This past week, Ruthie deer began showing a little more interest in venturing outside of her straw-lined room in the barn, especially in the early mornings and just before dark. Her sisters often gather just outside the deer pen as if to check on Ruthie and keep her company from the other side of the fence. All four deer are behaving much as they did before Ruthie’s snake bite tragedy, still gathering as a herd, and keeping close to home.
During the heat of the day, Gracie, Penelope, and Scout all venture off into the shade of the woods behind our home. For the most part, the three of them have been keeping close to their home territory. Part of this is due to a couple of mother does from the local wild herd keeping the girls hoofed out of their nearby nursery areas. Too young to stand their ground as dominant does, the girls keep safe nearby and graze on what is available here and at the neighbor’s place next door. Fortunately, with Ruthie – the little herd’s “Travel Coordinator and Head of Adventure Planning” – in the infirmary, roaming the neighborhood has come to a standstill as well. On that note, Forrest and I have been able to relax a bit, knowing the girls are not getting into trouble in town.
One morning this week, I noticed Ruthie resting under the shade of the old splash pond stock tank we had fashioned for the fawns last year. After we released the fawns and cleaned up the deer pen, Forrest and I leaned the stock tank against the fence for the winter, and I was surprised to see Ruthie finding shelter underneath it. So, just like I had done for the fawns we raised other years, I got busy gathering ample tree limbs to construct a shade hut for Ruthie. Forrest and I had barely started construction, when Ruthie moved from under the plastic splash pond to the breezier and cooler shade of the new leaf hut. We continued constructing the shade hut around Ruthie, who seemed just fine resting there while we worked in the heat and humidity.
In the last couple of days, we have observed Ruthie eating greens on her own in the deer pen. This is the first she has been interested in anything much other than a few species of tree leaves and store-bought fruits and lettuces we have offered. She also enjoys fresh carrots and sweet potato vine from our garden and nibbles wild greens I fetch from our neighbor Steve’s front yard. Still weak and enjoying the comfort of the barn most days, she lays in front of her feed pan to nibble at her leisure. She has also learned to tilt her head to the side to get good drinks of water by submerging the damaged part of her mouth below the water level, allowing her to gain some suction while she drinks. To encourage her to stay hydrated, we keep her water buckets filled with fresh, cool water throughout the day. The water also helps in the healing process, keeping her wounds clean and helping to slough off dead tissue. Ruthie’s mouth is healing nicely, and her tongue no longer hangs out of the right side. She’s also learning to manipulate her tongue to do a better job of keeping food in her mouth and moving it back to her molars for chewing.
Ruthie is still quite emaciated, and it appears any nutrition she takes in is going straight to the to the baby(ies). But the good thing is, she is eating more forage in the deer pen and is enjoying spending more time outdoors. She has begun grooming herself frequently as deer do, and is resting well. She is also letting us know she doesn’t need our constant attention. We take her independence as a sign that she’s improving, and that our collective prayers are being answered. Thank you all so much for playing a part in Ruthie’s recovery with all your positive thoughts and prayers!
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