A Personal Reflection from the Field

When Doe # 70 wakes up she won’t be the same. She won’t mate again or carry and nurse another fawn. We have changed her. She likely will live longer and be healthier physically, and by all observations will return to her normal social and familial relationships. We can’t know if she would choose this option if she could. We’ve made this choice for her, from love and caring, from our human-centric determination that there are too many deer for the good of our forests and gardens, and from our desire to spare her a fearful and painful death by archery. As she lies on this blanket on the frozen soccer field, hints of dawn beginning to show, we know, because we decided for her, because we love her, she’ll never be the same. And neither will we.

We hold her until she can hold her head up. Chris holds her head upright on her lap to keep the airway open and clear. Her hands under the deer’s neck and throat, she feels her heartbeat and waits to feel her swallow, the first sign of regaining consciousness. I am holding her “sternal,” breastbone down, legs tucked under her. She’s heavy, muscular, and soft. This graceful, gentle beast that could and would kill me with her fear and her strength if she were awake, lies asleep with my arms around her, holding her up.

The ground is cold and the night has been long. A dozen of us volunteer to spend long days and nights in devotion to these animals, to redeem our civilization for destruction of natural habitats. We are trying to fix what we broke. It’s an awkward, even reckless effort, more human intervention, but we’re trying.

It’s nearly impossible to describe the feelings in these moments. We have changed her life and now we attend and wait, in the cold and dark, in silence, aware of what we’ve done and what we’re trying to do. We wait for this beautiful, graceful, gentle beast to wake and be strong and healthy and, we hope, happy again. We love her. Emotions run deep and strong, un-filtered by our usual conscious minds that have been numbed by sleepless exhaustion and disordered by circumstances that are everything but normal. All I know and all I feel is this beautiful animal in my arms, in this moment that she won’t remember…and I will never forget.

Bob Rack
January, 2019