The Suburbanite
  • Canal Fulton's online attraction: ‘Dillie the Deer’

  • House-raised doe has been ‘Love on Hooves’

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  • From deer farm to adopted family, from near death to good health, from abandoned animal to friend of the over 1 million people who watch her on a web camera, Dillie made for an engaging white-tailed subject of a new book.
    “Dillie the Deer: Love on Hooves,” is a true story of the loved shared between the 9-year-old doe and the book’s author, veterinarian Melanie R. Butera, who with her husband, Steve Heathman, care for and co-exist with Dillie in their Canal Fulton home.
    Dillie has her own bedroom and eats from her own hay box, when she’s not begging fruits and vegetables from her “parents.” And she stars on “Dillie Cam,” which broadcasts from her bedside.
    More than a million viewers have watched her lounge alone or share time with the family dog.
    “She’s gotten emails in 16 languages,” said Butera, who operates Elmridge Animal Hospital.
    One of those emails, received after Dillie had been stung by a bee and hid in a closet out of camera view, asked simply “Where’s Dillie?”
    “It was from the International Space Station,” said Butera. “It didn’t say it was from an astronaut. It could have been a control worker or a janitor.”
    When she was brought to them by the deer farm owner about nine years ago, Dillie was nursed back to health and accepted into the family by Butera and her husband. Although cautious at first meeting, the deer bonds easily with most people she encounters.
    “She seems to remember people,” said Heathman. “She remembers my friends when they come over.”
    Dillie loves children. When kids of relatives and friends came over to use the family pool, she often swam with them when she was just a fawn, according to the book. With age, that activity changed, but not her attitude toward the visitors.
    “Dillie rarely did her laps anymore, unless she accidentally fell in, but she did like to wade down the steps and soak her feet,” Butera wrote in her book. “Steve set up a plastic baby pool for her, and while the kids splashed in the big pool she would likewise splash in her little one.”
    The book, self published in both black-and-white and color versions, delves into the adaptations Dillie’s “parents” have made to both their home and their lives so she can exist as much as possible like a normal deer — for example, she spends several hours a day outdoors in a safe environment.
    “She’ll be out at 4 in the morning until 8 or 9,” said Butera, who notes in her book that she will not lay down outside. She had a bed for that. “She’ll come in for a nap and then she’ll go out again until 9 or so at night.”
    Page 2 of 2 - The volume also shows how much Dillie gives to the couple in return.
    “Through her we have been able to reconnect with old friends and she has brought new people into our lives,” said Butera. “We feel she has been such a gift to us and we feel honored to share her message of love.”
    Butera collaborated on the book with a former teacher at Perry High School, Carol Zeh, who also is Dillie’s “nanny.”
    “When she was a student at Perry she was editor of the paper, and I was the adviser,” explained Zeh. “She was my editor and now I’m her editor.”
    Dillie’s “mom” began the book about her four-legged “daughter” years ago, but an ongoing battle with cancer brought a sense of urgency to completing the project.
    “Much of it was already written,” said Butera. “I did the introduction and epilogue in first person, and the rest is in third person.
    “It’s really the story of how Dillie came into our lives. How we got her and all the interesting things she does, how she got famous and how that fame has brought so many gifts to us.”
    Dillie also brings happiness to others as illustrated by a card that Butera writes about in her book. The card was delivered by postal workers even though it was addressed to only “Dillie the Deer. Canal Fulton, Ohio 44614.”
    “Dear Dillie and Family,” the card began. “Thank you for bringing a smile to my mother’s face. Could you please give a shout out to her on your board? She is fighting cervical cancer right now, and she watches you after chemotherapy. Thank you, Dillie. You give her so much peace.”
    See Dillie in her natural habitat — her bedroom — at www.ww.com/dilliecam.

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