It’s the stuff of Walt Disney movies: A motherless fawn walks into the barnyard of a small farm and is adopted by a dog. “The little deer was just starved. Our dog, Bullet, was pregnant, and this deer knew it,” says Winifred Van Veldhuizen, 47, who raises cattle, chickens and corn with her husband, Edwin, 50, on their 160-acre spread in Doon, Iowa. “Bullet took to him right away. She went up to Bambi [yup, that’s what the Van Veldhuizens call the white-tailed deer] and licked him. When Bullet had her puppies, she began nursing Bambi.
“Bullet would always take care of the puppies first and then nurse Bambi,” continues Winifred, who bottle-fed the deer with reconstituted powdered milk before Bullet, a German shepherd, became his meal ticket. And no, the puppies didn’t yelp in protest at this antler-loper. In fact, deer and dogs all slept together, with Bambi on top of the squirming heap.
A year later the puppies are gone, but Bambi is still a barnyard regular. With hunting season approaching, there is talk of putting him in the zoo, but for now, he and Bullet are roaming the fields, playing with the cows and sharing their dog chow.
“The two do have disagreements,” admits Winifred, “but they never fight.” Soon, of course, Bambi may hear the call of the wild and go looking for a more genetically compatible companion. Now, though, the deer and dog are bucking the trend and make one a-deer-able couple.