Thursday, August 29, 2013

I'm Back, but I Didn't Save the Deer

Sorry for the long absence.  Sorry in more ways than one--because of the idea, however faulty, that I may have inconvenienced those of my gentle readers (perhaps even both of you) who longed for something new to read these past two weeks, and sorrier still because it means I haven't been writing.  When I go too long  without writing the words start banging around inside my skull until I can't sleep because I'm too busy trying to get them all in order.

I'm aware this isn't a problem for most people.

Sorry.

I've been first to Fort Wayne, on a whirlwind 36-hour trip to see my friend Sarah before she heads back to her convent, and to see her mother, who's now in a rehab hospital.  It's amazing--I may say, miraculous--but she's healing from 50+ bone fractures, including to her C3 and C7 vertebrae and her skull, completely and without complications.  It will be a long time before she's well, but she, as a person, is entirely back.  She's herself, and she's not paralyzed, and she's not brain-damaged, nor is she blind (as she was for the first week after her accident).  I was there the day they first had clearance to allow her to bear some weight on her legs; the rehab staff rejoiced.  Thank you for all your prayers.

Then I was helping my son get ready to leave for college, which mostly involved buying stuff, and then I spent 5 days actually taking him to college, one each for the long drive there and back, and three for the student/parent orientation, which had the effect of making my son long for classes to begin.  For the students orientation was about moving in, meeting dormmates, getting IDs and student accounts and books, and learning all the new rules.  For the parents it was about two things: 1) please don't be a helicopter parent; and 2) please don't freak out if your child decides to major in anthropology.  One of the professors actually made all 4,000 freshman parents repeat in unison, "Anthropology!  Why, there's nothing you can't do with a major in Anthropology!"  (He was, of course, the chair of the anthropology department.)

Then I came home and caught the virus everyone else in my family already had, so spent a day inert on the couch.  Today, feeling much better, I drove my daughter down the driveway and encountered a deer.

A baby deer, off to the side of our driveway, just inside the fence, curled up the way its Mama taught it to lie curled in the bushes.  Only this one was right out in the open, which seemed odd.  At first it look like a large dog.  We stopped the van and stared at it.  "I think it's a deer," I said.

"If it's dead I don't want to look at it," my daughter said.

That may sound like a weird first reaction to you city folks, but we get dead animals sometimes in the country.  My dear good dog Xena once proudly brought home a deer head.  Our daily inspection of the water troughs is known as the "dead squirrel check," and I've encountered dead voles, groundhogs, mice, birds, skunks, rabbits, and snakes going about my daily business.  We get odd live animal encounters, too: for awhile I seemed to be breeding black widow spiders beneath one of the troughs, and once a 14-foot-long black snake stretched himself absolutely straight to sun himself on our driveway.  I know he was 14-foot-long because he perfectly fit on our 14-foot-wide drive.  It took me a few minutes of staring to realize he was fine, just basking, and I carefully drove through the grass to avoid him.  I love black snakes.

Anyway, the fawn raised its head to look at us, and perked its ears, which seemed reassuring, so we drove on.  "But where was Mama?" my daughter worried.  I worried about that, too; the fawn still had spots so wasn't old enough to be left on its own.  Perhaps Mama had been hit, I thought, and was lying in the ditch outside our fence.  It wouldn't be the first time.  When a deer dies, we call the county officials, who come and get it and throw it into a big walk-in freezer they keep, then eventually feed it to the wolves on exhibit on Bays Mountain.  I find this wholly reasonable.  But when I came home there was no evidence of Mama, dead or alive, and the fawn still lay curled on my lawn. 

I stopped the car and walked over to it.  It watched me unmoving.  I touched it, and it still didn't move.  It had been hurt, I saw:  there was some blood on its backside, and one leg was wounded.  It didn't look very damaged but there was something unnerving about the way the small creature let me roll it over and examine it without protest.

Now, I have sense enough to leave a wounded raccoon alone, and if I saw a wounded groundhog I'd probably take a pitchfork and move it just a little closer to the road, but Bambi was another thing entirely.  I went to the house and came back with a blanket.  The fawn struggled only once, feebly, as I carefully swaddled her; when I lifted her she felt as limp as a sleeping toddler.  I tucked her into the back of the van, hoping she wouldn't have a sudden resurgence of energy and fight her way loose while I was driving, and also hoping she wouldn't die on the way to the vet's.

I live in a small town and have a lot of animals, so when I staggered in carrying a blanket-wrapped bundle the vet's receptionist, Annina, said, "Oh, no--oh.  It's a deer."  Then she opened the door to the back and hollered, "Dr. Allen, Ms. Bradley's brought a deer," took my purse before I dropped it, and hustled me and the fawn into a room. 

Dr. Allen has been a friend for a long time.  He opened the blanket and carefully studied the little deer's wounds.  "Has to be internal injuries," he said.  "She's awfully out of it for no more damage than this."

"Coyotes?" I asked.  We've been having a coyote issue lately. 

He shook his head.  "They would have eaten her.  No, these are abrasions.  A car hit her."

I didn't think the fawn likely to survive, but I was still sorry.  Dr. Allen carried her off to put her down.  He didn't so much as put a note in my file, let along charge me, but this is the vet who refused to charge me to euthanize my dear good dog Xena on the grounds that I'd rescued her and given her a good life.  I didn't rescue the deer, as it turned out, but I did put an end to her suffering, and that's all the story I've got for today.