Last week I found myself at my local pet store. Usually when I pay for dog food, the staff automatically loads up points to my super savings card. I like the place and am known as a regular there.
This time around however, I am in for an unpleasant surprise. The woman at the checkout greets me with a friendly nod, but as my eyes glance over to the left I see something on the counter that my brain can’t immediately place. A medium sized bin with about twenty objects sticking out - but what are they?
I move in closer to take a look. Still a big question mark on my face. “What is this?”.
The woman behind the counter peeks at the bin. “That.. oh.. those are deer feet” and continues what she is doing.
“Deer feet? What the …?!
Three minutes later there is busy talk on the phone, coming from the shop owner in the back room. “The feet come from a deer farm in Germany” he says reassuringly, stepping back into the store.
So madam need not worry, because the vendor just confirmed they are not from wild deer.
Not reassured at all, I now recognise the hardened hoofed feet.
I need to get real, the shop owner continues, because they also sell cow bones, pig ears and chicken strips.
So what’s the difference?
I’ll tell you what.
Here’s a recent memory.
I am on an early walk in one of the most pristine forests Holland still has to offer, in an area called the Veluwe.
My dog is leading the way on her long leash in the crisp damp morning air. Suddenly she stops and sits down. When my dog sits down it’s a certain sign she has smelled an animal close-by. I follow the direction her nose is pointing at, and quietly kneel down next to her.
A few minutes later I hear hustling, and as I slowly rise up, I look a deer straight in the eye. And for a while there, the deer stares back at me. This is not some exciting encounter with a brown bear or a lion, or some other charismatic animal.
No, just an ordinary deer. Still, to me the moment is magic and life-affirming. A being that is superior to me in many ways. A better athlete, a better vegetarian, with better senses.
People say there is no more wild nature to be found in a cultivated country like Holland. They may be right, but this doesn’t mean one can’t still have wild experiences. Just like that, unexpectedly, on a walk in the forest.
My shop owner admitted he hadn’t been on a walk like that in a long, long time.
What we don’t experience, we care less about.
How long before the first rhino horns will be for sale over the counter?
After all, they come from rhino farms in South-Africa, so they are not from wild rhinos.
Madam need not worry.