Through the Fence 3-15-10
March 15, 2010
Keeping a wild animal for a pet can be fun and challenging. Once, when I was about 7 years old, I caught a bat in a tree and put it in a cage. It didn’t last a week. During his lifetime one of my brothers has kept everything from a skunk to a rattlesnake as a pet. Another brother adopted an orphaned deer and a raccoon and raised them to adulthood. Both of those animals often eased up to his back porch to get a free food handout and/or to show him their latest offspring. He put a blaze orange dog collar on his pet deer, Truly, in hopes that it would prevent some zealous hunter from shooting her. Even though these animals took food from human hands and allowed themselves to be held and cuddled, my brothers never forgot that those animals weren’t dogs or cats. They were wild. And they would eventually return to the wild if they were to live normal lives.
One of my lady friends from church shared an amazing story with me the other day about her experience with a pet deer her family had many years ago. They raised little Bucky since he was a fawn, and he had the free range of their back yard. He lost much of his natural skittishness and became as tame as a dog. So much so, that whenever her parents got in the truck, Bucky would jump up in the back and ride around the pasture with the dogs. Her husband of 40 years was in her life back then and backed up her story. Otherwise, I’m not sure I would believe her.
One weekend when she was home from college, she walked a mile down the dirt road from her house to the highway to pick up the mail. As usual, Bucky tagged along with her. He was no longer a little dainty thing, but a large buck with an impressive rack of antlers. After emptying the mail box, she crossed back over the road and headed back towards the house. But her companion was in no mood to go home right then and seemed intent on going on a lark. That would have been fine had he not been out on a state highway. She tried to guide him gently back up the dirt road, but he wouldn’t cooperate. He walked with her a little way, and turned and trotted back to the road. She called; she shooed him; she slapped on the rump – all to no avail.
Finally, she grabbed one of his antlers and swung his head around. All of a sudden, his instinct returned. He was no longer a pet. He stomped and snorted and reared up on his hind legs. He began pawing at her as if she were a rival buck competing for a doe’s attention. His sharp hooves struck out at her repeatedly barely missing her arms, shoulders and face. She stumbled backwards until she hit a fence. She wheeled around and scrambled to the top of a large, splintery wooden post. She swung at him with the only weapon she had – a large, rolled up newspaper. She swatted at him continuously but only managed to hit him a couple of times. He kept up the assault for what must have seemed like hours. Luckily, one of her neighbors drove by and saw what was happening. He pulled over into the ditch, helped her down, and drove her home. They left Bucky out in the road.
About 30 minutes later, the deer came strolling up the driveway as if nothing unusual had happened. The crazed look in his eyes had vanished, and once again, he was the docile pet she’d known and loved. He lived with their family for a few more years after that incident, only straying for a few days during mating season. My friend loved her “pet” deer the same as before and forgave him for turning on her. He was only acting on instinct. But she never had to be reminded that he was, and always would be, wild.