Tuesday, May 27, 2008

We Named her Free

Free came to live with us when she was barely a week old. It was love at first sight for me and Princess. I lived in the country at the time and worked as a Respiratory Therapist at the local county hospital. I heard one of the nurses talking one day that they had found a newborn deer in their grapevine orchards and would be unable to raise this one. They had raised many over the years and just couldn't take on the responsibility of another one. As well this one had been injured by their dogs when they had found her. Not badly injured but some scrapes and cuts were on her. I didn't care, I wanted the opportunity to take her, nuture her and love her and someday return her to the forest.

I already had several animals at home and what was one more? We had my horse in the pasture across the road, two Pomeranian's and their 4 puppies (in the house), two cats, and a flop eared bunny rabbit in there as well. We also had a baby flying squirrel that had taken up residence in our fireplace flue, which would come out and into the house at night. We had a regular menagerie of animals.
Just in case you haven't figured it out thus far I love animals.

I made arrangements with my friend to take her home with me the day my husband was able to come home from his surgery. I had already planned on taking a week off from work to help him recuperate. The day he was discharged she brought the little fawn to me at the hospital. Now mind you here is my husband Asshole 1, sitting in the passenger seat of the car from just having had hernia surgery and I plop a fawn into his lap and drive home. I had no idea how to raise a deer, what they ate or where I would even put her once home. I just knew I wanted her!
My friend had told me she would drink milk from a bottle and eventually to place her on grains and fruits so she would have an easier time adapting to the wilds.

She was beautiful and sat fairly politely in Asshole's lap on the ride home. When Princess came in from school she is the one who named her. I tried feeding her powdered milk since it was cheaper but she wouldn't take to it. The vet suggested I try goats milk. At the time goat's milk was rather expensive as well and I ended up giving her whole milk. She loved it and greedily drank about a gallon of milk a day.

I know it was bizarre to raise her in the house with us but it worked. That first day at home she and the dogs and cats became acquainted to one another. We all held her, fed her and just loved on her. The dogs and cats were inquisitive for another animal to be in their home but they got along with her. I remember that night when we went to bed we left her on a pallet we made in the corner of our living room. Not long after getting into bed I looked up and she had came into our room. Moments later she jumped up and onto our water bed as if she were one of the dogs. She snuggled up between my husband and myself and went to sleep. She was adapting really well. It was really strange to have a newborn fawn sleep with you during the night but so sweet at the same time. When she became hungry during the night and any time she got hungry she made bleating noises just like a goat. At least that is what it sounded like to us.

After a few days of living there she romped and played with throughout the house. Our house had wood floors which made it hard for her to run and romp like deer do because then she would get all spindly legged and would be slipping and sliding across the floors. It was like watching her on a ice covered pond. I placed several sheets around on the floor so as to make it easier for her to play and run. This trick worked.

After about a week of nothing but milk I decided to try her on fruit. She loves Peaches, grapes, apples and most anything I brought her home. One of her favorite fruits was muscadines which thankfully we had growing in our yard. Another of her favorites was cinnamon toast. I had made it one morning for Princess before school and gave Free a small piece. I wasn't sure if she would eat it or not but she gobbled it up and bleated for more. She could and would have ate an entire loaf had I fed it to her. This became her morning treat. Each day I would make this and she would stand patiently staring at the oven until it came out.

At about the second day it dawned on me she had not pooped at all. This concerned me and I called the vet. He told me what to do to help the situation and to imitate her mother. I had to take a warm wet washcloth and gently rub her behind with it to stimulate her. It was not something I found to be pleasant at all but I only had to do it once for her and then she knew what to do for the remainder of her time with us. She was actually very easy to house train. I put puppy pads down at first and then we started using a leash to take her outside to do her business. After maybe one or two weeks of using the leash we were able to take her outside without it. She caught on really quick and would then go to the front door of the house and take her front hooves and tap the door and bleat to be let out after that. We then could let her go out by herself and when she was ready to come back inside she done the same thing. She became one of our house dogs. It completely astounded our friends and the vet that she would actually do this. In all honesty she got to the point that if someone knocked on our door she would run to it like our dogs and bleat to let you know someone was there. I laughed and joked that someday she might actually start barking because she didn't realize she was a deer. I think she thought she was one of the dogs.

Free lived with us till she was about three months of age. Her spots had disappeared and she would stay longer and longer outside each time she went. I knew it wouldn't be long before it was time to let her be free. By this time we had decided we would give her to a local animal shelter which was like a zoo for wild animals. Here she would be safe, well fed and we would never have to worry about hunters. She had became so tame she would go up to anyone that came around and I worried a lot about hunters. We had put on a bright pink collar on her from day one and as she got older and grew we would loosen it up around her neck.

The day Free left is one I will never forget. We had company over and Princess had let her out to play. We were all BBQ'ing outside and having a good time. The kids were playing and watching her play as well. When it came time to go in that night Free was no where to be found. She didn't come when called as she had always done. We searched around the pasture for her but could not find her. Needless to say we all cried and did not sleep well that night. I told myself and Princess that she knew it was time to go and that if she wanted to come back she would be able to find her way. It was hard those first few days on all of us. She had brought so much love into our home and so much joy. I cry now as I think of all the things she had done while a large part of our lives.

A couple of days after she had been gone one of the neighbors called to tell me he had seen her in the woods next to our house. She still had her collar on and when he called her name she looked up and over at home but remained where she was. This made us all feel so much better to know she was where she needed to be.

After about one week I was driving home from work and about one mile from the house at the edge of the woods I seen a herd of deer next to the pond. I decided to stop and see if one of them might be her. I called her name and one of them came trotting over towards me. It was Free and I could see her bright pink collar shining in the sun. I called her name again and she trotted a few more steps towards me and then stopped and looked back at the rest of the herd. You could tell she was torn as to what to do. I stood there watching her from the distance and never called her name again. I knew in my heart she was where she belonged. She was Free and happy and I had been given the opportunity to be a mother deer to her for three months. I like to think I had done my job well.

Free had became an important part of our lives and one pet and love we will never forget.


Beth from the Funny Farm said...

That is an amazing story. That is so cool that she found some friends and made her own choice.

Blogarita said...

What a sweet story!

But I'll try not to think of it next time I eat venison.

Mental P Mama said...

That is an awesome story. I want a baby deer now.

Hey it's Amy Shipp said...

How wonderful!! I am so jealous, I love animals too... I love that story :D


I am sitting at my computer at work wtih tears in my eyes. That is quite a story...one that is a once in a lifetime, but not everyone's lifetime, event. How beautiful.

Treasia said...

It truly was a once in a lifetime happening.

Jennifer H said...

What an amazing story. The image of her jumping up into bed with you is so sweet.

Nancy said...

OMG what a beautiful story! And what a great job yall did at taking care of her while you had her! I also smiled to see you have pomeranians. I have two poms myself.

Snooty Primadona said...

Wow! What a wonderful, funny story. I always wanted to coddle with one, lol. You crack me up.

Egghead said...

Very sweet story especially that she jumped up in your bed and would run to the door when someone was there. Amazing that you could house train her as well. Here in Oregon they won't let you keep wild fawns even if the mother has died. My brother tried to raise an orphan antelope and the fish and game gave him a ticket for it and made him release it. I guess they would rather it die. Frustrating.