The Deer, the Dog,
and the Bambulance

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That most infamous of 9-1-1 Center recordings – the Deer, The Dog, and the Bambulance – has made the rounds of dispatcher training academies and morning radio shows for years. The saga of the man who had shot a deer, put it in his car, but it revived and bit him in the neck so he pulled up to a phone booth to call for help when a dog began to fight him for the injured deer has entertained many. Some people think the call is a hoax or an urban legend, others swear it’s true. Dozens claim it as their own!

In actuality, the call we all know and love came from the dispatch center for Cypress Creek EMS, a non-profit 9-1-1 ambulance provider serving the northwest Houston (TX) area. The agency also dispatches seven area fire departments. The dispatcher on the tape is Don Hirsch, who at the time had been with Cypress Creek for four years. The caller is Mickey Dawes, then a service rep for a public safety software company called EAI (now GEAC Public Safety), which has just cut over Cypress Creek’s first CAD system.

The call was not a real one. It was intended as a prank to loosen up a dispatcher nervous about using the unfamiliar, computer-aided dispatch system.

The Deer and the Dog routine actually got its start many years prior to its recording at Cypress Creek. In 1980, Dawes was a police officer Newburgh, New York. During one slow shift, he and fellow officer Conrad Hanson made up the routine and Hanson called it in to a dispatcher in neighboring Poughkeepsie. Two years later they were encouraged to pull the stunt again to liven up a moody Connecticut State Police dispatcher. But it is the Cypress Creek tape that has received the greatest recognition.

The date was October 2, 1991. EAI had just activated Cypress Creek’s first CAD system at 10 PM. Dawes, one of the vendor’s service reps, was in the center to insure the transition worked smoothly. He noticed that dispatcher Hirsch seemed particularly nervous adapting to the new system. “I realized I had to come up with a way to try and calm this guy down,” Dawes told 9-1-1 Magazine. With the encouragement of Cypress Creek’s Communications Director, Frank Marshall, Dawes figured out the perfect solution.

Claiming he was leaving for his hotel, Dawes actually went into another office in the PSAP and called the 7-digit emergency line. Hirsch answered the phone. “I’m in the #$*@&$ phone booth and I need a #$*@&$ bambulance,” Dawes began, and the routine was off and running.

Hirsch took the call and did his best to get a handle on the bizarre saga, but obviously with a vague and conflicting location he had difficulty creating a dispatchable call. “‘I can’t believe this is going on!’” Hirsch thought at the time. “My hands were sweaty and whatnot,” he told 9-1-1 Magazine. “I was already on edge working with a new computer system, and there I was not being able to bring up an address, with somebody standing over my shoulder and somebody else in front of me – obviously making sure I didn’t accidentally bring up the address and dispatch the call!”

“I figured if I could get him to laugh I could get him to relax a little bit,” Dawes explained. “So I go through the whole routine. I come back into the room and he’s got the phone up to his ear. I said, ‘Don, who are you talking to?’ He says, ‘Oh, man, don’t talk to me now. I’ve got a big one working! I’ve got a guy with a dog and a deer....’ ‘Who do you have on the phone now?’ I asked him. ‘I just called Houston PD in reference to this and they’ve got me on hold.’ Whoops. I said, ‘Don, hang up. Trust me. Hang up.’ I finally convinced him to hang up the phone, and I said, ‘Don, I’m just going to ask you one thing.’ Don said, ‘What is it? I’ve got this big call here, what do you want?’ I said, ‘Real simple: when am I going to get my #$*@&$ bambulance?!’”

Hirsch’s response contained similar vernacular, but Dawes had accomplished his goal. Hirsch had forgotten his nervousness over the computer. “I was kind of torqued off a little bit, to say the least!” Hirsch admitted. “Needless to say, dispatchers some times have far too much time on their hands, so I did manage to pay him back.”

Dawes had gone back to his hotel room to get a few hours sleep before returning to the Center in the morning. A phone call woke him up not long afterwards. It was Hirsch, calling from Cypress Creek. “The computer system crashed!” Hirsch told him, anxiously. “It’s flashing all kinds of stuff!”

Dawes replied groggily, “Wait a minute, tell me again what you’re looking at. Maybe it’s something I can help you with on the phone.”

“I can’t see anything!” Hirsch said. “Man, you better get on down here now!”

Dawes groaned. “Okay,” he said. “Give me a minute and I’ll come in.”

Then Hirsch added, “wait a minute... now it says something... ‘who gets the #$*@&$ deer, me or the dog?’” Before hanging up, he added, “Payback’s a bitch, isn’t it?”

“I absolutely deserved it!” Dawes laughed. “But the funny part about is that it did do what I hoped it would do – and that was to calm Don down. Whenever you cut over to a new system, it’s a stressful event.”

Little did anyone know that the tape of that phone call would have made it across the country and back. “The guy who really started it was Conrad Hanson,” Dawes said. “He first came up with it, then we both did, and then I did it, and it just seems that the version I did in Houston is the one that made it all across the country.”

“I’m purely amazed at the way that tape has taken off,” said Hirsch. “I never thought I’d ever be a part of something like this. I was in a Critical Incident Stress Debriefing class recently and on the second day, just as the instructor’s about to release us on a break, he said ‘I’ve got a tape that you guys need to hear!’ I asked him if it had anything to do with a deer and a dog. He said ‘Yeah. How did you know?’ I said, ‘because I’m the dispatcher on that – and everybody’s using it!’

The originator of the routine, Conrad Hanson, is still with Newburgh Police. Don Hirsch still dispatches at Cypress Creek. Mickey Dawes now works for Cerulean Technologies, but has unsurprisingly maintained a prolific second career as a writer and performer of humorous Cowboy Poetry, and has released one CD so far (nothing about a Deer or a Dog, though).

If only Hanson and Dawes and Hirsch were able to collect royalties from the Deer and the Dog tape they could all retire happily!

— Randall D. Larson

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