The initial goal was to return the little deer as soon as possible to the wild. But the deer, and the couple it adopted, did not seem to want that to occur. What ensued was a relationship that not only amazed and helped one North Carolina mountain couple, but had an impact on much of the community where they live.
Cheryl Moretz of Linville, N.C. was well aware of “the other woman.” She knew Mimi loved her husband, Dennis, in a rare, unconditional way. Not only did Cheryl approve of the “love affair,” she also welcomed Mimi into the family.
“Looking into Mimi’s eyes was like looking into the eyes of God,” says Cheryl. “I think Mimi had a purpose and the ability to heal the human heart.”
Mimi, you see, wasn’t human – but a deer that came into the Moretzes’ lives when she was struggling to survive. When Dennis, who grew up on a farm near Boone, N.C., found out his brother, Ernest, had rescued a starving baby deer from his pastures, he jumped in to help. He had raised many different species of animals throughout his life and he knew he could help the young deer gain strength and return to the wild.
“My ultimate goal,” explains Dennis, “was to readapt her back to nature. “
The hearts of Dennis and Cheryl melted the first time they saw the baby deer. She still had her spots and weighed a mere six pounds. They transported her to their home in Linville Ridge where they bottle-fed her and nurtured her as if she were one of their own. She was even readily accepted into the fold by the couple’s two beagles: Beagie and Bagel.
Life Throws a Curve Ball
Shortly after Mimi arrived in Linville in May 2010, Dennis fell ill and received a devastating diagnosis from his doctors. A virus was attacking his heart and he needed to stop working – he’s the owner of Moretz Construction Company in Boone – and enter a treatment program.
Man and deer exchanged responsibilities while continuing their growing bond. Dennis had been nursing Mimi to health and now it was her turn to work her magic on him. She also comforted Cheryl, who spiraled into waves of depression after her husband’s diagnosis.
“After Dennis became so ill, she never left his side,” says Cheryl. “She would come up on the deck and lick the back of his neck or head. She would also come and lick my neck when I was crying.”
“There’s nothing more calming than a little deer licking your hand, “says Dennis.
As Dennis began his recovery, he would take long walks with Mimi close beside him. Their daily walking pattern didn’t go unnoticed. Other residents began looking for the duo and even scheduled time to bring their grandchildren to spots along their path to see Mimi up close. Mimi would greet the kids and even allow them to touch her.
Living Between Worlds
Dennis carefully trained Mimi in a way to allow her to survive on her own in the woods, and she was free to roam and play with other deer. Mimi, however, preferred to stay close to their home.