My wife and I were blessed with six children, so understandably our extended family is by this time fairly large. Not only do we have 18 grandchildren, but we have had over the years a considerable number of grandanimals.
In addition to a good assortment of granddogs, we have had a grandcat, grandfish, grandcockatiels, grandlizards, grandfish, a grandsquirrel, grandparakeets, grandhamsters, a granddonkey, and grandrabbits. (I actually am not sure that that last category was in the plural, but with rabbits it is a safe guess.) However, by far the most unusual grandpets we have had were a pair of granddeer.
Josh, our younger son, lives not too far from Charleston. He found a baby fawn several years ago, named him Little Bit, and raised him on a bottle. He built a spacious lot with a fence 9 ½ feet high where the deer could perambulate or loaf at will.
One of the most amazing things I have ever seen was a female dog from the neighborhood, who had never whelped, nursing the fawn. Without any prompting, she would lie on her side and allow Little Bit to suck. Evidently the strong natural instinct in both animals found fulfillment in a very unusual manner.
Unfortunately, Little Bit met a tragic end, which broke our hearts. However, the mourning did not last long. A few months later Josh found another infant fawn, brought him home and started the process over again. He named this one Deuce, since he was the second of his kind. He has become one of the favorite members of our clan.
Raising a fawn is not an easy task. In the first place, there was a tenacious odor that went with them and took a while to eradicate even after the deer had been moved outside. Second, the fawns had to be taught to defecate and urinate. The mother does this by stimulating their hindquarters with her tongue. Josh had to duplicate the process with a damp cloth. And, of course, the fawns had to be bottle fed – and they are enthusiastic nursers.
While they were still in the house, the deer loved to lie in Josh’s lap while he watched television. Since a fawn is about 90% legs, making their way across the hard surfaces in the kitchen took some getting used to, but they eventually learned to navigate fairly well.
Once a deer has been domesticated it cannot legally be turned back into the wild. In fact, since the time when Deuce was adopted, the laws have been changed so that now pet deer can only be obtained through authorized breeders.
Josh has kept all of Deuce’s racks. His biggest one was a fine-looking 10-pointer. It is interesting to watch the progress of his horns at close range as they grow from nubs into velvet (with a full complement of voracious blood ticks), and then into the final rack.
Deuce is now nine years old. He is a pet in the fullest sense of the word. When Josh goes into the pen, the deer will come right up to him to be scratched and fed, much as a dog would. In addition to what grows naturally in the pen, whole kernel corn is his normal diet, which he eats on demand from a trough.
His favorite snacks, though, are vanilla Oreo cookies. He snarfs them down with gusto, and just naturally assumes that any visitors will be bringing him some treats.
Deuce does get deer company from time to time. There is quite a cervine population in that area, and occasionally they will come right up to the pen. By now, however, he pretty much ignores them with regal disdain. After all, he is the one living the good life. One can almost imagine the conversation: “Eat your hearts out, friends. I get to have Oreo cookies!”