White Deer Twins on the Riverwalk

White Deer Twins on the Riverwalk
These rare white deer twins were born this summer and have found a safe home at Dan Daniel Park and on the Riverwalk
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My name is David Hoffman. I teach English and journalism at Averett University, but I have two side interests - writing and photography. I also enjoy walking daily with my English setter, Sadie, and my wife, Elizabeth, on the Danville, Virginia, Riverwalk. As a novice to studying nature, I am fascinated by the slightest facets of the great outdoors, but most of my pictures are of birds - I don't know a lot about them, but I am learning more and enjoying taking pictures of them daily. I also take pictures of plants, other animals, and insects. All pictures posted for each day were taken on the day of my blog entry.

Leave a comment if you have the time or e-mail me at dhoffman@averett.edu


Thursday, June 10, 2010



(JUNE 10, 2010) NOTE: None of the insects shown above were maimed or killed during our walk on the Riverwalk this morning.

Why the disclaimer? It is because of Sadie, my English setter bird dog. She will point and, eventually, attack anything that flies. In fact, Elizabeth often says, "If it flies, it dies." Well, actually, that quote is not totally true.

Sadie has never killed a bird, though she is a bird dog, and she has stalked and jumped on 100s of moths and butterflies in her lifetime, but her actual success rate in squashing or injuring an insect is about 1 in 50. That would not put her in the class of a major league hunter, and when she actually ends up with a moth in her mouth, she has a look of regret because it doesn't taste so good.

This morning I mentioned to someone on the trail that Sadie was slow starting again. And they noted that she was stalking something in the grass (it turned out to be a small bug) and the person said, "Well, she is just doing what she is supposed to do - hunting."

As her owner, I have two personal moral (read that, "guilt") issues.

First: Since she is a bird dog, bred to HUNT birds, am I denying her her birthright by not being a hunter, myself, and not allowing her to pursue her "career"? My own moral compass says, "No." I justify that by the fact that she gets to walk, everyday, 3-5 miles and gets to run in the backyard. During these outings, she gets to point at bugs, which seems to fulfill her innate urge to HUNT. As I write this, she is vigilantly stalking a house fly. So, now, she has become a "bug dog" rather than a "bird dog," which puts me back into my moral questioning of denying her her birthright.

Second: Often she will stalk a moth or another insect for 4-5 minutes as she does her beautiful slow motioned stealth walk toward the intended victim. She is "poetry in motion." Most of the time the insect notices her before she can attack; however, on some occasions she pounces and - well, the insect doesn't fly away. My moral issue is have I contributed in killing one of God's creatures by allowing Sadie to stalk and pounce? My rationalization is that her success rate is about 1 in 50, as mentioned above. However, I have the demise of those 2 in 100 insects on my conscience. I also rationalize that as a hunting dog, she needs to experience success on occasion or else she may go into a deep depression, and dog therapists are expensive and not covered by my major medical insurance.

And I also have a sub-moral issue when it comes to the 2nd moral issue above. I sometimes let her stalk the moths that aren't too pretty. The ones above, I didn't let her get very near. Now, since I only allow her to attack (and, occasionally, smash one) only the less attractive moths, am I being unfair to the ugly bugs?

Am I losing sleep about either of these moral issues? Not one second, but I do think about this on occasion. And, as for the saying, "If it flies, it dies." That may only be true in Sadie's mind since her success rate is only 2%. But, at least, it gives her the chance to hone her hunting skills.

It was another good day on the Riverwalk.

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