With the exception of the Easter Bunny, no animal is as central to a holiday as the reindeer is to Christmas. The arctic ungulate’s efforts are completely indispensable to Santa’s mission to bring toys to good girls and boys, and coal to the ones who antagonize their parents. Suppose Santa’s sleigh were powered by some other creature, like the donkey or ox or noble house cat — it just wouldn’t be as impressive without the reindeer’s stately antlers, bulbous snoot, and inestimable charm. Christmas would be ruined.
It wasn’t out of respect for Christmas that Dave Dorow and Wendy Clark of Maple Lake took in their first reindeer, however. What they wanted at first was a pet.
“We’ve always liked having animals around our small acreage,” explained Dave. “Our son used to raise poultry for the 4H back when he was young, and we still have some geese running around who were grandfathered in during that time. We were looking for a new interesting pet, something low-maintenance, and a friend told us about how much he loved his reindeer. We looked into it, liked what we learned about the animal, so got our pair seven years ago.”
The couple came to run Bluestem Reindeer Ranch along with their does Teeka, Solveig, Elli, and Kaya, along with their young buck Bergen. “They’re rugged animals,” continued Dave, “But sweet and gentle, compared to other deer and elk. They each have their own unique personalities. Bergen is rambunctious and splashes the girls with his front hooves while they’re drinking at the trough, and the girls have established a tight pecking order. You’ll hear one grunt at another when she feels they’re stepping out of line. They’re content to lounge outside even in the bitterest cold, but they rest together around a fan in the warmer months. Every evening they get frisky and run laps around their pen — the party starts when the sun goes down.”
Through their involvement with the Reindeer Owners and Breeders Association, Dave and Wendy learned about a unique opportunity which their pets presented. Now they and their reindeer travel around Minnesota during the holiday season to bring a little deer cheer wherever it’s needed.
“The kids’ reactions to the reindeer are the best,” said Dave. “A lot of them don’t even know that reindeer are real animals until they’ve met ours. I guess that’s ‘myth by association.’ They’re excited to learn that even the girls have antlers, and love feeding them animal crackers. One time my wife and I took Teeka into a kindergarten, where a wide-eyed little boy asked us if we were elves. Ha!”
Dave and Wendy love sharing their lively reindeer’s charm, and will take two of them to anywhere they’re called in and around the Twin Cities. They’re the perfect spectacle to have outside of a business, and a festive surprise for any child — especially if Santa Claus might be stopping by that day as well! Dave and Wendy also bring along an antique sleigh when they visit, making the year’s holiday photo shoot setting a done and dusted affair. If you would like to learn more about Bluestem Reindeer Ranch, visit bluestemreindeer.com.
By David Scheller