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             by Suzanne V. Pabst

 Through Twiggy, I learned a greater appreciation and respect for all deer.  As an avid hunter, I was frequently asked how I could enjoy hunting and having a “pet” deer.  First, let me correct any impression that Twiggy was a pet.  She was a “tame” deer with a behavior common to deer not hunted.  Secondly, she was not confined against her will.  She remained on the farm by her own volition.

 It is illegal to take fawns from the wild.  In situations where the doe has been killed or the fawn injured, rescued fawns should be turned over to the agencies licensed in their care where they will be treated and acclimated for release.  The process is not always successful.  Many of these fawns make an inadequate transition due to the whitetail’s ability to adapt to unusual situations and become nuisance deer.

 Twiggy was not the first deer raised and released.  In 1999 a doe and buck were turned over to Roanoke Wildlife Rescue for rehabilitation.


 Enough time has passed since Twiggy died on August 14, 2004 to reflect on the years she was resident deer here at Old Spring Farm in Charity, Virginia.  Twiggy was injured, when as a two-week old fawn she got hung up in the pasture fence.  Her struggle left her fatigued and battered.  After two days of intensive care, she accepted the bottle of goat milk offered.

Once released, she rewarded me by never leaving the property.  Our bond was molded in trust and I became her protector.  She could easily at any time, jump the 4 foot fence that surrounded the property.  Perhaps her previous entanglement made her cautious.  “Normal” to Twiggy was her perception of reality founded in what she believed to be true.  She never lived in fear of being hunted.  She was content with adequate pasture and browse.

 For whatever reason, Twiggy made the decision to become a member of the farm and adopted the Barbados sheep as her new family.  In time she became leader, which suited them just fine.  Twiggy could put the ram in his place with a quick strike of a pointed hoof.

For 8 years, Twiggy greeted countless guests and was a favorite photo-op.  She interacted on her own terms.  You couldn’t force her to do anything more than she was inclined.  Her curiosity with strangers afforded many with a hands-on experience.  She was as fascinated with them as they were with her.  Shoe laces and little children had especial appeal.  I explained to all that she was a wild deer, not a pet, and no hand feeding was allowed.

Twiggy never had fawns and eagerly accepted each new lamb as another member of her extended family.  She formed other relationships as well.  Bill Bailey, our wandering tom cat, received a head-to-toe bath whenever he ventured into her world.  “Rowdy”, the Appaloosa stallion in an adjacent enclosure was dependent on Twiggy’s presence to lessen his solitude.

She looked to me to protect her from the occasional hay truck or lawn mower that invaded her peaceful habitat.  She did not like loud noise and would flee in feigned fright with white guard hairs on her tail flared until I voiced, “It’s alright, Twiggy”, and she would return and press up against my side until the noise abated and the machinery retreated.

 And so it was for 8 years.  Everyday, I walked up to the barn on top of the hill and there she would be.  I would call her name and go to her or she to me.  She loved to be scratched to loosen her winter coat yet if you tried to restrain her in any way she pulled away from her.

 One day, I noticed she did not readily rise to greet me.  Her symptoms made suspect a urinary tract infection.  In consultation with a veterinarian, I was told, does that don’t fawn are susceptible to such infections and he suggested aggressive antibiotic treatment.  The prognosis was not good.  Though tame, Twiggy would not allow me to give her the necessary injections.  When she separated herself from the others, I knew it was just a matter of time.  I could only talk to her to ease her anxiety and run my hands through her red coat that was beginning to change with the season.  The look in her eyes told me she knew.

In the hours before the Barred Rock rooster crowed on August 14th, Twiggy slipped away.  I walked up the hill toward the barn that morning, with pistol in hand, knowing and dreading what I had to do.  Mercifully, Twiggy had picked her own time and place close to Rowdy who stood watch over her final days.  My throat ached and the tears flowed at the sight of her still form.

 She was buried on a hill overlooking the pasture she had made home.  Wild deer and turkeys often browsed this spot with Twiggy showing interest yet never joining them in loyalty to her own “flock”.

 I’d like to think Twiggy’s spirit has returned to the wild from which she came.  I still catch myself looking for her when I go up to feed the sheep.  They have reverted to being wild and disorganized without Twiggy’s calm leadership.  Maybe next Spring, another spotted fawn will wander this way.  The thought will give me something to look forward to and may I be reminded of what once was - The extraordinary deer I knew as Twiggy.

 Suzanne V. Pabst
Charity, Virginia
September 8, 2004

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