Encounter with a Doe

The black-tailed mule deer looked at me with no fear in her big brown doe eyes. She came up to my outstretched hand, accepting a rub. Her large ears were surprisingly much softer than the more bristly fur on her body. I let calm and loving energy flow over her. I had never had the privilege of touching, stroking a live deer before. She gently licked my hand. And I studied the light green, patterned dog collar clipped around her neck

She had been discovered that morning wandering around the grounds of Sulphur Creek Nature Center, where I volunteer. Deer jump the fence regularly on their daily foraging routes. Wild deer know they are safe at Sulphur Creek, often pausing to watch the activities from a distance. This one, though, is different. She came up to the early staff people to say hello. She is tame. Her collar was soiled, as though she had been wearing it for some time. I instantly knew that she was someone’s pet, probably raised as a fawn. And now she had wandered off, become lost, or was dumped or abandoned.

“What is this place?” she asked. “Why am I here?” I explained telepathically about Sulphur Creek, and asked about her life. She showed me glimpses of being a fawn, being picked up by people and living with them. Children came to visit, but did not live there. Where were they now, she wondered. I didn’t know. How did she come to be here, I asked? She did not know – she found herself outside, and then here. She was confused. I assured her we were trying to find a home for her. She was not satisfied with that, nor would I have been. Gentle and polite, she explored her enclosure, finding it small, and looked for a way out.

Staff at Sulphur Creek were making inquiries, though it was very unlikely the people who had tamed this doe would claim her. In California it is illegal to keep native wildlife without a Fish & Game permit. She could not be released into the wild. We hoped to be able to place her with a “hoofed animal” sanctuary. My heart was breaking over the confusion this doe felt, and I didn’t want to think about the possible worst-case outcome – euthanasia of such a trusting animal if no licensed placement could be found.

How unfair, I thought, fingering her collar. Had she really been an orphan? Why do people try to make pets of animals who belong in the wild? They are heartwarmingly cute when little, but then they grow up. This doe did not ask to be tamed.

People’s lives and circumstances change, and often it is the animals in our care that suffer for it. Numbers of abandoned and surrendered animals – most commonly dogs, cats, and horses – have increased with unemployment and housing foreclosures. But a pet deer?

After two weeks, the doe remained at the wildlife center, long beyond the center’s permit. Much hard work and many prayers have gone into the continuing search for a home where she can live out her life in safety and be well cared for. Compassion is on her side.

Today, excitement reigned as the news filtered down that a placement had been found for her – about 4 hours’ drive away. Transportation won’t be available for another couple of weeks. Of course Doe knew a home had been found, and was pacing, ready to go now. It is just past the new moon. I mentally showed her a picture of the full moon, and told her that when the moon is full again it will be close to time. I offered her Reiki, and as I stood and let the energy flow through me, she moved in and out of the healing bubble of energy, and grew calmer. Then she licked my hand and moved over to munch her food. Thank you, Reiki.

I urge all people to carefully and realistically consider the long-term welfare of the animal when ‘rescuing’ an ‘orphan’ animal. Look beyond the immediate perceived need to the long-term outcome. Here are some guidelines for fawns, condensed from Sulphur Creek Nature Center information:

If you find a fawn

Does with new fawns are out foraging for food in the spring. It is perfectly natural to find a fawn alone in the woods. It has not been abandoned. When fawns are very young the mothers leave them in hiding and only come once or twice a day to feed them, typically after dark. An uninjured fawn should be left alone. If it has been picked up, return the fawn to the same area where it was found. Watch from a distance. If the mother does not reunite with the young within six hours (after dark), call animal control to take the fawn to a center that will raise deer. Likewise, if the fawn is injured, it needs to be taken to a center that is licensed for deer.

Postscript:

Mid-August, Doe was finally transported to her new home after altogether too long at Sulphur Creek. I contacted her telepathically to see how she is doing. She said, “I’m happy now. The ride here was kind of bumpy. I have more room to walk around in and others to meet. Thank you all for your care. I’m sorry I got a bit testy.” It’s ok, I told her, I’d get testy, too, if I needed to stay in an enclosure that didn’t give me room to wander, and for longer than anyone expected. “I’m happy now,” she said again. I’m glad, I replied.

This story ended well, thanks to many hours of work by many caring people.

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"Animals are such agreeable friends - they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms." - George Eliot
"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." - Gandhi
"There is little that separates humans from other sentient beings – we all feel pain, we all feel joy, we all deeply crave to be alive and live freely, and we all share this planet together." - attributed to Gandhi
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