I have become a bit spoiled this summer, by seeing Daisy deer and her fawn, Spirit, just about every day. Often, before daylight each morning, I will catch two pairs of green eyes reflecting in the flashlight beam as I scan the grounds before letting the dogs out to do their morning business. Our girls are generally bedded down in the pasture just south of the house until just before sunup, when they rise, and Daisy nurses Spirit. Soon after, they trot off to the woods for the day to graze on lush greens and other browse. By noon, I imagine they are driven deep into the woods to seek shade and a cool breeze, wherever it can be found.
Around 7:00 in the evening, and sometimes later, we see Spirit coming from the west, poking along down the trail to the corn feeder, with Daisy following behind, alert of any danger. When we see the two of them headed our way like this, FD and I cannot resist bringing home-grown cherry and pear tomatoes down for Daisy to snack on – they are her absolute favorite! Our visit down below the slope does not last long, however, before the mosquitoes begin attacking. Daisy and Spirit might be used to these biting, stinging blood suckers, but FD and I do not have much tolerance for them!
After a good nibble of corn and deer chow, the two often make their way to our yard, up top of the slope. When they do, this is where the fun begins! If the girls are near the picnic table, I start the sprinkler up in that area so that FD and I can watch Daisy and Spirit run and gambol in the mist. Sometimes, they put on quite a show! Spirit often dashes about, mewing and kicking up her hooves. Other times, we pull elm tree limbs down so the fresh leaves are within Daisy’s reach, or we pick ground cherries, or cucumbers from the garden for her to snack on. While Daisy is having her treats, Spirit grazes on nearby weeds or makes a stop at the petunia patch, choosing a few select flowers for munching (see my previous post – Where Have All the Petunias Gone?). Soon, the mosquitoes make their appearance, and it is once again time for FD and I to head back to the house and bid our girls a safe good night.
Last night, Daisy and Spirit showed up a bit early. It was about 6:30 when they arrived at the corn feeder. As usual, I took Daisy’s tomatoes down to her, and then went back up the hill to fetch fresh deer chow for the empty feed pans. Our girls are not the only deer who frequent the feeders throughout the days and nights, so I like to keep the feed pans full. On my way back down, I decided to tote the camera along. If I leave the camera behind, It never fails that I later wish I had brought it along.
When I reached the bottom of the slope, it was apparent that Daisy had just finished nursing Spirit, as she was now licking her, making sure to clean up any milk mustache, and to give her a little bath. But before long, I noticed Spirit licking Daisy as well. For more than five minutes, I observed the two performing mutual grooming. For a doe and her fawn, this is both a bonding and a grooming ritual. Care is taken to clean the neck and head, removing parasites and licking any wounds that might present themselves. It was a beautiful moment for me, to observe these two tending to each other in this manner.
Seeing this, I thought back on the many times Daisy licked me in the same manner. Often it was my arms, neck, and face that she gently stroked with her tongue, sometimes using her teeth for a little scraping action if she felt the need to “deep clean”. I never thought of it as anything more than her giving me love. Now, I realized, she was only doing what deer do in the herd; grooming and attending to each other. Even as a little fawn, she instinctively knew this. Perhaps she understood my efforts to brush her, pick ticks and other parasites off of her, and to scratch her ears, was my clumsy way of practicing mutual grooming.
I will never know Daisy’s thoughts about these special moments she and I shared together. For me, though, I will always reflect on the love and caring I felt passing between us. There are just no words to express it…
© Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…