(If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, read about Deirdre by clicking here.)
Lily came to us at the end of last summer. My friend Lauri texted to let me know that my neighbors (about four houses down from my house) had a fawn captured in their dog run and said they would like me to come and get it. She gave me their phone number and I called to see what was going on. It seems this fawn had been wandering for days around their home and wandering into the road. They were worried it was going to get hit by a car. I went to get the fawn, and it was pretty close to being on its last legs – the fact that it was so easy to catch was an indication that it was in a weakened state. I could tell that this baby had not had its mother for some time. The logical conclusion was that the mother had been hit by a car on the Thruway, which runs right behind the neighbor’s house.
I took the baby home and immediately started it on electrolytes, because the fawn was very dehydrated (and emaciated as well). It was interested in the bottle at first but didn’t like it once it tasted that it wasn’t real milk from a doe. So I offered deer milk pellets and fresh water, and bedded the fawn down in the warm, snug isolation barn. After a thorough examination, I determined that she was a doe fawn and that she had mites so bad that her head and neck were crusty and sore to the touch. I wormed her with ivermectin paste to kill the mites. She survived the next few days, and as the mites died, her spotted baby coat started falling out in clumps, leaving her oddly bald for a few weeks (until her winter coat started to come in). While she ate and drank well enough, she spent a lot of time laying down and I thought it strange that she was so approachable at her age, estimated at about 3 months old. I began to suspect that she couldn’t see me when, as she improved in strength, she started running into both me and the wall.
I had the vet come out and she recognized a thiamine (B1) deficiency. If fawns (and goat kids, incidentally) have a drastic change of diet, thiamine production in the stomach ceases, and that can cause brain swelling and blindness. Of course, losing her mother had created a drastic change of diet! We started her on (unfortunately, painful) B1 injections, and after the first 2 days, she would not let me near her to give her anymore of that! But the vitamin did the trick, because she was strong and aware enough now to run away from me. Unlike Deirdre, Lily had had the care of her mother for 3 months and the education of a wild fawn, so she was quite wary of humans, and the painful injections did nothing to endear us to her. Lily was a candidate for release when she was stronger.
Unfortunately, though she is now quite healthy and happily follows Deirdre around, Lily never regained her eyesight. She’s very good at hiding her disability, so one might think at first glance that nothing is wrong with her. After a while, you might come to realize that her pupils do not respond normally to light and that she is actually relying on her other senses to determine the situation. She has bonded to Deirdre and gets around safely here because of her familiarity with the property, but a blind deer would never be successful in the wild. (Deirdre, for her part, keeps an eye on Lily and has accepted her as part of the herd, but prefers my company still if I’m available. She made it quite clear from the start that she didn’t appreciate having to share my affections.)
Lily will be a year old at the end of May. She will always be non-releasable, but she has a safe and loving home here forever. The girls are quite happy here together. They are very much like goats in personality, which makes sense, as goats and deer are very close cousins. Their care is very similar as well. It’s really quite wonderful that Deirdre was here for Lily, because I do think that without the support of another deer on the premises, Lily may not have survived the stress of the sudden death of her mother and her new relationship with humans, especially in her weakened state.
However, in order for Deirdre and Lily to continue to stay here long-term, I have had to apply for a License to Possess (the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation calls it by its acronym, LCPEE, for short). You see, my wildlife rehabilitator’s license allows me to keep animals for the short term while they heal and are ultimately either released, die, or are euthanized. However, if the animal needs to be kept long-term, a different license is required. I was happy to apply for this license as well, but I was told there is no guarantee that it will be granted. I was also told by the DEC Wildlife Administrator in Albany that these deer should have been euthanized. Really? I mean, really? I am incredulous because that kind of thinking goes against every reason I earned my rehab license in the first place. I work to save lives, not take them needlessly. Every life is precious.
Having said that, I want to make it perfectly clear that my goal as a wildlife rehabilitator is always to rehabilitate and release. Wildlife is meant to be wild, after all. And sometimes euthanasia is the only humane option for an injured or diseased animal. However, these two does are special cases and must be considered exceptions to the rule. There is nothing unhealthy about either of them and they should certainly be allowed to live out their lives here, in the place they know as home — and with each other. Their veterinarian agrees.
So now we are waiting to see if the new license will be granted. If not, I fully intend to appeal.
I do find it fascinating that their coming was shown to me in the Otherworld, for what each of them have taught me about love and compassion in their unique way is quite valuable, and really could not have happened any other way. I am honored that they chose me to be their caregiver so they can do the work they came to do as ambassadors of their species.