‘Never seen that:’ Bluffton native with rescue farm in Islandton comes across a rare find

Driving down Lowcountry roads, seeing the discarded corpses of deer hit by cars is not an uncommon occurrence.

But when Robin Boeke, a Bluffton native who runs a rescue farm in Islandton, got a call to visit one about 10 miles from her farm, she noticed something a little odd about the scene.

“I pull up and a puppy’s head pops up and he looked over at the corpse of the deer,” Boeke said. “He was protecting that deer.”

Boeke estimates the puppy, a 10-month-old golden lab mix now named Sunny, had been out there laying down with the deer for about two to three days before she found the dog.

“I’ve never seen that, the only time I’ve ever seen something like it is when it’s two dogs and one is hit by a car,” Boeke said. “I mean, this dog was bonded to this deer.”

Sunny, a 10-month-old lab, will forever have a unique rescue story after Bluffton native, Robin Boeke of Grace Farm Animal Rescue in Islandton, spotted him curled up against and refusing to leave the side of his friend — a dead deer.

Sunny was “clearly a feral puppy” who was wary of humans but remained curious. For two weeks, Boeke and other friends drove out to make sure the pup was fed and waited to gain his trust. Despite their best efforts to offer treats and water, Sunny was reluctant to leave behind his “friend” and remained curled up against the animal’s body.

“It’s scary out here in the big wide world… and they were friends, I think,” Boeke said. “It’s heartbreaking, but it also shows the beautiful bond between animals.”

Sunny with his friend who he was protecting from scavengers for days while living on his own in Islandton, just 10 miles from Boeke’s animal farm.

Eventually, the vultures descended and other animals could sense the deer. Sunny did his best to fight off the scavengers by chasing them away. He had the scratch marks to prove it. There was no blood on his muzzle that indicated he was eating the deer and the dog had no other major injuries, Boeke said.

The scene was heartbreaking enough, but Boeke knew she had to get Sunny out of there. So, she used the best tool in her arsenal — Callie.

The Rescue

Callie is Boeke’s dog, an 8-year-old Carolina Dog who was rescued from the side of the road. Her role at the farm as its first rescue is simple: She keeps everyone in line and has been helping Boeke as her “proxy dog,” meaning she helps to gain the trust of lost and stray dogs the farm is trying to rescue, according to Boeke.

Callie, an 8-year-old rescue with Grace Farm Animal Rescue, was the farm’s first save and helps owner Robin Boeke gain the trust of other lost and stray dogs that they are trying to help.

For several days, Callie helped Sunny feel comfortable with Boeke and played with him. By Wednesday, he finally felt comfortable enough to drink water from a dog crate placed near the deer. Boeke shut the door behind him. Though he “was not happy” about it at first, the “sweet” pup knew he was going somewhere safe.

“He is immediately a part of our pack,” Boeke said. “He doesn’t want to be touched or pet. I am not going to force him to love me.”

After a bit of trust-building and training, Boeke said, Sunny will be up for adoption at the Palmetto Animal League in Ridgeland. Her biggest advice to people who see a dog in possible distress is to jump in and then call their local animal rescue.

“I want these people who pass these dogs on the side of the road to stop and help,” Boeke said. “It can make a difference.”

To schedule an adoption appointment with Palmetto Animal League, call 843-645-1725.

After a bit of training, the 10-month-old pup will be placed for adoption at the Palmetto Animal League.