Deer in the headlights

The morning started off like any other. Trying to get three boys out the door for school is a kin to herding cats. A sweater I decided to wash, then dry last minute was not ready, so I grabbed an old sweat shirt with the idea I’d change for my youngest son’s Santa breakfast later.

The sunrise, a beautiful ribbon of purple and orange streaked across the sky teasing us with the possibility that this day may be spectacular. My oldest son Adam needed to get gas in his car on the way to school so I tried to encourage him to leave before us. However, like most days, Adam chose to follow instead of lead.

Living in the country we are blessed to see a host of wildlife on any given day. As winter approach’s, so do the deer. Fields that line the road can be seen littered with doe and it’s not uncommon for them to jump out unexpectedly in the road. Keeping one’s wits about you at all times is a must. As we approached the top of a hill, we noticed several deer grazing to our right. Amongst them was a magnificent white buck. We were in awe.

A sudden flash came out of the corner of my left eye and then an impact. I righted my car. My son Sam screams ” OMG, what did we hit?” But I knew. A deer had hit us. Had jumped right into my vehicle as I traveled 50 mph down the road. I was in shock. I jumped from my vehicle and ran down to where the deer lay on it’s side. I sobbed tearless cries into it’s neck ” I am sorry, I am sorry, OMG, I am SO SORRY!” I called my husband and wailed, ” Bring the gun, OMG, bring the gun, Help me!” He had to calm me down to find out what was going on. I sent Adam ahead to school, still too in shock to realize my other two should have joined him.

I held the deer in my lap. At first her neck, twisted in the wrong direction, looked broken. I prayed with everything I had for her to pass quickly. I pulled her neck around and she actually sat up. I caught my breath. Maybe she was just stunned. However I couldn’t get the image of her tumbling off my car out of my mind. I wrapped my arms around her, speaking softly telling her how sorry I was, that she was okay. We both sat in shock waiting for my husband to arrive. But when he did arrive, the gun by his side,  it was quickly returned to his vehicle. He saw what I did, the glimmer of hope. ” Please” I begged ” Don’t shoot her, I think we can save her!” He bent down next to her as we both assessed the damage. Although now sitting up, she still looked bad. Needing to get my kids to school for mid term exams, I was forced to leave him there to make the decision.

As I returned to my  mini van, I noticed just how much damage had been done. The whole left front of my car had been totaled. Just then I realized how lucky we were. If Adam had gone first in his smaller car and been hit, he could have been killed. If the timing had been off by a couple of seconds, the deer would have gone through my windshield and no doubt killed me. Still shaking, not so much from the damage of the vehicle, but for the fate of the deer, I set off to school. Halfway to school I texted my husband to find out what he decided to do. His text read: I could not shoot her, call me. Real tears came then, SOBS. I called. He explained that he had to go to a meeting or else he would have stayed or even tried to transport her back to our farm. He instructed me to go back and see what I could do for her as soon as I could. I rushed back.

I found her exactly where we left her. Her body laid still, but shallow breathes followed. I lifted her head into my lap. I held her and stroked her body. I scrolled through my phone for my large animal veterinarian. If she couldn’t save her, at least she could humanely euthanize her. A car passed without stopping. Then another. A pickup roared by then swung around. A young man stepped out and asked if I needed help. I explained what happened. He told me he was a hunter and checked her all over and compassionately told me she wouldn’t make it. He offered to get a gun and take her. I told him I’d stay with her until he got back with his gun. Another car stopped. An older lady stepped out and upon seeing the doe, tears sprang to eyes. She said she had a pistol, but knew she couldn’t use it. She used to be a hunter, but many years ago after killing a doe she swore she’d never kill another. Another car stopped. Obviously a grown woman siting with a deer in her lap on the side of the road was quite a sight. A worker from a nearby farm asked if there was anything he could do. He offered to take the deer to a quiet place to pass peacefully. But the deer’s fate was sealed. I just held her and kept her calm. Shock, exhaustion and her injuries had caught up with her. Now it was time to help ease that for her.

If you are looking for a happy ending in all of this, I am afraid you won’t find it. Life can be ugly. It can be heart wrenchingly sad when you least expect it. I can’t help, but think of the impact this doe had on a lot of people today. Each taking away something different. The hunter who tried to save a life first before taking one. The older lady who was remorseful for her past. A worker’s compassion for people and animals that allowed him to offer help. Even the passerby’s that didn’t stop. And what did I take away from this … I held a wild animal in my arms as it took it’s last breathes in this world. I chose to show it love in it’s very last moments of life. And love is the greatest gift of all.

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