Keep Trying

The day I got the phone call about orphaned fawn, Tukker, I was given very little useful information by the woman who brought him to me. Mostly, the story sounded like a fabrication. I was told he was a month-old fawn that had been taken in by a local trucker, who claimed he’d scared up three deer while mowing. According to this accounting, the mother and another fawn ran off, but this fawn did not run and the mother never returned for him. The trucker took the fawn from the field, quite often bringing it to work with him at the trucking shop. There were stories about how the fellas at work thought it was funny to watch his legs slide apart, doing the splits on polished floors. Supposedly, they all took turns feeding him, depending on who was available and not out on the road. Then, suddenly, the trucker was killed after apparently falling asleep at the wheel early one morning while on a trucking run about two hours away from the shop.

After the trucker was killed, a co-worker thought to get the fawn which had been left at the trucking company when the trucker went out on his run that morning. The co-worker gave the fawn to this woman, thinking since she lived in the country she might be in a position to raise it. This lady went on to say she would have raised it herself but she had several grandchildren and three pit bull dogs and just did not have the time. In response, I informed the lady that it was illegal to raise wildlife without a permit, and that she had done the right thing by calling me. Still, her grandchildren wanted her to keep the fawn, which is why she ended up being nearly an hour late in meeting me – the kids were crying and begging for her to let them keep the fawn.

When I got home and opened the door to the pet crate in which the fawn had been transported, it was evident to me that this was not a month-old but rather a week-old fawn – if even that. When the woman recounted the story that the mother and another fawn had run away from the tractor cutting the hay field, it made me wonder if the mother had just given birth to twin fawns, and was still with both when the mower came along.

From observing Daisy, the first orphan fawn we raised, I knew the only time the mother has both fawns with her is for about an hour after birth while she cleans up the birthing area and feeds and cleans the fawns. For the next three to four weeks, the doe beds them in separate locations. When the fawns reach about a month of age, the doe will bring them together, sometimes going on short outings as a family. At this age, the fawns are able to keep up with the mother, for the most part. I wondered if Tukker was the last born of two fawns and was too weak at the time to follow after his sibling and mother? Had the man left Tukker be, the mother might have returned, as I have observed Daisy and her first fawn, Spirit, search for their missing fawns for up to a week.

It took me a long time to coax Tukker from the pet porter. He was docile, more like a newborn or a fawn of only a few days of age might behave. He had a large rub wound on the knee of a front leg and hair missing on his nose, likely from pushing his nose through the wire gate of the pet carrier. After finally coaxing him out and giving him a little petting and attention, I gently stroked his hips (to mimic a mother cleaning its baby), and he immediately lowered his hind quarters. It suddenly dawned on me that he likely had not been stimulated to be relieved in a long time, if at all. It was soon obvious that it was the latter, and upsetting to me how long he urinated and how strong the scent was. But the really strange thing about this first bathroom business was that the feces was pelleted – something that is normal for a month-old fawn, but not for a newborn or fawn of less than a week of age. And another oddity – this little fella drank water from a bowl but would not drink formula from a bottle, and he was ingesting a lot of dirt. Nothing made sense about his story.

After three unsuccessful days trying to get Tukker to suck a bottle, I called the lady back. I asked if she knew or could find out what kind of milk or formula he was being fed. She promised she’d find out. When I said he wasn’t a month old but more like a week old, she said all she knew was what the co-worker told her. She didn’t call me back about the milk, but a man claiming he was her husband did call and insisted I give the deer back because he wanted to raise it for a pet. After a bit of arguing about that being illegal, he changed the plea to allowing him to bring his friend’s daughter to see the deer so she could get closure for her dad’s death. When I kindly refused that request, stating there was nothing about that scenario that would benefit the well-being of the fawn, he became belligerent and refused to tell me what kind of milk was supposedly used. Finally, he just hung up on me.

After all this, FD and I suspected that Tukker had been taken from his mother just after birth. We suspected the trucker never could get Tukker to suck the bottle, which is common when first trying to transition them from their mother’s teat. We think it is possible that Tukker was so hungry by the time we got him that he was instinctively eating plants and dirt to get by (thus the pelleted feces). We knew he was highly stressed, having been through so many confusing experiences already, and that it would take time for us to earn his trust. Day after day we went through the process of gently prying open his mouth, squirting formula down his throat, waiting for him to swallow, and then repeating the process until we’d gotten a few ounces down. How he was surviving on so little I do not know. But he continued to eat lots of dirt and drink water from the bowl.

Seeking help and advice, I called Wildcare, a larger rehabilitation facility about an hour away with a veterinarian on staff and experts in every animal and bird species. The fawn division assured me that I was doing everything they would do, and that it was about persistence at this point, and to keep on trying. Try a different formula, try different nipples, try holding him differently. Keep him from stressing and try to continue to build trust. Still, I was feeling a bit defeated, wondering if he could survive much longer. But the Wildcare staff continued to encourage me and FD remained patient as well, reminding me that Tukker had been through a very stressful time in the last days, something that we could only imagine.  Then suddenly, on the evening of day six, Tukker started sucking the bottle as if a switch had been flipped from “off” to “on”. FD and I were both relieved and elated!

Elm leaves are a favorite of deer. Each morning I go in search of just the right branch or limb. This year our elm trees will get a good trimming!
Eating dirt is healthy for digestion and also adds mineral to a diet.
Click on the photo to see where Tukker hides each morning.
I added a log to the deer pen for Tukker to leap over when he takes his daily exercise run. I’ll continue to pile branches in the deer pen for cover much like Tukker would have in the wild.
Deer love cat brier and we have plenty of it on this place and the pecan orchard property. It’s thorny and a misery to cut but I’ll be out there this summer and fall, foraging for brier both on the ground and from cascades of it in the trees.

Now that Tukker, the new champion bottle sucker, was getting good formula, another problem presented itself. Diarrhea indicated that his body was not properly absorbing nutrition. Once again, I conferred with Wildcare. They made a few suggestions but, mostly, their advice was about trying anything that might work. I took a couple of fecal samples to the vet to test for infection, parasites, or anything unusual. But both samples came back clean. I tried a coagulant paste the vet recommended, but it did not work. The vet also suggested adding a probiotic to his formula and to offer some greens. Following up on this suggestion, I went to the local Walmart in search of the cleanest Greek yogurt I could find (as in no added sugars). I trekked to the woods in search of cat brier, and I picked clover from our yard. I clipped the canes of overgrown rose bushes, and I went in search of fresh elm branches. After a couple of weeks, we began to see a bit of hope, but the consistency of Tukkers feces was still not quite right. That is, until FD came home with a container of sheep’s milk yogurt from Natural Grocers. After two feedings with this new yogurt added to Tukker’s bottle, we saw beautiful, naturally-shaped pellets of poop forming!

Today, Tukker is doing quite well. He has been outdoors in the barnyard deer pen for a week now. He is growing quickly, filling out nicely, and he loves to leap and run. I find myself thankful for FD’s determination and patience. And Molly, from Wildcare, who on that very first phone call waited for me to finish talking about all of the things I had observed that did not make sense with the story I was told, finally said to me, “Lori, you need to forget the story. People tell us stories every day that may or may not be true. Go with what you see, and what your gut tells you. The sooner you discard that story that doesn’t make sense, the better you will be at helping the animal placed in your care, as it will have your full attention and caring. And just keep trying. As long as you are trying, you are giving that fawn the best chance it can have at survival.”

This pearl of wisdom from Molly really spoke to me. For I realized that I have been carrying all sorts of my own stories around for most of my life. Most of these revolve around injustices, and Molly helped make it clear that it was not doing Tukker any good for me to focus on the injustices he had endured in his young life. And, sure enough, when FD and I left the story behind and simply went forth with goodwill and caring, Tukker flourished.

Wild creatures never look back to question and wonder. Instead, they keep trying, living in the now, constantly moving forward. For that is Nature’s way of survival – and of life.

© 2019 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…


29 thoughts on “Keep Trying

  1. A beautiful story of surviving despite the odds. Animals do not need to lie unlike the human species that has to justify its actions. More power to you Lori.

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    1. Thank you, Lynn. Normally, the people that bring us wildlife are caring and concerned. And most of the time the animals are victims of accidents or were just found alone. That man that called spewed out all sorts of information that led FD and me to believe Tukker was simply snatched from his mother to be raised as a pet. This was the first time I’d ever had this kind of situation. I did report the incident to the game warden, and I told the city police about the phone call. I was concerned that this guy would come and try to steal the fawn.

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  2. Yay Tukker!! I’m glad you and FD were so persistent and loving. It’s clear that you were meant for this kind of work, Lori. Your writing really shines when you’re rehabbing wildlife, and I love how you always glean life lessons from whatever happens. Your point about dwelling on the past is very timely for me because I’ve just been trying to redirect my thoughts from brooding on past hurts and Injustices to focusing on the future with a more positive outlook. Thank you, my friend, for sharing your wisdom.

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    1. Aw, thanks, Kim. These kinds of messages and pearls of wisdom come often for me. It’s so easy to slip into recalling stories thinking that we are protecting ourselves or keeping to a certain thought. The moment is all that matters, and often there is joy in just being. Lately, I sit in the shade (we’ve had triple digit heat the last couple of weeks) watching Tukker, as a mother would. Sometimes an hour goes by while he forages for tasty weeds, and I pull weeds that I know he won’t eat. I don’t think a thought out there. Deer sure know how to be in the moment.

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  3. So wonderful to read of your success with Tukker! And I love your last statement, “Instead, they keep trying, living in the now, constantly moving forward. For that is Nature’s way of survival – and of life.” So true, to live in and appreciate every moment of life that we have. Thank you for the reminder!

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  4. Wonderful story; I really enjoyed reading it. I told you before that Tukker was sent to you because you were willing to take on his care. Your next-to-last paragraph also resonated with me; just last night my husband finally realized it was time for him to let go of injustices from his past and move forward. Hope to see more Tukker stories!

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  5. I just read an article in a local rural magazine about how little fawns on their own are NOT necessarily abandoned. It went on to mention as you did the mother’s tactic to leave it in place and go out to forage or look after another. It makes perfect sense to split the odds when you think about it. About those people: Icky attitudes. Just icky!

    I know you needed and wanted a rest from fostering, but all in all I am glad you are there for Tukker.

    BTW, I recently saw a stunning picture of a dear on Steve’s blog. I teased him about thinking I was on the wrong blog, but he didn’t get the reference to you…

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    1. Lynda, I would guess most fawns are not abandoned. Over the years we’ve watched Daisy and her first offspring, Spirit, look for lost babies for a week or more. I know of several people in this area that have raised fawns without the state permit. It’s upsetting that wildlife is treated in this manner… but then humans steal and traffic their own too.

      I’m so far behind reading other’s blog posts. I’ll have to go through Steve’s and see which one you’re talking about! You’ve made me curious now!

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  6. You’re having a busy time What with your family trials and now Tukker. How does it feel to be a Mom again? Despite the worry, I bet it feels good. I admire all that you do for everyone in your life xxx

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    1. Hi Henrie! It feels good to be a deer mom again, and I’m not nearly as stressed as I was with the others. Tukker came with a whole different set of concerns of course, but that’s the learning curve… we’re all different. It just took time to figure this little fella out – and to get him to trust us. 🙂

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  7. What a story! I was surprised that you were told to forget the stories, but I can see that trying to make sense of what happened was not helpful. You and your husband have such kind hearts! That’s marvelous.

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  8. Ah yes, stories. Humans seem to have some innate need to fabricate, usually to cover shame or fear but sometimes just…because. What a wise move, to forget the story. We can tie ourselves up in knots trying to make sense of things instead of looking at what is right in front of us. Bravo to you and FD. Tukker is so beautiful! What a lovely story of survival and perseverance.

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  9. Thank you for taking such good care of little Tukker. It makes me so sad that the poor little thing had such a rough start and missed out on time with the mother and would have suffered so much had he not made it to you.

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  10. Hello, my friend. I haven’t been able to read your blog in such a long time! It feels good and scary to be back. Human beings are miserable, selfish creatures, and what they can do to our animal kin… well, I just can’t go there. Bless you, always, for rescuing the helpless and needy.

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  11. That advice you were given, to forget the story and focus on Tukker’s needs, was exactly on point. It’s good advice for us all, actually — whether we’re hearing the story, or telling it. I know people who have lived for years paralyzed by the need to tell their story to anyone who will listen, over and over again. The stories they tell may be true, or they may not, but there comes a point when any of us needs to stop focusing on our stories, and focus on life.

    The other thing that occurred to me is how important your previous experiences with the deer, both good and bad, were to helping Tukker recover. In a way, it reminds me of my experience with flowers. For years, I couldn’t find a rain lily, no matter how hard I looked. Then, last weekend, I saw five little white things along a roadside while I was clipping past them at about 50 mph. All it took was that quick half-glance for me to think, “Rain lilies!” and then to slam on the brakes and back up. Sure enough, that’s what they were, and my experience with them in the past was as responsible for my seeing them as my physical vision. In the same way, your experiences with all your deer gave you the vision to finally find what Tukker needed — or so it seems to me.

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  12. One effective approach in a poem or narrative is to make an unexpected turn near or at the end. That’s what you did here: “For I realized that I have been carrying all sorts of my own stories around for most of my life.”

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  13. So much wisdom in those last 2 paragraphs. Tukker is one lucky little guy (love the leafy hiding spot – and that he is allowed to be a wild fawn – logs and all)
    Doctors are taught in residency “patients lie” and the sooner you ignore what they tell you and go by observation and gut feeling ( and experience) the faster the problem will be resolved. People are just so weird. Thank goodness you hun up on the please and refund the visits ( and deer-napping possibility)
    You’re an old soul. While you may feel tangled by thoughts and shadows, you somehow find the strength to hold and keep going – as with the little one here. Lessons you already knew but for whatever reason were lost are returning as you are able. You and the world are better because of you.

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  14. I LOVE this story!! Sister, I know I’ve caught bits and pieces of what you and FD were going through with Tukker, but to read it all together just really makes me realize all that he (and you two) have been through to come this far. Persistence and patience was the key…, that and lots of love! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, and the video of Tukker with the dogs made me laugh so hard!!

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  15. That is a lot of work. When Timmy came to live with us, I did not expect him to survive. I just too him off of the highway so that the kids would not worry about him. Instead, he snapped out of it and started eating whatever he wanted. It was a problem, and he would not leave! He was not so young though.

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  16. He is beautiful! I am so happy that you are there for him! Sounds like he really came a long way. Excellent work!

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  17. Aaah I love Tukker’s story thus far. It is true that folks fabricate all sorts of stories to suit their needs and or agenda. What ever the case, I am familiar with crazy stories that came with the dogs and cats that I took into my care. You do such an admirable job of ensuring that all the wildlife in your care thrive and mature toward the ultimate day when they are retuned to the wild. Being persistent is the key and that is what separates the good from the not so good rehabber. I really like the video here, It is beyond precious with the dogs out in the pen and one of them enjoying a romp through the grass. I am so glad to be back to blogging again. I have missed your posts.

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  18. Wonderful post… Tukker is delightful, I doubt we ever lose our childhood fascination with fawns, thank you Bambi! But for some the romance of the attraction doesn’t serve the object of it well. At the least the people who had him finally had the sense to ask for help. Another lesson for all of us. There are many who make bad situations worse because they won’t, and irreversible when it goes past the point of no return and they can’t ask for help. When we adopted our dog from a well-known rescue organisation they gave us little background information but later piecing together those details and what became apparent to us about his physical issues, they likely had pertinent information they should have disclosed… but for their own interests didn’t. However, like with Tukker the end justifies the means, and I can live with it… and I’m grateful they were surrendered rather than left to a worse fate. And maybe the people went some way to learning from the experience, rather than repeating it.

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  19. Hi Lori. I thoroughly enjoyed this story and, like a good book, found it to be a real page turner. Admire your knowledge and dedication to wildlife rehab and commend you and your husband for this success story. I spend a lot of time on a friend’s farm watching and photographing wildlife and hear lots of stories about fawns. Those with tragic endings usually involve the cutting of hay during fawning season. The transition to big industrial farms and intensive management with big automated machinery frightens me in terms of impacts on wildlife. Glad you took the time to share this experience and looking forward to the next chapter!

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    1. Thanks, Nick! You are correct about big farming machines and the threat to wildlife. That’s how we acquired Ronnie deer (named after the farmer who brought him to us) a couple of years back. The farmer and a hired hand were harvesting wheat when the combine driver saw a doe run off and then got a bad feeling he may had hit something. He stopped his work and got the farmer and they went looking – found little Ronnie cut up, laying down in the cut wheat. We are fortunate to have a deer-loving veterinarian who patched him up for us (at a discount since we do rehab work and the cost was on us) and Ronnie grew to be a beautiful buck despite his rough start. There are many good people out there who are good stewards of the land and protectors of wildlife. I hope there will always be folks who care.

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