Maria McGiff loves animals.
She’s known to rescue injured birds and rabbits.
So it was no surprise that when she came home from work Aug. 27 to find her husband, children and dog had left their Brookhaven home for higher ground in preparation for Tropical Storm Irene, she called her husband and said, “Why didn’t you bring the cat?”
“There were two cats at our friend’s house where they went,” she said. “So I stayed all night with the cat.”
The next morning, curiosity prodded McGiff, 47, outdoors with camera in hand to scope out the damage. She saw a crowd gathered at Beaver Dam Road, which ends at the Carman’s River and intersects with McGiff’s street, Old Stump Road.
Beaver Dam Road was under about 3 feet of water, she said, and people were paddling up and down it on canoes.
“There was even a motorboat,” she said. “It was amazing.”
When her family came home that afternoon, she brought them out to see the spectacle at Beaver Dam Road. She was walking with her son, Augustus, 9, and their dog, Michael, when she saw a sudden movement in the woods.
It was a fawn, a deer young enough to still be splattered in white spots, and barely visible above the water level. McGiff said it was so weak it could barely lift its head and she was afraid it would drown if she didn’t help. She sent her son home with the dog, and called a passerby for help lifting the deer.
“He said, ‘What are you trying to do?’” she said. “I said, ‘I’m taking him to my basement to make him better. I want this baby to survive.’”
McGiff did just that without any hesitation that the fawn could be destructive or dangerous when it regained its strength. Her house had lost power, so by lantern and flashlight, she swaddled it in blankets, fed it fresh peaches and apples and massaged its limbs.
She named him Clarence after her dog who died two years ago, because she said she felt the dog’s presence.
Around 5 a.m. the next day, she checked on Clarence and he was still lying in the same position. Around 8:30 a.m., she heard noises in the basement. Clarence was jumping, it was time to set him free.
McGiff and her husband cornered the deer and carried him outside, where she said Clarence took three giant leaps, looked back at them and headed for the woods.
Augustus said it was strange to have a deer in his basement, but he was glad his mom brought it home.
“I told my mom I was happy because we saved an animal,” he said.
Maria McGiff said she was just happy to have noticed him. “All those people went back and forth and nobody saw him,” she said. “It was very touching.”
Photo: Clarence, the fawn, wrapped in blankets and on his way back to health in Maria McGriff's Brookhaven home.