Detached attachment is a sticky line.
Love tends to hook onto my heart easily and when I love back, it’s for the long haul.
So when a starving fawn walked up to me in the yard last September, I felt those hooks sink in and I knew I was in for a life changing experience . I named her Farrah Fawncett. And Farrah was going to teach me to love without expectations.
But I felt like new mom. Second guessing my every decision, wondering what to feed, how much to feed this new baby. When her belly would swell from the fruit and goat milk.. I worried I might kill her.. but a quick google search tipped me off to adding baby gas drops to her milk.
Of course I wanted to bring her inside, let her sleep with us and our three dogs. But I also knew that might ruin her chance of staying wild. And I more than anyone, know that being wild is being free. So instead, I made little huts all around the woods near our house. I spread straw under our deck and kept all our dogs.-except our gentle dog daisy- on leashes until I knew she would grow bigger and faster than the pups.
And I fell in love. hard. I’ve had many animals in my life.. I’ve raised all our dogs from pups to old age. But Farrah was different . I felt a crushing weight of responsibility to keep her alive and also keep her free. With the dogs I had a level of control.. but when Farrah left our front porch after eating and went into the woods, control was out of my reach.
I didn’t sleep much on the nights it got into the single digits. But Farrah would be at the door at day break , her fur all fluffed up and looking much bigger than she actually was. When I would her the coyotes howl and yip at night.. I’d get up and turn all the outside lights on. And in the morning, she would be waiting for me by the door.
I would try to prepare myself for the morning she would not show up. And those occasional times she wouldn’t be waiting at the door, I would loose hours of my day just worrying about her.. until she rambled up to the house mid day. So it was a tightrope I balanced on .. and I did learn to love without expectation. I learned to love something as much as I could.. then let hope take over.
When I wondered if she was lonely being out in the woods solo, I would look outside and watch her doing hot laps chasing the dogs around the fence. She found a way to play with them on my terms.
She brought a kind of balance into my life that is hard to explain. There was this calmness around the house that her presence created.
One evening I was walking the dogs down by the river. We had just had a big rain and this heavy fog had settled over the river but you could see the clouds turning a deep pink from the sunset. It was as if we were surrounded in a soft cotton candy colored fog. I turned to walk back up the trail and Farrah was standing behind us.As she joined us at the river she was silhouetted in this amazing colored fog. I wished only for a second that I had a camera.. but then realized it would have taken me out of this moment and taken away the rawness of this experience. Farrah walked the trail with us.. all of us still enveloped in this surreal fog. As long as I live, the memory of that evening will be etched into my mind as one of the most pure experiences I’ve had.
So She began to take walks with us, then she started to follow me on my mountain bike though the trails. I finally let Bailey, my English Pointer, off leash and she and Farrah would rip through the woods playing a hilarious game of tag and hide and seek. Farrah always won.
She became part of our family. She met all our friends. She even met my mom. And she changed us.
I spent a fortune at Whole foods, because she preferred organic strawberries over the strawberries on sale. She got tired of bananas, so we switched to grapes. She liked honey crisp apples more than the bulk deer apples I could get at tractor supply. She would wait by the chicken coop for me to let out her 7 yard mates, then she would sneak in and eat all their chicken feed. Sometimes I wondered if she thought she was a chicken instead of a deer.
Eventually she stopped coming every day. Spring was here and the forest was full of new green treats. Maybe she was getting introduced to other yearlings that had separated from their mom. She was becoming more wild. This was my goal all along. She had gotten through the winter. She was still small, but she had filled out.
She was returning where she belonged. But it hurt. And we missed her. When she would pop back out of the woods, I was almost as surprised as when I first saw her. A kind of excitement you might get when you see family member you haven’t seen in a while. A kind of fluttering in your stomach.
But the weeks we didn’t see her, that fluttering was replaced by a quiet sadness.
As the summer wound down, she started coming into our buckwheat field to graze in the evenings. My office overlooks the river. One evening I noticed that sunset fog drifting in after a storm, so I headed to the river to take a boat out. As I make my way through the field, I see Farrah perk her head up over the wildflowers and buckwheat. Her ears turn into my direction, listening for my voice. “Hey girl, pretty girl”. Her ears twitch, then her tail starts to wag a little quicker. She heads toward me. The fog has now moved up over the field and she seems to want me to stick around for a bit. We meaner through the buckwheat, I stopping along with her as she nibbles at the leaves. We catch up on the gossip from the forest, then we simply take comfort in the silence and just settle in with each others presence.
I decided that it was actually Farrah calling to me instead of the river and we keep each other company until the lightening bugs circle around us and the fog moves back to the river. When we both decide we’ve had enough, we part into the darkness, her to the woods, and me to the house. We know that we belong to different worlds but we are connected to both through this friendship.
I’ve tried to write this many times but could not find the words. Or I thought in writing this, it might jinx her from ever coming back.
But this friendship is not driven by human expectations, I realize I am a guest in a place most people never experience and in my connection to this land, it connects me to her..I know where ever she ends up, she has the love of her human family, a free love that won't try to make her less wild. She is just loved and has been given a little more of an advantage to survive.
A special thank you to Lauren and David Clark with DesiLu photography, for coming out to meet Farrah and get some great photos of us.