Amazing Gracie

Early this morning, as I sat at my desktop computer sipping coffee and attempting to catch up on paying bills and looking at email, I spotted motion outside the window in front of me. It was little fawn Ellie running in the lead, with mama Ruthie deer closely trotting behind, and followed by Gracie deer trying to catch up to the two of them. By the time I ran out to the front porch and put on my boots, the three had disappeared to the east, heading towards the rock house. Eventually, I spotted Ellie diving into the thicket of trees and vegetation near the garden area. Ruthie was nonchalantly grazing on greens in the old, overgrown iris beds just behind the rock house and, after a short time, Gracie appeared from around the front of the rock house. Somehow, Ruthie and Ellie had outsmarted Gracie. Ruthie, knowing Ellie had settled down for the morning in the thicket of trees, gingerly trotted off and jumped the fence to our neighbor Steve’s back yard. Gracie lingered, nibbling greens as she began her usual route of patrolling the area.

Ruthie nurses and cares for Ellie in the back yard of the rock house.
Ruthie keeps Ellie in different spots on our property, and at the neighbor’s property. Ellie gets a lot of good exercise in traveling to various areas and can run like the wind! She also seems to have a good idea of the layout of the property. Fawns are fast learners.
Ruthie enjoys eating leaves from sucker branches on the old elm tree just south of the house. Deer love elm leaves!

Ruthie’s other fawn, Jojo, is now housed in the fawn section of the barn, with access to the deer pen, where she typically indulges in a little exercise a couple of times each day. Rehabilitation efforts to nourish Jojo while the deformity in her legs corrects itself and she gains strength and stamina, have come along nicely. After moving JoJo from the house to the fawn room and deer pen, we noticed that Ruthie, who was hiding and nursing Ellie in the immediate area, would stop by the pen often, as if to check on Jojo. When we saw this, we decided to let her in the pen and see if we might be able to foster nursing. But, after several attempts, Jojo never could manage to latch on to Ruthie’s teats, and Ruthie’s patience with our efforts to help ran short.

Eventually, Ruthie moved Ellie to the woods behind our house and quit coming by the deer pen except to occasionally sniff at one of the gates while carrying out a patrolling route. She seemed to understand and accept that we were raising JoJo. As a result of having less responsibility and only one fawn to feed, Ruthie seems to be flourishing. She is still quite thin, but her coat is glossy and her udder looks good. We do not always know where Ellie is hidden, but by Ruthie’s demeanor and the condition of her udder, it is apparent she is still feeding a fawn. At least once each day, we observe Ruthie eating well, always on patrol and alert, and doing what a mother deer naturally does when raising her young. Meanwhile, we continue to bottle feed Jojo, and watch her make slow but miraculous progress.

Gracie was exhausted after looking for her lost baby.

Gracie, on the other hand, is a different story. The first couple of days after the barred owl killed her baby, Gracie mooed pitifully, nose to the ground, trying to pick up the scent of her missing fawn. We observed her searching all over the property and along the outskirts of the woods. Often, she returned to the spot near the yarrow and tree thicket near the garden, where we supposed she had last bedded her little buck. Many times, she stopped at the deer pen gates, looking in with great curiosity. I wondered if Gracie needed to investigate whether the fawn in the pen might be hers. So last Friday afternoon, when we noticed Gracie mooing and sniffing at JoJo, who was bedded near the fence behind a shade branch, we let Gracie in the pen to satisfy her curiosity. What happened next, was the physical experience of the answer to our prayers for both Gracie and JoJo.

After Forrest called JoJo out from her bedding area, Gracie approached her with caution. Carefully, she sniffed JoJo’s face and behind, and then began to lick her as she would her own fawn. Finding that Gracie seemed to be receptive to JoJo, we decided to see if she would allow JoJo to nurse, as we had attempted with Ruthie. Given that Gracie has always considered Forrest as her mother and, therefore, is comfortable with his touch and closeness, he positioned JoJo underneath Gracie and guided her nose to Gracie’s udder. Gracie stood patiently during this fumbling, trial run, while occasionally turning her head to lick Forrest or JoJo, as if to encourage them to not give up. Finally, after some misguided nosing around, JoJo discovered the pot at the end of the rainbow, latched on to a teat, and began to nurse. When JoJo seemed satisfied and the nursing was complete, the two of them settled in the back of the deer pen, lying only a couple of feet apart from each other. So, with a feeling of joy welling up from within, Forrest and I left Gracie and JoJo alone, to experience some important bonding time together.

Since that first nursing, Gracie has fed JoJo twice each day, but it requires constant monitoring to know when Gracie is present and to offer for her to nurse or spend time in the deer pen with Jojo. While we hope all feedings can eventually be accomplished with Gracie, it is still a hit-and-miss endeavor. We have JoJo on a four-times-daily feeding schedule, but Gracie has her own internal clock that is definitely not synchronized with ours. For Gracie to continue to produce enough milk, feedings need to continue on a frequent basis, as they would in the wild, but we have not come up with a good solution to allow Gracie to enter and leave the deer pen on her own schedule. Scout and Penelope have been quite territorial and not friendly to little Jojo, so it is imperative that we keep them from entering the pen. Also, JoJo has not yet developed the strength and stamina necessary for her to stay up with any mother and survive in the wild. But, regardless of the small hurdles of schedule and access, we are thrilled Gracie has taken an interest in nursing Jojo and that Jojo has been very receptive.

Amazing Gracie… how sweet the sound – of JoJo mewing and smacking as she nurses from her new mother.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.
~ John Newton

Does stimulate the bathroom business by licking, and then ingest the urine and feces to keep the fawn clean and as scent-free as possible. This is most times accomplished at the same time that the baby is being nursed.
Gracie does a thorough cleaning this visit. Jojo often scampers off before the job is complete!
I did not wish to disturb these two that first time they bedded down together, so the image quality with the iPhone was not great at such a distance. Gracie rested well for the first time since she lost her baby, and seemed contented to nurse and keep company with little Jojo.
Twice I have seen Gracie watching for us (she often sees us in the kitchen window) from the clover patch. As soon as we call her to the deer pen she comes running.
A little bonding time after lunch today!

© 2021 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way


25 thoughts on “Amazing Gracie

  1. Oh, I love this! You know, it’s funny, after reading about Gracie losing her buck fawn, I thought to myself, I wonder if she would nurse Jojo. And it happened! Good feels all around.

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    1. It does feel good! Now if we can just get Gracie to come around often to let Jojo nurse and get her milk production back up. It has been constant monitoring for us, and if it all works out, it’ll be worth the extra effort. I’m just so happy Gracie was willing to take Jojo on.

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  2. Congratulations on finding a solution for all. Just a side note, my Granny Rozell had 3 sisters; Edna, Gracie & Ruth!

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    1. I’m thankful that things are looking positive! Now if we can just get Gracie to come around more often so that she can get milk production back up to snuff! Gee, Edna is a good name for a fawn. I’ll keep that in mind when we have another doe fawn on the place! 🙂

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  3. Well, what a happy turn of events! Amazing Gracie indeed. I have seen photos and heard of other animals becoming surrogates but what a great first hand (for you) experience of it. Thank you for keeping us up on the continuing story.

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    1. Thank you, Ardys! Let’s just hope Gracie comes around plenty so we can get milk production up. Trying to coincide Gracie’s schedule with our own is a real challenge, but we’re trying our best. We’re just so happy Gracie has been willing and that Jojo took right to her!

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    1. Ha ha! Yes it does take a group effort! I am quite happy things are progressing. Even if Gracie doesn’t take over feeding totally, just having interaction will help Jojo in being part of the herd someday (we hope!). Jojo may always have limitations, and being part of a herd may help to protect her in the wild.

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  4. Goodness you both busy this year with so many to look after, but what goes around comes around and the does are helping out. Your deer adventures are so enriching and life affirming xxx.

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    1. The funny thing is we had not planned to do any rehabilitation this year. With Covid we had to put off Forrest’s 60th birthday, our 20th anniversary, his retirement and now my 60th birthday, so this year we were going to do some traveling. Ruthie’s snake bite injury was the beginning of a lot of rehabilitation, and now with little Jojo needing time to heal it looks like this year won’t be the one we’d hoped for. But it’s all good, isn’t it? Life is full of adventure!

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    1. Indeed!! We are so happy – even if Gracie doesn’t feed Jojo full-time, just having some bonding and a real deer mama to help her join the herd someday will be a big benefit.

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    1. That was beautifully said! We’ve been getting a lot of miracles this year. Lots of good thoughts and prayers got us there. “Two hearts healing” – that’s going to stick with me. 🙂

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  5. Great post! There is a doe here that I have seen in the pasture a few times and behind the house. I never had any issues with deer in my Hosta until this year. They usually nibble on the ‘Potomac Pride’ once then leave them along the rest of the summer. This year, they have keps the ‘Potomac Pride so short and they have been working on a few others… I enjoy seeing deer in the neighborhood, and there are several, but not so much when they eat the Hosta. Oh, well, maybe they won’t bother the Hosta next year. Thanks for sharing this great post!

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    1. That’s interesting to note about deer enjoying hostas. I find that just like with humans, they all have varied taste for certain foods and plants. I’ve had petunias for years, some deer gobble them up (flowers and stems) while others turn their noses up at them. We also learned that in the NE part of the country deer eat iris leaves down to the nubs. Here, deer are not prone to eating iris. I guess it all depends on what is available and seasonal tastes.

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  6. Hi Lori, I have read your recent posts with great interest. You and Forrest have utilised your years of experience in caring for wildlife in recent weeks as the does have given birth and you have begun to raise JoJo. I am guessing it is quite rare for a doe to adopt another doe’s fawn. Your summers seem to be very trying, rather like tropical and subtropical parts of Australia with high humidity and heavy rainfall. The ‘summer’ season in far north Australia is called The Wet.

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