CRISFIELD, Md. (AP) — Cathy Landon admitted it is ironic that her living room is decorated with a number of deer trophy heads bagged, over the years, by her husband, Ronnie, now that the whole family has fallen in love with a fawn.
With big chocolate brown eyes, the longest of lashes and the tallest of ears, a spotted orphan fawn is now as much a part of the Landon family as their lazy cat, Whiskers.
"My father (Bob Lewis) convinced me it was a buck, so we named the fawn Bucky, but we have since discovered it's a doe, but we are still going to stay with Bucky because she is used to the name," she said, laughing.
Her children, Luke and Marissa, have, as children will, just about taken the pet for granted as it has become a routine part of their lives.
Since late summer, Cathy has been caring for the fawn that lives in the woods beside their home. Each day, without a single miss, the fawn has climbed the stairs to the deck and rattled the kitchen door for its three daily meals of bottle-milk formula, apples, thawed frozen corn, sliced apples and grain.
"She gets about 90 ounces of milk each day, and I guess we have spent more than $300 on milk and food for her," she said. Bucky can drain a bottle in minutes.
"It's almost a fight between my two little ones every time I make up bottles. 'Can I feed Bucky? Can I feed Bucky? Can I feed Bucky?' " Honestly, the selfish part of me says 'I want to feed Bucky,' " Landon said with an embarrassed smile.
The Landons' meal companion is an unusual one, and something the Maryland Department of Natural Resources frowns upon.
"Removing deer from the wild and keeping them in captivity is against the law in Maryland," it states on its website.
But that's not an issue for the Landons.
"She is not, in any way, in captivity. She roams the house, yard and the woods. But she comes up to the house just like clockwork for her meals," Landon said. "If we are not out in the yard or working in the garage, she will always come to the door for her feeding.
"She is just like a little baby. We treat her like a baby," she said. "She comes in, jumps on the couch, plays with the kids. When she is ready to leave, she walks to the door."
So far, only two "accidents" on the floor.
There was also an unexpected surprise one morning. Soon after feeding, the fawn migrated from the kitchen to the living room, down the hallway and ended up in bed with Marissa, who was watching TV.
"It really is like having a baby, because she is so small and needy, but I don't get up in the middle of the night to feed her. When she really was a baby, she consumed my entire day because you have to be always attentive, just like a mother," she said. "We put a tick and flea preventive on her, just like you would put on a dog. Having a baby, even if it's a fawn, is expensive."
The mother in Landon also makes sure that Bucky's face and lips are clean while she's nursing a bottle or gobbling up corn. Like a mother, Landon worries about Bucky's safety and future.
As the deer ages, she knows there will come a time when the visits may not be as frequent or timely. That will be a gradual process and give the kids time to make adjustments to the reality of a wild animal's life.
With the approach of deer hunting season, Landon is apprehensive and has gone to all the neighbors, most of whom are also deer hunters, and asked them for consideration if they should see Bucky in the woods.
"I don't know if Bucky will roam, but I've talked to the hunters and the farm, too. They have heard about Bucky, she's the talk of Crisfield. The farmer suggested I paint an orange line down each of Bucky's sides so hunters would know she is special. If she doesn't wander off the couple hundred acres around here, I think she will be safe," Landon said.
Her nerves will be on edge for the fall through January hunting season.
"My husband, a waterman, is also an avid deer hunter and my house looks like a hunting lodge. There's multiple deer heads in the garage too, so there's a balance. Ronnie had absolutely fallen in love with this fawn and I don't think he will ever shoot another doe again. I just don't know,'" Landon said. "Ronnie's a big deer hunter, but he has fallen in love with Bucky."
So, too, has her deer-hunting father, Robert Lewis, and brother, Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis.
"I think it has made the three of us more likely to hunt bucks instead of does," said Bob Lewis.