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One less bunny in the world
April 3, 2007 - Amy Jo Hanna-Eckenrode
Being the owner of Golden Retrievers (let me emphasize Retriever) can be a bittersweet adventure for somebody, like myself, who is a great lover of all creatures big and small.
To this day, I am what my mother calls “ridiculous”. I will spend an absurd amount of time trying to shoe a fly out the door rather than kill it (yes, I know they are dirty and disgusting and harbor disease). I also will go to great lengths to capture a bee, spider, insect in a glass and release the creature safely outside (so it can sting me later).
Retrievers, however, like to bring you things. They retrieve. It’s their instinct. They retrieve and bring the prize to you, the faithful alpha owner person. Jesse lives to retrieve tennis balls. Her favorite game is: “You throw the ball to me and I will catch it and bring it to you so you can try to take it from me but I won’t give it back”. That’s her game.
Until Saturday, Jess preferred to retrieve household items. She has never damaged a shoe, remote, sock, etc. She just likes to carry her find around until she is properly acknowledged for her accomplishment. Until Saturday.
I had just let the girls out to do their business when, like a bolt of lightning, Jesse tore back into the house. Something was not right. Jesse doesn’t tear. She may waddle,
wiggle or shimmy her way somewhere but she doesn’t tear. Ever.
When I called for her, she did an about face. The look of wildly, delirious glee in her eyes instantly told me she had done something very bad. Or, perhaps it was her tightly, clenched jaws and the long strands of grass hanging from either side of her mouth. She proudly waddled over to me awaiting recognition. I raced back towards the door hoping that whatever it was she so proudly carried into the house could be again deposited outside. She abruptly stopped. Uh, uh, there was no way she was giving up this prize so easily. Then I heard it. The faintest, little squeak. Please tell me Jess has learned to throw her voice.
I, of course, a former lifeguard and flight attendant, highly skilled and trained to calmly handle extreme, life-threatening emergencies, lost all control and became a raving lunatic. Nose to nose, screaming at Jess to ‘let it go’ I can only begin to imagine what I looked like to her.
Her eyes were glazed over. My eyes glazed over. Attempting to pry her jaws apart was as successful as prying apart two pieces of welded metal.
As the squeaks increased, both those coming from her mouth and mine, her jaws clamped down even tighter. After a few more minutes of reprimanding, blowing in her face (not sure what I think this is going to do) and tapping her nose with my finger, she all of a sudden lowered her head and released. My worst fear. There lay the smallest, little baby bunny, no hair, eyes still closed. It couldn’t have been more than a few days old. And, it was still alive.
As I quickly scooped it up with a washcloth that had been within reach (I’m still wondering why I had a washcloth on the back porch), I saw a tiny puncture wound on its neck. Like Olive Oyl I raced the bunny back to what I thought could be the entrance to the nest (that hole in the ground that I always twist my ankle on while mowing). Not having one idea what to do, I gently placed the tiny bundle on the grass near the hole. I was praying the puncture wound was superficial and that by some small miracle mommy rabbit would come to the rescue and make it all better.
I had no idea how to care for a baby bunny. I was sick. That evening I spent time researching how to care for an injured rabbit. By bedtime, I had decided that if the poor thing was still out there in the morning I would bring it inside and nurse it until I contacted a better caretaker. I awoke a few hours later. I had to do something. I went outside and began barricading the area with lawn furniture, hoping to keep predators at bay. (Oliver North would have been proud). However, I was too afraid to look under the cloth and went back to bed.
In the morning, I raced outside. I held my breath and looked under the cloth. It was gone! Mother bunny did come to its aide! Surely a cat didn’t? There were no signs of, well, you know. Whew!
Then I glanced at the hole leading to the underground nest. There lay my little lifeless bunny, halfway in the hole. My heart sank. I was devastated. I failed that little creature.
As I walked back into the house, there lay Jess looking completely dejected. My sadness then turned to her. How could I have scolded her so harshly for doing what she was bred to do? Retrieve. It was her nature, afterall. It was her thing. She was a Retriever.
What a catch-22, this animal kingdom.