Forrest and I realized very quickly that Ruthie deer’s venomous snake bite was going to require a greater level of rehabilitative care than we had dealt with in the past. As soon as we managed to get Ruthie secured in the deer pen, and prepared the fawn section of the barn with a deep layer of straw bedding, we got down to the business of wound care and nutrition.
In the first week, Ruthie continually ran a fever, which we felt fortunate to keep low by offering water and electrolyte constantly. Every thirty-minutes I walked across the yard to the barn to offer the water bucket to Ruthie. Too weak to get up, she drank from the tipped bucket I offered. It was a welcomed sight to watch her get up occasionally to stretch her legs and bed down in another spot in the straw, and we also saw her exit the barn to do her bathroom business, which was miraculously spot on despite not eating much.
On the nutritional front, Forrest drove an hour to the nearest health food store to get proper greens and fruits that we felt might benefit Ruthie’s recovery. He also searched for any “treat” he could hide the powdered antibiotic in. At first, Ruthie enjoyed eating Medjool dates, unaware that Forrest had cleverly packed the antibiotic powder into the pit cavity of the dates. Unfortunately, Ruthie rejected the dates after a few days and Forrest switched to hiding her antibiotic in bananas and apricots. That is working so far…
We also found Ruthie is receptive to organic leaf lettuce, along with all sorts of wild plants we find in our yard and in our neighbor Steve’s yard. His yard is much more woolly and wild than ours, so I forage for lots of good eats there. Many weeds that grow in my flower beds provide nutrition Ruthie benefits from as well. And now, I am also back to grabbing my pole saw each morning to offer Ruthie branches with new leaf growth. We stripped leaves from the branches and hand fed everything to her that first week. It is exhausting work, requiring diligence and patience.
Last Friday night, we were up late and decided to check on Ruthie before we went to bed. She exited the barn to meet us and, after leaving pelleted scat and urinating, she promptly walked over to a couple of elm branches and began chewing off leaves and slender twigs. At times she attempted to rip the leaves from the branch with the injured side of her mouth! Forrest and I watched in elation as she moved to another branch we had hung in the pen along the fence, where she vigorously tore a few leaves from the branch while successfully munching and working them back to her molars for proper chewing.
With Ruthie in a mood to munch, we knew we needed to get her some fresh branches. So, off to the pasture we went with the pole saw, in the dark of midnight, and battling biting mosquitoes as we cut a couple of limbs and dragged them back. Ruthie feasted on the fresh greens. With tears of joy in our eyes, Forrest and I hugged as we watched Ruthie eat with exuberance. This was the turn in the road we had been hoping for.
Ruthie stays in the barn a lot during the daylight hours. She still has trouble regulating her temperature, and she seems content to rest during the days, nestled safely behind a bale of straw. It is a nightly ritual now, for Forrest and I to join Ruthie in the pen before our bedtime. Deer are quite nocturnal, so this is a good sign also, that she’s feeling well enough to eat and move around as she normally would. Often, her sisters, Gracie, Penelope, and Scout are bedded down just on the other side of the fence. It is hard to know if they miss Ruthie’s companionship or her leadership in the little herd, if they’re just curious about her wounds, or if they are simply bedding down nearby as they normally would.
Each day shows a little progress, but Ruthie is still emaciated and it is difficult for us to watch her bony figure move around. When she lays in the barn, however, it’s evident that she’s all belly, and the baby is active. We have no idea how all of this will work out – if she can manage to eat enough to get herself healthy, have a healthy fawn, and be able to produce a high enough volume and quality of milk. For now, we are content to see her mouth healing, with the inflammation coming down and less puss oozing. The fact that she’s interested in eating and keeping herself hydrated on her own, is encouraging. And despite the WildCare vet not being able to come out to perform a debridement, Ruthie is healing quite well. The vet keeps in touch with us daily and is amazed at what we have managed so far.
This coming Wednesday will mark two weeks since Ruthie was attacked by the snake. We feel the progression in healing that has taken place so far, is nothing short of a miracle. Thanks to so many of you who have kept us in your thoughts and prayers and provided us so many heart-felt words of encouragement.
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