Ruthie’s Road to Recovery

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.

Ruthie is offered an electrolyte supplement often. She seems to like the taste.
Banana slices are a favorite snack right now. She also loves apples, and I’m sure to offer her all of the blackberries I pick from our blackberry patch.

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 is content to rest in the barn during the daytime hours, hiding behind a mound of loose straw.
Ruthie’s mouth is healing now that the inflammation is down and puss pockets are drying up. The rough spots on her face from mouth to eye are the areas where puss drained. Everything looks so much better, and seems to be healing nicely. By the way, Ruthie finally allowed Forrest to extract those ticks from the corners of her eyes. They can be very difficult to pull off until they increase in size.

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.

It is a very good sign that Ruthie is grazing on fresh-cut elm branches and seeking tasty weeds from the deer pen!
Ruthie has learned to dip her face down below the water level to suck water. To suck from the surface allows water to squirt out the wounded side of her mouth and she ends up lapping which doesn’t yield much water intake. She’s been very resilient and clever to find a way to get proper hydration on her own.

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.

Ruthie sleeps peacefully when Forrest sits with her. In the wild, a mother deer keeps watch over her fawns and, as the fawns grow, the family herd works together to watch out for one another while resting. Ruthie feels safe in the confines of the barn these days. Rest is just as important as hydration and nutrition in the healing of wounds. And certainly, a mama-to-be needs a lot of all three.

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.

© 2021 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way


50 thoughts on “Ruthie’s Road to Recovery

    1. Thank you Paulette. Each day sees a little more independence (doesn’t want us bringing her the water bucket and is trying to eat on her own) on Ruthie’s part. The vet said we could take her off of the antibiotic, and so far that’s going well. Thank you for continued thoughts and prayers!

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  1. So glad to hear of Ruthie’s stunning improvement. Your efforts are tremendous and hopefully will be instructive for others helping wildlife. To quote the character Portia in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice: “How far that little candle throws its beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world.”
    If I was nearby I would bring her a few of my roses to eat…oh they do like the buds!

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    1. Oh those roses would be welcome! I had put cages around mine as the girls had nibbled them down to nothing. They had just started looking good and blooming a little when this happened to Ruthie. I find myself clipping them back a little because I know she loves them, and if they help her, so be it! Foraging tree branches and wild plants along with clover that we’ve planted in spots, is a lot of work each day, and seeing Ruthie’s improvement makes it all worth the work.

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  2. I’m so glad things are looking up with Ruthie. She and her sisters are such beautiful creatures. I admire the dedication you and Forrest have shown on top of the love l know you both have for her.

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    1. This is our tenth year of work with deer. Just when we think we have the fawn process down, we get a new experience to learn even more. It’s interesting that the Wildcare vet is anxious to visit with us when he’s not so busy these warm weather months. Our interaction and observation of deer may lend changes for them to improve their program. I know the years of our work has prompted changes and improvements here too. The deer have taught us much.

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  3. Hello,👏✔ Hello, I am very sure that all information is at hand and still, so that you can quickly regain your strength fed. In addition to compound feed, grain (maize, wheat, barley, oats) and by-products that arise in food production (molasses pulp, soy and rapeseed meal) play a major role. that there is no other way to look for animals in the forest and to find what they need. good luck for the future, it is important to drink a lot. !!! god bless you all man.

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    1. Ruthie is drinking a lot of water, which is a very good sign of improvement. We are thankful that in the beginning she liked the electrolyte drink we provided. Now, she’s not so fond of it! Ha ha! Deer are like that, tastes change and they adapt to change well. She has managed to get her usual deer feed down which is very nutritious – we never feed our deer corn or any attractant-type feed, as it simply isn’t nutritious. Foraging for her natural greens has been a lot of work, but it’s paying off when we see her improve daily. I am already impressed by how her mouth is healing. There is still a long way to go, and her pregnancy complicates things, but even that is progressing nicely.

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      1. Many Thanks !! Soon your readers and friends will have all the excitement behind them, Only happy news should come, wish you all the best, good luck again. !!

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    1. Thank you, Ardys. We appreciate everyone pulling for Ruthie’s recovery. I’m documenting this experience with photographs mostly. I look back to two weeks ago and am amazed at her progress. It feels great to have so much support from around the world.

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  4. OH she is healing that terrible wound – I was so afraid there was no way. What a smartie that little deer is learning how to drink. Love the way you put branches on the fence so she can forage. I know she is thin, but she’s up and being a deer. (darn they get tired of med hiding foods – the dates were good while it lasted.
    Rest Ruthie. The last picture is so encouraging.
    Thanks for the update! Still sending healing warmth, energy and prayers.

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    1. You nailed it with Ruthie being a smarty. Every day shows more independence on her part. The vet took her off of the antibiotic, so now it’s up to nature to heal the wound and rebuild tissue. Just yesterday we noticed her tongue is staying in her mouth a little better. She still has trouble tearing leaves off of branches, and it’s a challenge to keep feed from spilling out of the bad side, but Ruthie keeps trying. We will keep her in the pen as long as she’s weak and unable to fend for herself in the wild. She’s big as a barrel, and seems comfortable to rest most of the hot days.

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    1. Thanks, Steve. We give deer care our all, but this is certainly a situation where we find ourselves out of our element. I’ve tossed the idea of a book around for years – but never really had direction about the message. I’m more clear about it now. If only I was more disciplined about getting after it!

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  5. Good news… in a so far so good way. I believed with tlc from you and Forrest Runthie chances were better thsn average but she really has made the most of her team support. So happy for you, and still sending that positive energy in my thoughts.

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    1. Thank you so much for thinking of us! I believe it’s made a difference. It’s interesting how the last two days Ruthie has become a little more independent, and she’s actually let us know that she doesn’t need us catering to her so much. That is a big part of working with wildlife of all sorts – they let us know when they’re ready to move on to the next stage. For Ruthie, it will take her getting strong enough to manage in the wild. We have no idea how her mouth will heal, and if she can eat normally. And this baby coming at any time will certainly bring challenges too. I’m sure Ruthie will show us what she needs.

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  6. This is so good to read! I’ve thought about you all so much lately… Thank you for the update! Im still going to be keeping the 4 of you in my thoughts and prayers (you, Forrest, Ruthie and Baby Deer) Any updates will be welcome!

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    1. Aw, thank you Lynn. We appreciate all of the love and support. I truly believe it’s made a difference. I’ll be sure to update as often as I can. This is such a busy time of year and there is a lot going on!

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  7. This is great news. I understand the worry about her delivering during this period of recovery but animals have a way of managing things in difficult circumstances and the two of you are giving her every opportunity to succeed and recover to her strong self. Still work ahead but this is so encouraging. ❤

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    1. You are very correct about, “still work ahead”, but we’re rolling with Ruthie’s changes each day. She’s been good to show us the last two days that she doesn’t need us quite as much. Being a little more independent is a wonderful thing. And she’s resting. We’re a little concerned about the baby(ies) she carries, but we will deal with that when the time comes. No sense in worrying about what hasn’t happened yet, and Ruthie will lead us with that too.

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    1. Thank you, Anne. Ruthie is doing her best. The last two days she’s shown more independence. We’ve been giving her some space. She is drinking a lot of water and grazing on her own. With the baby coming soon, we hope she’s strong enough to care for it and produce enough milk. If not, we’re prepared to help with that as much as we can.

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  8. When I read your fascinating posts, about the kind and wonderful things you accomplish helping wildllife, it fills me with pride, that I even know such marvelous folks. Keep up the good work!

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    1. Aw, thanks Cindy!! This is an unusual situation but we’re rolling with it and doing the best we know how. Ruthie is doing her best too. I’ll be sure to keep updating everyone about her progress. It’ll be interesting to see how she manages delivering her baby, and if she can feed it (will she produce enough milk being so emaciated and can she eat enough to support that?). We’re prepared to do whatever it takes to help her.

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    1. Thank you, Linda. So far Ruthie is doing well, and we’re amazed at how independent she’s become the last couple of days. She’s getting her own water and jumps up and leaves if we bring the bucket to her now. LOL And she is venturing out of the barn and resting in the shade hut we built along the fence. I’ll have to write about that… we build shade huts for fawns to rest in and get out of the heat. It mimics the canopy of trees in the deep woods, and makes them feel safe. Ruthie didn’t even wait until the hut was completed – she just plopped down as if she knew what we were doing.

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    1. Thank you, Michael. We appreciate so many warm thoughts and prayers. This is an unusual story to be told. We’re all learning about the resilience and struggle of healing. Ruthie is doing her best!

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        1. Aw, thank you Michael. Nature has provided us much enjoyment in our lives – it’s good and right to give back when we can. I’m so thankful many people are on board with us in thought. I believe collectively, we can manage great things.

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    1. Forrest and I are amazed at the healing so far. The vet took Ruthie off the antibiotic, so healing will be up to her now. She was refusing her antibiotic “snacks” so it seemed she was ready to do her own thing anyway. She continually shows us that she’s able and doing what she would in the wild. It’s all progress. Thank you for thinking of us, Lynn.

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  9. Happy to hear the good news! The road back to health is often, even with modern medicine, a slow and labor intensive one! ❤ and hugs you & Ruthie's way!

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    1. Thanks, TamrahJo! I wish we had managed to get the Wildcare veterinarian out here for the debridement, as I think the healing process would have been expedited, but the antibiotic seemed to give Ruthie a little edge on keeping infection at bay. The wound looks so much better, but her tongue still doesn’t want to stay in her mouth as it should and she has trouble nipping off greens from branches. Meanwhile, we do what we can to supplement her diet. My garden has helped actually! She is a picky girl, but I’m finding a few eats she cannot resist!

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