DURBACH, Germany — Deer and dogs are not natural companions, but nobody seems to have told Carla the Labrador.
A year-and-a-half ago the canine was out walking in Germany's Black Forest when they came upon a solitary fawn. Carla licked the little deer, and shoved it gently with her nose, owner Helga Kuderer told NBC News.
"Carla immediately took up a mother role, when she found the abandoned baby stag during a hike through the forest," the 52-year-old recalled.
The two have become the best of friends.
Kuderer, who owns a 200-year-old Christmas tree farm with her husband Andreas, adopted the orphaned deer and named it Peterle. The family raised the young stag, feeding it bottles of goat milk for nearly six months before it returned to the woods on its own.
But that didn't end the odd relationship.
"Every day, Peterle visits Carla, they play around, cuddle and then eat some oatmeal and dog cookies together," Helga Kuderer said.
At this time of year, customers and visitors to the farm often witness the gentle exchanges between the two buddies or watch a wild playful chases through the rows of lined-up Christmas trees.
Peterle has been spotted with other deer at times, but can be easily identified by his bright orange collar.
"The stag wears the signal colors, so that hunters in the region do not go after him," Kuderer said.
Other animals on the farm — chicken, rabbits and a goat — have also accepted the presence of the wild neighbor.
"Only the goat needs to be kept locked inside at the moment because it likes to eat our Christmas trees," Kuderer said.