By Alyssa Schnugg
When 4-year-old Shelby Anne saw four Oxford police officers bending over a deer near her apartment she was worried the deer was headed to jail.
However, OPD Officer Rachel Ratcliffe assured the child the officers were only trying to help the “reindeer” get back to the North Pole to be reunited with Santa.
The call came in around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday. A deer was stuck in a fence at The Links apartment complex. Ratcliffe and Officer Allison Roberts arrived on scene to find a panicked doe who had somehow gotten herself caught midway in the wrought-iron fence.
“We started looking for a maintenance worker to find something to try to pry the fence open to pull the deer through,” Ratcliffe said.
Shortly after, Lt. Alex Stratton and Patrol Sgt. Kevin Parker arrived at the scene and that’s when Shelby Anne and her mother, Jessie Carmickle walked out of the house and saw the four officers crouched down near the deer.
“She asked me what they were doing and I told her the deer was stuck and the police were helping her,” Carmickle said Friday.
Ratcliffe walked over to little Shelby Anne and told her everything was going to be OK.
But the precocious child still wasn’t convinced.
“Mama, are they going to take the reindeer to jail?” she asked her mother from her car seat.
Hearing her concern, Ratcliffe walked over to the car and put the child’s fears to rest. She told Shelby Anne they would get the deer to the North Pole to get special medicine from Santa so she could help him deliver presents Christmas Eve.
“She made Shelby Anne feel so much better,” Carmickle said.
Once Shelby Anne and her mother left the area, the officers used a car jack to open up the iron fence just enough to get the deer out.
However, the deer had broken its back during its struggle and the deer was humanely put down.
“Her injuries were just too severe,” Parker said. “She wouldn’t walk. She had been stuck between her rib and hindquarters.”
But as far as Shelby Anne knows, the deer is back at the North Pole and feeling much better.
“The next day, I came home and there was a gift bag on my door from OPD,” Carmickle said.
Inside the bag was a Santa hat with reindeer antlers, a necklace, a stuffed penguin and a note from “Santa,” who thanked Shelby Anne for her concern over the “reindeer.”
On the drive to Shelby Anne’s daycare, Carmickle said the two spoke about police and how it’s their job to help people and sometimes, animals.
“It opened up a lot of good conversation,” she said.
Parker said OPD officers often to respond to animal calls but admits Wednesday’s event was a first for him.
“I’ve never seen a deer stuck like that in a fence,” he said. “We tried everything we could to save her.”
Carmickle said the officers showed a lot of compassion, both to the deer and a worried little girl.
“They were wonderful and very caring,” she said.