BELDING — It’s an affectionate tale of two animals that formed an unlikely and warmhearted bond after a young man’s early morning drive the week before Memorial Day.
Greenville resident Shane Nowack and friends were driving to breakfast in late May when he noticed a small deer in the middle of the road. Nowack swerved to avoid the deer and stopped his car noticing it didn’t move. But when he looked for the deer it was no longer in the road.
“The deer had moved to the side of the road,” Nowack said. “I knew something wasn’t right because they usually take off, but this deer just cowered there.”
Nowack looked around for the fawn’s mother, but he didn’t see anything.
“It was tiny and it wasn’t moving much or trying to run,” he said. “So, I went up to it, picked it up and took it with me.”
Nowack first thought he would keep the deer as a pet, but friends and coworkers advised against it. So he decided to call Belding’s Kendra Bailey, a friend who has helped him out many times.
“It was around 6:30 a.m. when Shane gave me a call,” Bailey said. “He asked me if I could do him a favor. I said, ‘Shane it is 6:30 in the morning, what kind of favor could he be asking?’ He said, ‘You got to take care of a deer for me.’ I didn’t know what to say. I was yelling at him thinking he took the baby deer from its mother.”
Nowack explained what happened and Bailey agreed to have him bring the deer to her house in Belding.
“A lot of times people bring little wild animals here because some how I can help them live,” Bailey said.
When Bailey first saw the deer, she knew that something had to happen to the mother because of its condition.
“(The fawn) was so weak,” Bailey said. “I think its mom was killed or something, because it couldn’t hardly hold its head up, it couldn’t stand up, it couldn’t do anything. It was just there.”
Bailey started researching fawns. She determined that the fawn was under 8 weeks old. She wanted to feed the fawn so she could get it strong enough to move around in hopes of releasing it to the wild.
“I ran up to Tractor Supply and got the right food for the young deer,” she said. “A friend of mine tried to feed it with an eye dropper type of thing, because it couldn’t suck or do anything, it was too weak.”
Bailey and friends tried to get the deer to eat but it just wouldn’t respond.
“We pretty much decided that the fawn was too far gone,” Bailey said.
Bailey was about to give up until an “Angel” decided to help. Angel is a German shepherd mix dog that stays with Bailey when her friend Richard is in town making repairs on his carnival trailer. Angel travels with Richard when he is on the road for carnivals throughout the state.
“I was sitting there not knowing what to do when Angel came up to me and the deer and started sniffing around and licking the deer,” Bailey said. “Pretty soon for the first time the deer tried to pick its ears up and head up. And I was able to get a little food fed to the deer.”
It was obvious that the deer missed the attention from its mother.
“The fawn at that age needs its mother’s stimulation to be able to go to the bathroom,” Bailey said. “Angel began to fill that role of mom. I took care of the food end and Angel took care of the other end.”
The friendship with Angel and the fawn kept growing and as the fawn got stronger it started to stand on its own and Angel continued her role as mom. Soon Bailey had her grandchildren help feed the fawn. Taylor Setchfield, 15, of Ada, was able to help her grandmother a few times with the fawn. Setchfield watched the interaction between Angel and the fawn.
“It was really cute,” Setchfield said. “It was like a mother-daughter relationship, the two never wanted to leave each other’s side.”
However, the fawn was not as comfortable around people.
“It was very skittish whenever I first came to bottle feed it,” Setchfield said. “You could tell when there was more people around because the fawn would stay in the pool room on its blanket.”
This surprising friendship between a young fawn and German shepherd would have been unlikely if the fawn’s mother was nearby.
According to John Niewoonder of the Department of Natural Resources office in Belding, the mother probably died or was separated from the fawn.
“The (fawn’s) mother would not allow that type of interaction (with the dog),” Niewoonder said. “If the dog would have come upon the doe and fawn, the doe would leave the fawn hidden until such danger passed.”
There is no danger with this dog though, Angel kept the fawn close to her, slept with her and watched her as if she was one of her own.
“It got to the point I would leave the door to the pool room open so the fawn could play in the yard while we were away,” Bailey said. “The fawn could hide in plain sight, but Angel always knew where the deer was. I would look all over the place for the deer and could never find it. Angel would lead me to the deer whenever it was time to feed the deer.
The time came when Angel was about to go back on the road and the fawn was strong enough to be on its own. So Bailey called a place in Grant that specializes in releasing deer back into the wild.
“It was a sad day but we had to do it,” Bailey said. “Poor Angel, she still looks and sniffs around the yard looking for the deer. She hopes to come across the deer, kicking and hoping around the yard. Angel sure made a good mom.”