DuBOIS — Every day when Rhonda Burton of Treasure Lake arrives home from work, her unlikely deer friend is sitting and waiting in front of the house for her.
Burton and her family moved to their Treasure Lake home in December 2006, she said. Mama the deer arrived in her life around a decade ago, one evening while she was taking her dogs outside, with a crew of deer along with her.
“At the time, my dog wanted nothing but to chase the deer,” she said. “So, I decided to take my dog around the side of the house and out back, away from the deer.”
That’s when one of the doe, who is now known as Mama, kept following Burton around the house. She recalls going inside and telling her husband about the deer who was “stalking” her.
“None of the others followed me –she followed me the entire way around the house,” she said.
Now, said Burton, she sees that Mama was following her around for a reason.
“We have bonded so much since then,” she said.
Mama now arrives at the Burton house daily.
“She comes when I make a certain noise and call her,” she said. “Even if I don’t see her, I just have to go outside and give the call, and she doesn’t just come walking – she sprints.”
Each year, Burton says she watches Mama mother her fawns, too.
“She always brings them (over) as babies, because she trusts me,” she adds.
Mama is such a good mother, said Burton, that she has fostered and looked after other fawns who weren’t her own over the years.
“She is just incredible,” she said.
Burton and Mama have even overcome injury together. One morning this past summer, Burton said she opened the garage door, where Mama was standing right outside, immediately spotting a horrible gash on her side.
“I could see muscle, and I immediately went into hysterics and called my husband crying,” she said.
Burton left that day a complete wreck, not knowing if Mama was going to be okay. She reached out to her good friend, recently retired from the Pennsylvania Game Commission, for advice.
“I also know that deer are extremely resilient, and as long as their injuries are not placing them immobile or in danger, they should be left alone,” she said. “I spent the next many days watching her closely, making sure she was moving around okay, and her injuries were not getting infected.
“She stuck by the house closely, as if she knew I was taking care of her.”
Mama’s wound was looking better week after week, healing completely in about two months.
“I was very skeptical at first, but seeing how well she healed – she, and all deer, are amazing animals,” said Burton.
She shares a bond with Mama that Burton doesn’t quite know how to put into words.
“I have received countless pictures from neighbors who spot her laying in front of my front door when I am at work, or away on vacation,” she said. I always worry she will forget about me when we go away, but she never does.”
Many times, Burton has sat in the front yard and shared pets with Mama, and she can tell how grateful she is for their friendship.
“It’s funny, because I’ve come to learn how much others in the neighborhood love her as well. Everyone has a different name for her, but she will always be Mama,” she said.
Having lived in Treasure Lake for around 15 years, Burton says it is obvious that the deer there are different.
Deer are often viewed as a target or a nuisance, she said, but she has grown to see these creatures differently.
“Most do not get the opportunity to see this side of them,” she said.
Burton said she had never intended on living at their current home for this long, and considered it a “starter home.” However, Burton now knows there is no way she could leave Mama.
“I know she will not be here forever, and that day will break my heart,” she said. “For now though, I will treasure every single day that I get to spend with her, pet her and take care of her.”