They’ve snuggled together, played in the snow and even touched noses. But the unusually close bond between a domestic dog and a wild deer has animal behavior experts --- and the dog’s owners – scratching their heads.

It all began last December when Koda, a two-year-old female husky, went missing from her home in Manitou, Man.

Owners Rachel Howatt and Clinton Subbick were so worried that they scoured the neighbourhood and sent out a plea on Facebook asking locals to keep an eye out for her. After three difficult days, Koda came back home.

But while Koda’s disappearance was stressful for the couple, the dog seemed to be having a great time. Garry Suderman, a hunter in the area, captured photos on a hunting camera of the dog and a wild buck meeting each other in a snowy field.

The photographs appear to show the two animals becoming quite close. Over 24 hours, they sniff each other, follow each other around and, when darkness falls, curl up together on a patch of grass.

When the hunter reached out to the couple with the photos, the owners couldn’t believe their eyes.

“It’s pretty hard to believe at first, you know, that’s what she was doing for all that time, and we had no idea,” Howatt said.

“In my opinion, I think she’s just such an outgoing dog. She just wants to be everybody’s friend.”

Catherine McMillan, an animal behaviorist with the Winnipeg Humane Society, said the photos show a curious level of trust between the two animals.

“Any dog that’s comfortable enough to sleep in that environment shows me that [she’s] comfortable enough around that deer,” she said.

At first, the hunter wasn’t so sure. Suderman says the deer appeared to be injured, likely by another buck. He suspected that Koda might have been checking out the situation to see whether the animal could become prey.

But as the photos appeared to show the animals warming up to each other, Suderman changed his opinion. Now he thinks the dog was acting as the deer’s protector.

Either way, capturing the connection was a once-in-a-lifetime thing, Suderman says.

“Will I ever get pictures like that again in my lifetime? Nope,” he said. “That is definitely the weirdest thing I’ve seen before.”

The couple shared the story on Facebook, where it’s been shared more than 26,000 times.

It’s been a few months since Koda last saw the deer. To keep her company, the owners decided to get another dog. Aptly, they named the new dog Buck.