I think I am getting a lesson in compassion, patience and heart break, all at the same time. Of the five fawns, one has always been particularly beautiful and friendly. She has a light golden coat and two larger than normal spots on her behind. Her coat is extra thick and it gives her a fuzzy appearance. So, of course, that’s what we call her. Fuzzy doesn’t hang out with the other fawns and has never been able to get the hang of drinking out of a bottle. She eats grass, a little grain and all the wild violets and greens I can pull. After some work, she even learned to drink her milk from a bowl.
From the very beginning, there has always been something just a bit odd about Fuzzy. She hangs out at the back door for instance, but rarely walks in like the other fawns. She is always just there or lying in front of the gate so you have to stop and give her a pat as you go by. The first few days, she would do an odd head nodding thing and throw her head back as if she were smelling something familiar or listening to something very far away.
It was in those early days that my husband found her unconscious on the back deck. He thought it might have been a seizure and I then thought she must have had a head injury and that’s how she came to be alone in someone’s driveway on the day she was found. These things frequently work themselves out and the animal lives a long normal life. I hoped that for Fuzzy.
The days continued and turned to weeks and her behavior did not change. She never learned to suck, though she cries for her bottle. She grinds her teeth. This can be a response to nervousness, teething or pain. I checked her all over for any areas of obvious pain, but never found any. One night last week, while I was feeding everyone their bedtime bottle, Fuzzy dropped at my feet. I thought she was dying. I sat and stroked he soft ears and suddenly her eyes opened and she was alert once more. This must have been the seizure that Jim saw.
It wasn’t a seizure though. It was a definite faint. She just collapsed and was out for about 40 seconds. she seemed absolutely fine afterwards and went back to quietly drinking her milk. I thought back to see if I could remember her playing hard before she came in. I realized that I had never seen her play with the other fawns. When they bounce to and fro on long stiff legs….Fuzzy watches. When they race around the yard playing tag….Fuzzy stands quietly by. When the rest of the crew stroll through the house or watch television in the living room or annoy me in my studio…Fuzzy is never there. she is waiting by the back door for a friendly pat or ear rub.
The fainting has became more frequent. Fawns will sometimes play so hard that they momentarily pass out, but they stagger before they fall and their breathing is rapid, Fuzzys is not. I got out the stethoscope tonight and listened closely to her heart. I’m pretty sure I can hear the regurgitation of a murmur and the beat is as irregular as mine was before they put the pacemaker in. Fuzzy has a bad heart. This explains much about her behavior. This also explains why the other fawns avoid her. Their instincts tell them that something is wrong with Fuzzy and her weakness would be a liability to the heard. They will automatically protect themselves.
It would be so much easier, if I could do that myself, but I can’t. So, I lavish attention on her and slip her treats as often as I can. When she faints, I sit with her and stroke her and tell her that everything is just the way it should be. I hope with everything I have, that her heart will heal and she will grow strong and fast and beautiful. Just in case though, I tell her about Mother Bear, who watches over all the animals and the spirit of the deer and how she will return to it and be reborn with a strong heart and a whitetail mother instead of me.
It’s silly, I know, but I tell her of green meadows, deep, cool forests and nights where you can’t tell the fireflies from the stars. I tell her how good it feels to run fast and the joy of jumping fences. I tell her of handsome bucks and tender fawns like herself. I don’t tell her of bitter snows or coyotes or hunters. I pray that she will never suffer them.
And she always wakes up and looks at me with huge trusting eyes. I know that she won’t run in those meadows or jump the fences. She will probably never even play a game of tag in the yard. As the fainting becomes more frequent, I review my options. she can live as she is long as she has no pain or suffering, If she suffers, I will end it gently for her. I could put her down now and avoid the anguish of getting more attached to her and then finding her dead one day the yard. Pure economics favors ending it now and saving on milk and feed. I’m not an economist. I am a soft touch.
It will take patience to care for her and work around her when she is in the way. It will require compassion to know when the time has come to ease her passage. It will bring heartbreak, when the day comes that the golden fur is no longer warm and soft and the ears no longer need stroking. The heartbreak will last the longest. It always does.