Shortly after moving to the country from Toronto I set out for my evening hike into the forest adjacent to our home. It was a beautiful spring evening with a slight, albeit, invigorating chill in the air as there were still some small patches of snow in the shady portions of the forest. The filtered sunlight was shining through the branches of the trees creating a myriad of shadows across the narrow pathway.
I had three companions in my company: Nelson, Cheyenne and Chelsea. Nelson and Chelsea were German Shorthair Pointers, and Cheyenne, a Dalmatian. The three were ecstatic about moving to the country and, as usual, that evening were giddy about the walk, as only dogs can be. It is a beautiful trail, completely surrounded by forest, wildflowers and marsh on either side. The Marsh Marigolds were just starting to flower with their cheery yellow flowers spreading along the side of the pathway for what appeared to be an endless stream of colour amongst the scattered cedars growing in the low areas. On the Ile of Man, the spring flowering of the Marsh Marigold is considered a good omen, which I had always hoped might work for me one day.
As dogs are apt to do, they played and ran around me smelling everything which was new and different throughout the forest since the night before. I have always been intrigued to see the footprints of the local wildlife in the moist soil as they had passed over these sections of this pathway the night before, or during the very early hours before dawn. As we proceeded down the pathway, I wondered about the lives of the many creatures living hidden in the foliage of the forest. How many eyes were upon us intruders into their habitat? Some of the small prints I saw were of porcupines, rabbits and coyotes, but the most recognizable and interesting for me were the deer prints; due to their size and configuration.
As we continued along the path and reached the bottom of the hill, the dogs galloped farther ahead of me in excitement, as is usually the case. As I slowed my pace and enjoyed the beauty of the setting sun through the boughs of the trees, I began to wonder why not one of my faithful companions had come back to see what I was doing? The view along this particular part of the pathway is so beautiful as you get higher up the hill. It's possible to see the farmland and hills spreading out to the horizon. It is a glorious pastoral vista which I have always enjoyed. For a few moments on my outings, I stand and gaze out over the horizon in awe of the unbridled beauty of the vista before me. Standing there, I reflected upon an earlier occasion when, during one incredible evening while riding Muffin, my handsome steed, up this very same hill, at the top we had stopped and turned to look back to the south. Standing there together in the twilight an amazing scene unfolded in front of our eyes. On the distant horizon, floating silently, with the sun setting over the rolling hills, were five hot air balloons. I watched for a while enchanted at the beauty of the scene; alas, no camera! Ah, but then, I digress.
As I rounded a corner at the top of the hill, I once again caught sight of my three friends standing motionless along the side of the trail, all in a row, not moving a muscle, which, is not their usual modus operandi on a hike in the forest. I was concerned as to what they were doing; my pace quickened. As I drew closer, I could see something on the ground in front of them. My heart started racing not knowing what to expect. What had they discovered now that would hold their collective attention for such a seemingly long time? Curious as to what was there, and a little apprehensive, too, I reflected upon that day a few years earlier when the three had met the resident porcupine family. The consequences of which I suspect had remained indelibly etched in their respective minds forever. I crossed my fingers.
Then, I saw it. Fiona, which is what we elected to call her, was the tiniest, cutest, most beautiful little fawn. She was curled up in a ball amongst the leaves right in front of the now seemingly paralysed dogs. Not wishing to create a stir I slowly moved closer. The dogs did not move; not a twitch, not a stammer, not an eyelash out of place, tails stock-still.
Having never encountered such a situation before, my mind was racing as to how to handle this happenstance. Three large dogs and one tiny fawn not moving and seemingly not even breathing. As I gazed upon this small, helpless, perfect creature, I knew I must handle this situation with the utmost care, for the sake of all concerned.
I motioned to the dogs that we were leaving the area. Now these dogs are lovely pets but are not that obedient, particularly while in the company of something this fascinating. I had little choice in the matter, though. So, I made a game of ‘let’s go in this direction’ and threw a stick towards the hill. As if choreographed, they each bounded after the illusive stick, whereupon, I jogged quickly after them and I don't think I stopped until we arrived home, in what seemed like a heartbeat, and winged Pegasus I am not.
As I ran inside and told my husband Terrie what I had found, I stood there in the doorway trying to catch my breath. I haltingly explained the situation to Terrie. He immediately understood the gravity of the situation and as we shut the dogs inside, we were both like little children in our excitement and as quickly as we could we headed up to see the fawn together. Panting from the run, I stopped to grab my camera. While once again hiking up the trail I did a quick Google search, as these situations do not come up in the city, at least not in my experience. Internet reception is poor where we live now at the best of times, so I was unable to get any information with regards to "abandoned fawns." As we rounded the curve at the top of the hill, we saw the tiny, furry face gazing in our direction. Together we carefully tip toed closer; I snapped a quick picture. As we stood in awe of her delicate beauty our cell service connected and we quickly learned what the situation was with the fawn and her mother. According to the information we found, a doe will leave her young fawn unattended while she eats. Typically, the fawn is placed in a secluded location, not typically beside a trail, though. The doe does this so that no attention in drawn to the helpless fawn. Once sufficiently fed, she will return later and tend to her young one.
After reading the outline, and not wishing to interfere with the natural course of nature, we took one last look and quietly returned down the hill to home with the night closing in around us. We walked together through the forest, content that nature had everything well in hand. All that night though we did worry about the sweet fawn laying so vulnerably by herself.
In the morning with the rising of the sun, even before coffee, I dashed up the trail alone, not sure what I might find. I rounded the corner once again, daring not to breathe; all that was left, however, was a perfect depression in the leaves on the ground in the shape of her wee body.
As I happily walked home, I was so grateful for the gentle, loving and kind behaviour of our three lovely dogs, and for the gift so graciously bestowed upon us for having been witness to a miracle of nature.
WHO IS ELLEN CAMERON?
Ellen studied Fine Art and Art History at York University, Toronto. Her original concentration was in painting where she worked on commissioned oil paintings. While photographing subjects for use as a visual reference for her paintings, she realized that her true passion was photography. She was always fascinated with drawing and painting horses and was awed by the power and majesty of these magnificent, yet gentle creatures. “I seek to convey the remarkable spirit of the horse, with all its strength and its seemingly contradictory fragility.”