The unlikely companionship that developed amid the tombstones at a Kansas City cemetery between a stray dog and a motherless doe has ended.
The unnamed young female dog is now at Wayside Waifs while the deer is adapting to life without her faithful friend.
The doe, named Ella, and the Sharp Pei mix dog have been at each other's sides in the 43-acre Elmwood Cemetery for the last few months. Ella was born at the cemetery in late spring 2011. Her mother was later killed in a traffic crash. Ella has remained close to the cemetery, rarely venturing away and avoiding traffic on nearby Truman Road.
Then the female dog showed up in recent weeks and the two animals formed a close bond, which visitors to the cemetery chronicled through pictures and video. Some believed that the two should be kept together, either at the cemetery or a farm.
But cemetery officials feared that the dog wouldn't survive the winter without shelter and regular food and water. They didn't want to put out a doghouse or food for Ella's hound buddy, scared other less friendly dogs would show up and terrorize the deer.
As a result, cemetery officials contacted Wayside Waifs, a no-kill animal shelter in the Kansas City area, who agreed that the dog's future was in jeopardy. Workers went to the cemetery on Friday to assess situation, and then returned on Saturday.
Using treats, the workers were able to lure the dog into what Wayside Waif officials said was a humane trap.
And when workers returned, there was the doe keeping a nearby watch on her trapped pal.
"Ella was standing right by the van when the dog departed, looking kind of forlorn," John Weilert, president of the Elmwood Cemetery Society, told the Kansas City Star, KCTV5's reporting partner.
Elmwood trustee Bruce Mathews, who provided pictures of the duo to KCTV5, said it was extremely difficult to see the bond broken.
"It breaks my heart that they have to be separated, but they must," Mathews said in an email to friends of Elmwood. "Am I sorry they found each other? Absolutely not! I believe they became friends to teach us a lesson, however we each might interpret it."
Jennie Rinas, spokesman for Wayside Waif, said "it's a cute story" that has touched numerous people.
"A deer and a dog would be an unlikely pair living together in a cemetery of all places," Rinas said. "The reality is heading into winter that a deer is equipped better to survive in the wild. That's their natural habitat. It's not humane to leave a dog out without regular food or water. The best thing was to ensure it had warm shelter."
The female dog, which weighs between 25 and 30 pounds, was scanned for a microchip but one wasn't found. It has been vaccinated and given other treatments. The dog is 8 months to 1 year old.
As expected, the skittish and scared dog is struggling to adapt to an entirely new environment.
"The dog is very scared... The dog needs a lot of socialization," Rinas said. "We are going very slow. It's a shock to go from living out in the wild to a shelter in a few days."
Wayside Waifs hopes that the dog some day can be adopted by a loving family. But that is some time away.
Rinas said shelter workers are taking "it very slow" and being gentle with the dog, who may be called Elmwood in honor of the cemetery.
"There is no rush," Rinas said. "We are working toward a happy ending for all involved."
That wish for a happy ending for all involved includes Ella, who is clearly now missing her friend. Deer are pack creatures, so hopefully Ella finds new companionship. She also has her two-legged friends.
Cemetery officials said she has become a mascot for the cemetery, showing up at funerals, other events and tagging along on tours.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Copyright 2012 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.