June 20, 2004
Every morning at around 7am I take my dog for a walk on Klong Prao beach. The morning of June 16, 2004 was no exception. We left the house a bit later than usual as there had been a big storm the night before which had kept the dog, and consequently me, awake till late. Usually when I go for a walk I look for interesting bits of driftwood, weird shells etc that I can take back home for Mam to use to decorate the house.
Today the only driftwood was in the form of tree trunks that would require half a dozen people to shift and the beach at low tide was devoid of shells. (Although there were thousands of tiny, baby crabs at the southern end of the beach.) So it looked like being a pretty uneventful walk. Santa, my dog, was playing with his Thai beach dog friend who was, as usual pretty unimpressed by having a playful, young retriever run rings around him.
Suddenly the beach dog stopped staring at Santa, and fixed his eyes on something behind me. I glanced over my shoulder to see what at first glance I thought was an odd looking dog running out from amongst the coconut palms and onto the beach. After a moment I realised that it was actually a deer ( later identified as a Red faced Muntjac) , one that had now run the width of the beach and started swimming out to sea. For some reason I expected an owner / keeper to come running after it, after all I had never seen or heard of deer near the beach on this part of the island before.
So there were three people and three dogs on the beach and one deer in the sea. The two other people were a middle aged British couple staying at a resort at the southern end of the beach. They paused briefly to ask if that really was a baby deer 50 metres out in the surf and to comment that someone should save it otherwise it will die, before continuing their walk down the beach. So it was down to me, two beach dogs and a retriever to fish the deer from the sea. Unfortunately the beach dogs weren’t much use as whenever I managed to herd the frightened fawn anywhere near the beach they ran towards it barking loudly. So shepherding it back onto the beach was out of the question.
Luckily Santa had his sensible head on and knew that this wasn’t your typical ‘fetch the coconut from the sea’ game. With Santa swimming and me wading up to my chest we slowly moved the deer up the coast and away from the beach dogs. As the deer tired we were able to get closer without startling it. When it was about a foot away from me I tried to grab it. Until now it hadn’t really occurred to me that I had no idea how the deer would react to a human grabbing hold of it. And also I had no clue about how to catch a deer on land, let alone in a metre and a half of water. (I’d seen pictures of people carrying live deer but the deer always had their feet bound up. Sadly, I didn’t remember to bring a small ball of rope.) Something else I now knew was that even small, fatigued deers can kick very hard.
I still had to get hold of it, so for my next attempt I put my arm around it’s chest and under it’s front legs. It kicked a bit but it’s legs were out in front of me so no problem. It gave up kicking after a few seconds and flipping it over I carried it in my arms, like a baby, to the beach. It’s head hung over my right arm and I could see large red marks on it’s neck and abdomen, they didn’t look like bite marks as the skin wasn’t broken, I guess it had got caught in bushes somewhere on it’s journey.
I carried it out of the sea to the Panviman hotel, the nearest location that had people who might know what to do with it. A young uniformed girl came out of the restaurant to ask, from about 20 metres away but in English, if the deer was dead. She then disappeared back into the restaurant. A couple of builders who were working at the hotel came over and gestured for me to hand the deer to them. One guy knew enough English to say ‘National Park’ and point to his friend. His mate looked the deer over and then said he’d take it to the nearby temple in Klong Prao. (In Thailand virtually all abandoned or rescued animals are taken to temples as they’re the one place that will always be happy to look after them. Rather than sell them by the kilo from the back of a butcher’s pick-up truck.)
So the deer went off to the temple in the back of the builder’s pick-up and I walked back home and told my story to Mam who gave me a semi-believing ‘That’s nice dear, but what have you really been doing for the last hour and a half‘ smile. Later in the morning we had to go to the builders supply store near the temple so, I made a point of stopping off at the temple to see how the Thai bambi was doing. One of the monks told Mam about how two builders had brought it in earlier in the morning and they had told the monks about a farang who had pulled it out of the sea, so the monk seemed happy to know I was the farang in question.
The end of the story was that I offered the monk a few hundred baht to buy some deer food, after first confirming that the monks didn’t have any plans to sell the deer for BBQ meat, but he turned it down saying that someone from the National Park was coming to pick it up in the afternoon and they’d look after it.
On the way back home we stopped off to get a bite to eat at the local 20 baht/plate ‘khao gaeng’ shop – I had what I thought was beef curry . . . it turned out to be locally caught wild venison and very good it was too.