Polly Pullar tells of red deer Ruby’s lucky es­cape

Renowned na­ture writer Polly Pullar takes a light­hearted look at ru­ral life.

The People's Friend - - News -

IHAD a wee op­er­a­tion on my knee just be­fore Christ­mas and Iomhair had to feed the sheep. We felt it best if I stayed out of the field to avoid slip­ping and hurt­ing the heal­ing knee, but I still pot­tered down later in the day to see them all.

This par­tic­u­lar day, Ruby, our red deer hind, would not come to the gate. Her ears seemed droopy and she just didn’t seem right.

I asked Iomhair if she had come for the hay ear­lier on but he said she hadn’t. She wouldn’t come into the shed and un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally hung back.

In the end I had to go in and, with a great deal of per­sua­sion and push­ing, man­aged to get her in, and had to bring in her best friend, a lit­tle ewe called Ju­niper, too.

We had to put Ju­niper in the next-door pen where Ruby could see her, oth­er­wise she would cer­tainly eat all we put out to tempt Ruby.

Ruby wouldn’t eat a thing. She turned away from all her usual favourite foods. We called An­drew, our ex­cel­lent Ir­ish vet, who came quickly.

Un­for­tu­nately Ruby was not a good pa­tient. She took an in­stant dis­like to him and pan­icked, and she didn’t trust me, ei­ther.

I did my best to help him but in the end he had to grab her and in­struct me to give her a cou­ple of an­tibi­otic in­jec­tions with speed whilst he hung on tight, hair fly­ing in all di­rec­tions.

An­drew was bril­liant, but with my dodgy knee, I was not prop­erly able to help with Ruby and was scared of caus­ing dam­age to my­self af­ter the op­er­a­tion.

All we could do was wait. It was too early in the year to find fresh suc­cu­lent green leaves, but I kept on think­ing these might have tempted her to eat.

In­stead we bought lovely cab­bages and car­rots, ap­ples and kale – all shunned. And ev­ery time I went in she looked fright­ened and would not even let me stroke her, which nor­mally she rel­ishes.

Af­ter two days there was no im­prove­ment at all and we had to call An­drew out again. The prob­lem was there was noth­ing ob­vi­ous.

This time, thank­fully, Iomhair was about and he and An­drew man­aged to give her more med­i­ca­tion, but not with­out an­other huge strug­gle.

Be­ing pes­simistic, I hoped this was not be­cause she was giv­ing up the ghost. But Iomhair and I were re­minded of when she had first ar­rived on the farm some seven years ago as a tiny calf.

We had thought she was a hope­less case, so de­bil­i­tated by a mas­sive tick in­fes­ta­tion, but she has shown us she has an ex­tra­or­di­nary will to sur­vive.

An­drew didn’t think she was too bad and sug­gested, as it was a sunny day, we put her out in the pad­dock with Ju­niper. She looked so frail to me, and I was feel­ing so wor­ried that we were go­ing to lose her.

We did as sug­gested and she be­gan to pick qui­etly at some grass and gave her­self a good shake. This was a good sign.

By lunchtime she and Ju­niper were ly­ing side by side chew­ing the cud.

It looked as if Ruby had turned a cor­ner. The weather, how­ever, was er­ratic, with sleet-laden show­ers, and I was lucky that they both will­ingly came in that night.

She trot­ted in and once in her pen put her head on my shoul­der and breathed softly into my face. Then she let me scratch be­hind her ears and rub her face.

It looked as though she had for­given me. She con­tin­ued to im­prove, though it took longer than we hoped.

Now thank­fully she has re­turned to her nor­mal buoy­ant self, and is back to her po­si­tion as ma­tri­arch of the flock.

Iomhair and I adore her and feel lucky that once again she seems to have had an­other lucky es­cape. n

Check­ing in on Ruby.

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