Monday, July 18, 2011

The Story of Runt-ums

A friend and I recently had a discussion about family; specifically, the fur-balls that have joined and enriched our families over the years. Since hubby and I (and my kids) are all animal lovers, we've had a lot of furry family members, every one of them special in their own way.

So today I thought I'd share a story about a past member of our furry family.

The company that mowed the common areas in our neighborhood often allowed the grass to get waist-high before they'd mow. When the grass gets that high, mama rabbits get complacent and don't dig much of a hole for a nest--the babies basically end up almost on top of the ground.

During one mowing, I happened to be in the backyard (thankfully, we hadn't put up our fence yet). I heard the mower bog down and looked over just in time to see what happens when a mower runs over a nest of baby bunnies. I'll spare you the details, but let's just say I've used the memory of the scene in several of my horror stories when I need to describe a particularly gory scene. The only good news was the entire mess was from the demise of only a few bunnies and I was able to rescue the rest. I brought them into my house and spent the next two weeks caring for them, getting up in the middle of the night to feed them puppy milk, and collecting the tastiest white clover and plantain leaves as they transitioned over to solids.

As with all family, the day came when it was time to let go. Loose dogs are common in the neighborhood, lots of cats prowl about, and there are plenty of hawks. It's not a good environment for young bunnies. It made me think of Watership Down: "All the world will be your enemy, Prince of a Thousand enemies. And when they catch you, they will kill you." I set the babies free under our shed (where cats and dogs and hawks couldn't reach them), set out timothy hay and sunflower seeds, and hoped for the best.

For five days, I watched. No bunnies.

On the sixth day, I glanced out the back door, toward the shed, and my heart fell. Still no sign of my baby bunnies. Then I glanced toward sidewalk that runs by my patio door. There was a pile of poop in front of my patio door. And a trail of bunny poop leading from the pile, down the sidewalk, to my back door. And there, at the bottom of my steps, sat one of the baby bunnies: the runt of the litter. The one I had been most worried about.

I carefully went down the steps and sat down beside her, sure she was going to bolt any second. She watched me, big-eyed, her ears trembling. I reached out my hand tentatively, and she let me pick her up and put her in my lap. She had a terrible scratch down her face and one of her ears was torn. I looked like I had saved the babies from the mower only to have all of them fall prey to one of the other thousand enemies.

But this one had lived. And from the look of the trail (and piles) of bunny poop, she had spent most of the night running from my patio door to my back door, trying to figure out how to get back in my house.

I guess sometimes the "born free" principle is over-rated.

I brought her back in the house and the kids named her "Runt-ums." She grew up to be a sassy rabbit. She thought she was the "biggety-bomb" and that everyone should spend their time fawning over the miracle rabbit. She loved Cheerios and getting her chin scratched, and spent a lot of time terrorizing my house cats (revenge against whatever the neighborhood cats did to her sisters and brothers?).

We had her for many years before she finally passed away peacefully of old age.

Her story reminds me of the starfish story:

One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently tossing it into the ocean.

"What are you doing?" The man asked.

"Throwing starfish back into the ocean," the boy replied.

"What on earth for?"

"If I don't throw them back," the boy said, "they'll die."

The man snorted. "There are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish. You can't save them all! You can't make a difference!"

The boy thought for a moment, then bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it into the surf. He turned and smile at the the man. "I made a difference to that one."

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