03/29/2013 AT 2:15 PM ET
For three days in June 2008, Isobel Springett heard the fawn crying.
Apparently abandoned by its mother, the deer was weak and shivering when Springett placed it on a dog bed with her Great Dane Kate.
“She tucked her head under the dog’s elbow,” says Springett, 54, a former animal control officer. And Kate took the deer to heart.”Her whole demeanor changed,” says Springett. “I knew she was a good dog, but I didn’t expect her to mother the fawn.”
The deer her family named Pippin trailed Kate until returning to the wild weeks later. “But every morning she’d show up, tail wagging, looking for Kate and a bottle.” The bond continued, even when Pippin didn’t need mothering. When she was a teen, “Pippin and Kate started to play like two deer, leaping and running into each other.”
Years on, she now visits with her own fawns. The wild offspring keep a distance, but not Pippin. “They still love to rub noses,” says Springett of the deer and her dog, now 11. “There’s a strong connection, but they have no idea it’s a weird one.”