Tracking a mystery…

Dog/Coyote prints on the left, Deer on the right.

I grew worried this morning when I had not spotted Daisy deer by 11:00.   It was disconcerting enough that after both Daisy, an orphaned fawn, and Holly, a rehabilitated, injured yearling, took off together last Friday,  only Daisy returned on Sunday.  What was even worse,  was the evidence I discovered today as I searched for Daisy in the immediate area.  I found deer tracks… and large dog tracks… together.

Daisy’s reflective collar, likely caught on the fence as she passed underneath.

Daisy had been sticking around our house since Sunday.  Most of the time she was in her pen, especially at night.  During the day she grazed around the yard, over at FD’s mother’s house, and all along the line of my rose bushes.  Did I mention rose leaves and petals are one of her favorite snacks?  She found a couple of cozy spots to nap and take refuge in during the day, on hills near the house.  She grazed in the woods sometimes.  I walked with her in the woods since she seemed to enjoy my company.  To me, she appeared to be missing her friend, Holly.  Daisy did not seem as confident as she had been when she was with Holly.  Likely, they got separated during the high winds Saturday night. Perhaps something spooked them and they lost scent or could not hear so well.  Regardless, after a few days it appeared Holly would not be returning.

Following the animal path.

The last time I saw Daisy was around 7:30 yesterday evening.  The rain was pouring down outside, and  there she lay in her pen, head up, braving the torrent of  water.  I had been carrying a bit of a sleep deficit and felt it would be a good night to turn in early.  When the rain let up for a moment, I let the dogs out.  I noticed Daisy did not get up.  I decided not to disturb her and forego the usual cranberry snack.  FD had started this crazy ritual long ago, and when he wasn’t here, I usually kept the tradition.  But tonight, it was wet and cold and I felt it unkind to bother her.

A watery grave.

After not seeing Daisy by 11:00 this morning , I decided to head out and look around the property to see if I could find her.  I wasn’t worried until I saw tracks in the canyon, headed up a path we use to haul wood to the burn pile.  That is when I saw huge dog paw prints.  They had been made after the rain and were not smoothed out as they would have been if imprinted before the heavy rain.  More disconcerting, was finding that the canine prints were next to the deep and definite deer hoof prints.  They were the size of Daisy’s hooves, and they looked to be from a chase, since the cloven hooves were splayed apart from pressure and the dew claws left an impression along with the “toe” prints.  Upon making this discovery, I tried to remain calm, but my heart was racing and my gut was tight.

So, I continued to follow the tracks.  In some places they were evident, and in other areas I really had to look hard to find an impression.  I was finally able to follow a path of prints up top to our lateral lines.  Across that path, I saw deer prints dug into the Bermuda grass.  Long strides took me close to Daisy’s pen but veered just along side it, behind FD’s mother’s house.  From there they skidded sideways to our driveway, and around to the rose bushes lining the driveway.  I lost site of the deer prints but found muddy dog prints headed down to the slope.  At the top of the slope,  both deer and dog prints made a trail all the way down the slope and under a barbed wire fence to the neighboring pecan orchard.  Just beyond the rusty, barbed fencing lay Daisy’s reflective collar.

Deer hair along the trail.

At this point I knew she’d made it under the fence where she appeared to have caught her collar.  The collar had a small rip at the top, and with the rain affecting the velcro’s ability to hold strong, it had likely ripped loose on the barb-wire fence.   I saw no sign of a struggle on the ground, so I knew Daisy must have pushed forth into the wide-open grasslands, or maybe followed the treeline to safety, closer to the river bottom.  I kept reminding myself that a deer could run much faster than a dog or a coyote.  But my psyche kept nagging at me.  Daisy had not been out much.  Would she know the area well enough to know where to run?  Was she so robust that she tired easily and could not run long to safety?  I pushed to the west.  I did not see cloven hoof prints, but I picked up the large paw prints of the canine along an animal trail.

Leg and hoof of a young fawn.

The blustery, overcast day did not brighten my spirits much.  I slowly walked the animal path, tracking the large dog prints that appeared regularly.  Smaller prints of a cat or a fox dotted the path as well.  Some critter with longer claws left markings that sliced into the mud; perhaps a raccoon.  At a small waterway, a dismal sight came into view.  Bones of a cow or steer lay in a watery grave.  A little further on I happened on more bones; the leg of a younger fawn, maybe 3 months old.  The little hoof was still intact.   Beyond that, I found hair from a deer hide.  The hair lay in clumps on the ground.   Before long, birds or some small mammal will likely use it for lining a nest or a burrow.  These discoveries only added to my heavy heart.  Still, I plodded on.

Down the trail I followed an animal path that ran along the same fence line Daisy originally ducked under when she left our property; only I was quite a distance from there by now.  It was a well-traveled path by the looks of things.  At one point a strong odor of skunk hit my nostrils.  Looking around in a panic, I got off the path and headed up to a knoll looking out towards the river about a half mile away.  I would never find my baby girl if she had ventured out there.  FD was familiar with the river in that area, but I was not.  I had been to another part of the river to hunt morel mushrooms  one time and had gotten separated from FD.  I was lost.  It was a frightening feeling!  Just as I headed down from the hill and away from the skunk aroma, I slipped on the red clay soil and panicked again!  Somehow I managed to keep from falling but my heart was hammering by now.  All I could think of was falling in the red, clay soil and never getting the stain out of my clothes!

Daisy following me back home.

I took firm steps now, focusing on a watershed area just ahead.  FD and I had walked this way last week after Daisy and Holly had been released, but had not returned for several days.  It was during that walk with FD that I realized the beauty of the woods, and the reason Daisy and Holly might not wish to return to our property.  It was breathtakingly beautiful, even in the winter.  Taking in the beauty of the landscape now, I was beginning to calm down from my near fall, when I saw her!  Still a bit damp in the neck from the rains, and sporting muddy hooves with a few streaks of something green on her legs, there stood my girl, not 20 feet away, chewing on a bit of lush, green grass.  She continued to move along slowly, grazing like a cow.  Occasionally, she lifted her head in an alert manner, always cautious, but for the most part she seemed unhurried and content to be alone.  I spoke gently to her, chiding her for making me worry so, then told her I was heading back and asked if she would join me?  She did.

Nibbling new shoots along the way.

Back at the pen, I filled her bucket with feed and I dashed inside to fetch my camera.  When I returned, she was gone again.  I looked in all of the usual places, then walked a short distance looking for her, but gave up quickly.  I was too tired to proceed any longer.  A few hours later I found her on a hill in our canyon, looking out over the canyon floor.  I didn’t bother her, for she looked tired.  I took a picture and made my way back to the house.

For a long time I thought about my day.  The worry that prompted the investigation of the mysterious deer and dog tracks needed to happen for my own good.  It was to help me understand that Daisy’s instinct is strong, and her survival skills are better than I gave her credit for. She had fared just fine through a driving rainstorm and managing to flee danger, all without my help, or the company of Holly.  She found her way to safety and peaceful grazing.  It did me good to see her comfortable, so far away from her home.  Her world will always worry me I suppose, and that is because I am thinking like a human.  I would do well to heed my own advice, given here in my blog so many times; animals and nature teach us much about living in the moment.  Perhaps it is time I quit investigating all of the mysteries and stop going down trails of the past.  Daisy’s final gift to me may very well be, “Live in the moment, and be free!”

Daisy at home on her lookout post!

© Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…


29 thoughts on “Tracking a mystery…

  1. The leg and hoof of the young fawn is horrible! Yeek. Very interesting post – loved all of the pictures, too.

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  2. You had me on pins and needles. Could not read it fast enough to see what you would find. I was holding my breath. Thank God Daisy is safe!!!! I have said my prayers of thank you.

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    1. I usually keep an eye out for dogs during the day, but if they come up from the canyon at night, I never know. We see wild dogs every so often, and coyotes even less. I think I will feel better as time goes and I see her flourishing. I seem to need reassurance every day, if only a quick glimpse, of her browsing around. Each day she seems more alert and wary… a good thing!

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  3. Lori, You had me worried about Daisy! I think all of us have “adopted” her in a sense through reading of her exploits from you. Thank goodness she is fine. I hope someday Holly will return and join ranks with her again. If not, it would appear that your little Daisy has learned to take care of herself.

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    1. Mary, I couldn’t quite believe what I saw this evening as I walked the pasture with Daisy! A little dog was in the alley, suddenly barking and growling at Daisy. Daisy’s tail went up and FLARED… I mean her whole rear end flared in WHITE! She stood taller, stomped her hooves a couple of times, looking very intimidating! She finally started a bold prance, and eventually sprinted off. She looked twice as big and seemed fearless. I was SO PROUD!! You are correct! She has indeed, learned to take care of herself.

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  4. I am out of breath and muddy and relieved from following you through all of this! You write so very well, with so much heart, yet writerly control! Wonderful. Daisy really is “your girl”! Just keep learning from her about living in the moment and learning to be in tune with your own instincts more and more carefully each day. LOVE this blog!

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    1. Thank you so much! I love your opening sentence about being out of breath and muddy! Following the animal trail is so very enlightening. I’m happy to have friends who are adventurous to walk with me!

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  5. Well, that was certainly a heart-pounder! You should write thrillers! I’m so relieved that you found Daisy. Through your wonderful way with words and emotions, I feel like she’s part of my family now, as well as yours! Thank you for another wonderful post!

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    1. Ah, my friend… I was just writing how the mystery unfolded for me. I can tell you I slept very well last night! I was completely exhausted from the days events. Daisy IS a part of all of our lives! It’s wonderful that her life could touch so many people! Thank you for your kind words.

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  6. Dear Lori, You had me on the edge of my seat wiping tears praying for a happy ending to this investigation. So glad you found Daisy well. I think I would have gone on the same tracking journey. Do coyotes go after deer? I thought they only went after small animals. Do ya suppose there was a stray dog or something out there chasing them? What a world you live in. Full of nature, adventure, knowledge. I wonder and worry about Holly. Hopefully she found her own comfort spot and maybe new friends. Awaiting your next post, as usual. Love, Karen

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    1. Thank you Karen. I wonder about Holly too. After those first days I was just sure she and Daisy would stay together. Deer can outrun a coyote, but maybe not a young fawn. I think Daisy is capable of escaping, she’s old enough. We do have wild dogs come up on the place from time to time. Coyotes not so much (that we’re aware of). There is much to realize and appreciate of nature. I learn something new each day!

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  7. While reading your final paragraphs I couldn’t help but compare you to a mother whose child has gone off to college or gotten married. You know they need to be on their own, but you can’t help but check up on them because you are worried. You are a good mom!

    PS – If this whole “saving nature” and “being a farm girl” doesn’t work out for you, consider writing mystery novels! 🙂

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    1. I have often wondered if this is how parents feel when their kids leave home! I’m glad you affirmed that thought… now I don’t feel so bad. I was kind of proud of myself for tracking Daisy. I was actually surprised to see her, happily grazing and looking at me as if to say, “What took you so long… here, have a nibble”. Mystery writing? Hmm, that might be kind of fun!

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  8. I loved the story. I am glad I got to see Daisy this morning. She is still so pretty. Glad she is safe. Love ya r.

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    1. She is very beautiful! I think it was some kind of sign she was there to greet you this morning! Of course so was Zoe!! You are very popular at our house! I love you too, my wonderful friend!

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  9. My God, Lori, you scared me to death! As I read you most recent post I thought surely that you’d find Daisy dead. I’m so very grateful that you found her safe and sound. You were very brave to keep going after all those sightings of big dog footprints, fur, collar hanging in a fence, almost falling in red clay, getting lost, etc. Any sightings of Holly?

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    1. No sightings of Holly, but I still feel she is doing fine. Because she was wild before we got her, I think once free, she took off, being ready to run. Oh, Gail, I was just writing from the heart… how I felt as I walked the animal path. I think when one can relay the gut-wrenching experience in writing, by relaying real FEELING, it is effective. So many of the Chin rescue stories and adoptions we read through JCCARE and LUVACHIN evoke the same deep emotion.

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  10. Wow, Lori I couldn’t read fast enough to find out that Daisy was alright, Thank God she is!! Those pics of the little deer who didn’t make it were heartbreaking but I was SO relieved to know it wasn’t one of your sweet girls. I can only imagine the terror and sinking feeling that you were experiencing as you progressed on that trail, and the total elation and joy that abounded when you spotted Daisy. It has to be so hard trying to just let them be and not worry, I don’t know if I could do that, but I gotta tell you how impressed I am by your strength and your new found perspective on the situation. Great story, I pray that Holly comes back to visit you soon and I’m so very glad to hear that Daisy is well:)

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    1. Thank you for kind and loving words Karen. I have a gut feeling that Holly is just fine. I too, hope she will return one day. Of course at night the deer tend to be on the move and I have seen indication the last couple of evenings that deer have been feeding on corn at the feeding station. I often wonder if Daisy takes part in the social aspect, but still isn’t courageous enough to take off with the group. It is difficult to join a herd when one is an outsider. Both Daisy and Holly will probably have to start their own little herds in time. But as we all know, what often seems a struggle and hardship, is what makes us strong and we pursue something greater! You – are that kind of inspiring to me!

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