Diligence

The day after fawns Ellie and Jojo were born, we realized that Jojo had problems with her legs and that likely, in the wild, would have left her as predator bait. A fawn should be able to stand and nurse within about 30 minutes of birth, and be able to walk and follow it’s mother a short distance within a few hours. Unable to walk well or stand for more than a few seconds, Jojo hobbled around, exhausting herself with the effort required to take just a few steps. She could not stand on her own long enough to suckle milk from her mother’s udder, so I helped to hold her up and steady her. It was clear we would need to assist in her care. Ellie, on the other hand, was small, but mighty. She was strong and resourceful, and found higher ground in order to reach her mother’s teats and get enough nourishment to sustain her.

Ruthie deer is still very emaciated-looking, but her coat is glossy and she seems to be doing well.
Ellie the fawn is a little toughie – she is managing to get plenty of milk, exercise and rest. Ruthie has her in the deer pen, where Ruthie herself spent her days as a fawn.

For Forrest and me, taking Jojo into the house where we could better monitor the condition of her legs and assure good nutrition, meant getting used to feeding schedules again. This is the difficult part of rehabilitation. One would think that feeding every four hours is no big deal. But that one feeding can take quite a while, considering the time it takes to mix and properly warm the formula, feed that to the fawn, stimulate the bathroom business, and then offer time to socialize and exercise. Sometimes it takes fifteen minutes. Other times, an hour is required until the fawn settles down to sleep until the next feeding. And many times, our usual routine does not agree with the fawn. We discovered early on with Jojo, that she preferred a five hour period before the next feeding. And that was fine by us.

Forrest has taken on the wildlife rehabilitation work this year, and I’m taking a backseat as an assistant. Forrest has found his niche in retirement! Here he adds a little sheep milk yogurt to the Fox Valley Nutrition Whitetail formula mix. The yogurt helps to firm up loose stools.
Jojo is eager to get her milk at every feeding! She’s growing fast and is still just slightly bigger than her sibling, Ellie.

After a couple of days in our care (JoJo’s fourth day of life) Forrest decided to take Jojo to visit WildCare and have the staff veterinarian have a look at her legs. Dr. Abbot had been kind to communicate with us via texting and phone calls during Ruthie deer’s snake bite rehabilitation. He was well aware of Ruthie’s emaciated condition, and was concerned about her health in being able to care for two fawns. In fact, he had admitted later that he was surprised at Ruthie’s determination to heal, and that she managed to deliver two, live babies. And now seeing Jojo’s legs, he lined out the graveness of the situation. A fawn should weigh six to twelve pounds at birth, and Jojo was just five pounds. Likely, Ruthie’s fawns were premature. And with no way of knowing why Jojo’s legs were underdeveloped or how to fix them, the situation looked bleak. In the wild, JoJo could not survive with legs that could not support her to stand and nurse, follow her mama, or run from a predator.

Forrest relayed to Dr. Abbot what he had heard from a friend who was familiar with lambs in a similar condition, about a practice called “noodle casting”, where a Styrofoam pool noodle could be fashioned as a cast to help stabilize the legs in order to strengthen the tendons. The vet, however, was not certain it would work, and wondered how time-consuming it might be to care for Jojo with such an apparatus. He did encourage Forrest to try it if we were willing to invest that kind of time and energy. But he admitted if someone had brought a fawn with Jojo’s condition into Wildcare, they did not have the staff or resources to provide the time and effort necessary to handle those special needs. With not much hope of being released to the wild, a fawn like Jojo would likely be euthanized.

But Forrest did not give up hope. Knowing our local veterinarian (who had recently been out to lance an abscess stemming from mama Ruthie’s snake bite) treated many farm animals, including sheep, Forrest decided to stop by on his way home from WildCare and see what Dr. Henderson had to offer. However, the vet was busy with several loads of cattle and would have to give Forrest a call later that day. When he did call, the vet said he was familiar with the leg condition Forrest was describing, and would gladly help with the noodle casting. So Forrest made an appointment to bring JoJo in the next morning.

While examining Jojo, Dr. Henderson explained that he would not recommend casting JoJo at this point. Instead, he gave the good news that Jojo’s specific condition, though a form of Angular Limb Deformity/Deviation, was one she would likely grow out of. Casting would have been the appropriate treatment had JoJo’s tendons been tight and drawn up, thereby pulling the lower leg into a knock-kneed position. But Jojo’s condition was one of loose tendons and possibly underdeveloped “knee” joints that, in his opinion, simply needed time to strengthen and heal. Dr. Henderson suggested we give it a week, and prescribed plenty of rest along with a little exercise, which is how fawns of JoJo’s age normally operate anyway. We were elated with this prognosis!

Forrest and I put the ramp back up to the front steps now that Jojo is exercising outdoors twice a day. Lollipop uses it too!!
Jojo loves to explore, but she also lets us know when she is exhausted and ready to bed down (back in the house for now). Her legs get a bit more wobbly and she “mews” when she’s tired.

After a week and a half in the indoor infirmary with her new “parents”, Jojo has improved greatly! Her appetite is good and she can now stand on her own through an entire feeding and the sometimes lengthy ordeal of her bathroom business. She walks without her legs buckling, and can even “sprint” short distances. She’s standing up on her hooves properly, and we only see a leg joint bend slightly in or out when she gets tired.

We now approach another situation that we have never dealt with before – entertaining the idea that it may be possible to rejoin Jojo with Ruthie. We have begun exercising Jojo outdoors a bit, and she may soon be ready to be housed in the barn, as we do with all fawns once they’re old enough. There are many considerations surrounding a decision to rejoin them. Will Ruthie remember JoJo and take Jojo back on as her own? Also, Ruthie is still skin and bones, though her coat is glossy and her snake bite wounds are healing well. Can her body support feeding a second fawn and how will this affect Ruthie’s own health? Will JoJo remember Ruthie and will she instinctively look for her udder and latch on to a teat instead of a bottle?

To find the answers to these questions, timing and continual observation will be necessary. We do monitor most feedings Ruthie has with Ellie in order to make sure baby is getting enough nourishment and that Ruthie is being attentive. However, a potential reunion of Ruthie and JoJo, along with ensuring a proper transition from the bottle back to mama’s teats, will require a greater level of observation from Forrest and me.

Ruthie keeps close distance for about thirty minutes after bedding little Ellie down, just to make sure she stays put in the deer pen and that the area is free of danger. Ruthie is quite nonchalant, grazing as she goes, while watching for predators at the same time.
Ruthie (to the left of the wooden fence) is never far away from her baby. We see her on patrol in the immediate area most of the day. For some reason, Ruthie chases and hooves Penelope deer away from the deer pen where she has Ellie. Gracie and Scout, however, are allowed to be present. All three look at Ellie like she is some kind of alien!
Ruthie is a good mama. This particular day we were running mowers, and Ruthie came to the pen to lie with Ellie. I usually find Ruthie and Ellie lying together like this once each day.
The grass in this patch is about two or more feet tall. Ellie loves to hide down in the grass! Yesterday I noticed a big, fat toad in the same patch of grass. Maybe he is helping to keep the insect population down!

The time we have invested in this endeavor to help Ruthie deer and her fawns has been monumental. Forrest and I both drop into bed exhausted after JoJo’s 9:30 pm feeding, and the 6:00 wake up alarm comes way too early. But each day, it is bliss to watch Jojo make steady tracks to Forrest for her bottle, and stand firmly in place for the feeding duration. And I marvel when I see skinny Ruthie out there in the heat, doing her best to feed Ellie. Her days are much more taxing than ours – what with trying to eat enough to feed a fawn, doing constant patrol on the property to check for predators, and still finding time to rest. It is a lot for a new mama.

I love this silly image of Jojo that Forrest took with his cell phone after feeding her.

© 2021 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way


31 thoughts on “Diligence

    1. It is a wonderful feeling to know that giving Jojo a chance and a lot of care is paying off. You are correct, Rudi, that the reward for us is satisfaction in seeing her evolve and overcome this disability.

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  1. It does sound exhausting. When I was growing up we used to have wild animals to care for occasionally and those night feeds require true dedication. There is a condition with loose ligaments that humans get, usually young adolescents who are growing fast, and I believe it is mostly girls that get it. Our daughter had it for a couple of years and had to back off of the sports that put pressure on knees. She is great now and runs and plays tennis etc. That is so good to see JoJo has improved so quickly, all thanks to you two I’m sure.

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    1. That is interesting about this similar ligament situation with humans. What you described sounded quite similar to what a niece of ours dealt with – except she was “pushed through” to continue sports. I’m afraid all of these years later, she still suffers with joint and ligament pain. Jojo seems to know her limitations. I watched Ellie run like a rabbit this morning. It’s amazing how at two-weeks old a fawn can run so fast with great agility. Jojo is no where close to that, but she does get around well and manages to sprint short distances. We are elated to see so much progress in such a short time!

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    1. It is very easy to love this species of mammal. Rehabilitation is just a small part of our work. Designing and creating a better landscape for wildlife management is a big part of our work too. My total outlook for the future is about making this place wildlife friendly, and a sanctuary for all.

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  2. What a trial this has become but a worthy one and in the end I am sure you both will be happy and proud once Jojo is ready to fend for herself. It seems far off but once animals start to recover it goes quickly, I believe. Awesome work and dedication on your parts.

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    1. Thanks, Steve. I am still amazed at Ruthie’s recovery from the snake bite. How necrotic tissue shed, and then healing began. Now she’s a mother, albeit very thin and still-healing, and doing all of the instinctive things she would normally do. She’s learned to eat and drink differently, and is managing to support feeding Ellie. That is monumental to me.

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  3. As well it should be, Lori! You and Forrest brought her back from the brink of death and nursed her and the two unborn fawns to health. While Ruthie and Jojo still have a way to go your efforts are responsible. The determination both of you had to see them all through gave them a chance at life that would not have been there otherwise as the vets indicated. As they trot off into independence you will have much to be proud of. ❤

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    1. It does feel good to give back to nature. I do look back over photos of the orphaned deer we’ve raised and I feel happy to know we did our best, no matter what we faced. We can all look at much of our lives and be proud of ourselves when we did our best, or presented the very best of ourselves.

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  4. Hard to laugh at the last picture – it looks just like Rudolf in a very old Christmas cartoon – obvious the artist had noticed a few fawns to capture it so closely.
    Thrilled is an understatement every time I check by. JoJo walking a ramp and even able to sprint a bit. A miracle.
    Your wildlife friendly sanctuary already in progress.
    A salute to all there. (rest when you can!)

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    1. Of course there are more “thrills” to come. I’ve got to get busy writing as of today. Rest? What’s that? Ha ha! We are enjoying every bit of this journey… paws and hooves have been the best part!

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    1. Thank you, Lynda. It’s what we do here and it’s all about the critters. I sure would enjoy a nice cup of coffee at your dining table this morning. There is so much to talk about these days.

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  5. You’ve all come so far. It was good to read that Jojo’s condition would likely improve over time without further intervention that you and Forrest were already providing. Once again, I love the photos. You are very generous to share these stories and photos during these busy days. Take care ♡

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    1. Aw, you seem to understand how it goes in the midst of so much going on – where does one find the time to write? If I could write all day long I would. But, the stories come from the day’s work we put forth, and it documents our thoughts and accomplishments as well, so I do try to find time. Forrest has been good to edit posts in a timely manner. It’s important to us to document this experience in some way for others to draw on, and also for ourselves in future rehabilitation. I truly need to find some shorts with good pockets to carry my cell for photos!

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  6. What a sweet pair of fawns! I was so hoping they would be born alive. I was afraid they wouldn’t be. You two are wonderful care takers. I would not have that much stamina and patience. Praying things will work out with the reuniting of Ruthie and Jojo. Prayers for all of you.

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