve seen what goes on in our house. My wife and I love animals. But I don’t love the carnage created when she keeps seeking ways for dogs, cats, bunnies, birds and whatever else to coexist peacefully in one house, even with cages and fencing everywhere.

We adopted Nova, our last dog, assured by the shelter he did not have a killer instinct. One bunny and two birds later, we wept again on returning him.

The new puppy — we rescued a young one this time, hoping to accustom him to our hoped-for peaceable kingdom and not develop a hunting instinct — has wreaked just one casualty so far: me.

Pilot left a small dowel he’d been chewing on on our staircase. Coming down, I did not expect that. My wife figures the birds and bunny didn’t deserve their fates, but all I get I have coming.

While I recover from surgery, reading time poses more dangers. Like the news story about dogs ravaging Brazil. Rainforests can’t burn soon enough to unshelter the estimated 52 million canines there.

Packs of 15 or more, The Washington Post says, prowl Brazil’s nature preserves and parks, muscling out native predators such as pumas 25 to 1 and ocelots 85 to 1.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists 191 animals dogs are culling. More than half are considered vulnerable or endangered. They, says The Post, range from lowly iguanas to the famed Tasmanian devil, doves to monkeys. In New Zealand, the Union reports, one German shepherd did in more than 500 kiwis. The dogs don’t kill because they’re hungry, the Post goes on, but because it’s fun.

Dog doings are messier in Brazil, says Dr. Pet, a TV star there, because “they bring to Brazilians something they appreciate in themselves: to be friendly, to want to socialize with everyone … and be close to your family. These are perceived as very good Brazilian qualities.”

Even harder for human dog lovers to wrap our heads around, most of these pack hunters are domestic. Owners don’t always know — or want to — what our pets are doing.

If my wife reads this article, she will straightaway buy and bring home a kiwi. Maybe Pilot would chew that instead of dowels, but I’m not optimistic.

Deer aren’t a threat to eat humans, unless we’re named Rose or Daisy. Where’s PETA to stand up for plant rights? Don’t turnips have souls and feelings?

Killing for fun isn’t cool, unless you’re an action movie hero. Nor is collateral damage caused beasts by cars. Then again, do you want to see vultures starving?

Think pets are predators? Look at humans. As world leaders work to reduce our numbers, I fear for our children and beasts.

Oh deer …