I know some people are not fans of rabbits—they destroy gardens and such—or think that saving a tiny animal is such a minor blip in the grand scheme of it all, a useless expenditure of energy, that for every tiny rabbit, or ant, or spider saved, actual human lives are lost, all of which has the potential to render me a sanctimonious, hypocritical asshole, I know … I hope people realize that’s not the point of all this rambling; I’m never really sure what the point is, other than we all do the best we can, with what we have at any given moment, and it all somehow comes back to the words of the woman behind the desk, “Trying to help another living creature is always the right thing to do.” xo.
On my walk with Rocco early this morning, a block from home, we happened upon a tiny bunny in the middle of the sidewalk. Having recently added “tiny bunny window well rescue” to my covid-resume, I knew something was not right with this li’l bun, given its statue-like presence even as we got closer. But, I could see it was still breathing, its little body puffing in and out, in and out, in and out.
My hands were full of trash, and a poop bag, and a dog on a leash. My first thought was, “keep walking, there’s nothing you can do, Jen,” quickly followed by, “you can’t *not* try to do something,” followed by, “just scoop it up, put it back in the bushes, let nature take its course,” followed by a louder bossier thought: “open the fucking poop bag, stuff all the trash in it, free up a hand and bring the bunny home, figure it out as you go,” all of this in a matter of nanoseconds, as thoughts are wont to do.
Cupped bunny in one hand (my god did it stink!), clutched bag of trash and dog leash in the other, I quickly walked home, hoping my mask hid my crying face, thinking, good Lord, now what? I imagined eye-dropper feedings, harvesting grass from the front yard, little rabbit turds dotting my apartment, a bewildered Rocco wondering “what the hell kind of torture is this—invite my favorite prey into the house but don’t let me eat it??!!” When we got home, how still, how smelly, how matted its fur was, maybe a cat or something had tried to do it in, maybe it was already too late. I emptied a decorative box on my dresser, lined it with an old towel, and placed the bunny inside, propping the lid with a lotion bottle. It was still breathing, its eyes would grow wide then slide narrow, again and again.
I hopped online, to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center’s website, only to find out they didn’t open until 9 am; I had an online Zoom client at 9:30, another at 11. Things were not looking good for the fuzzy li’l dude, why didn’t I just mind my own biz? I thought, just as my phone lit up with a message from my first client, she’s not feeling well, needs to reschedule our morning session. I send up a prayer of thanks to the bunny gods, grabbed my purse, the box, and out the door we went, leaving Rocco staring out the front window, probably thinking, “wait! Where you going with my breakfast!”
Of course, I cried all the way to the center (this is why my husband wouldn’t let me watch Animal Planet—”why do you DO this to yourself?” he’d ask, grabbing the remote and flipping the channel to the Food Network), thinking what an idiotic thing to do, maybe the bunny’s mother was freaking out, maybe it’s all for nothing, maybe maybe baby bunnies are a dime a dozen and the WRC has bigger and better animals to worry about, maybe the bunny’s already dead. I kept flipping the lid of the box up to peek on the way to Roseville, its little belly still puffing in and out, in and out, in and out.
When I got to the WRC, I remembered another lifetime ago, when this place played a more prominent role in my life, when Bob and I lived in a nearby apartment complex early in our marriage, when Gretchen Hildebrandt and I had our sweet little Harmony Salon, not far from here. WRC is connected to the Harriet Alexander Nature Center, a lush oasis in the middle of the busting suburb, a spectacular place for birding, wild flowers and wild life, a true sanctuary in the city. I entered the building and was greeted by the staff, “Come on over, what have you brought us this morning in that fancy box?” A tale of one bunny tumbled out as tears started again, “I’m sorry, I’m such a crybaby,” I babbled.
“it’s okay, cry all you want, we see that a lot in here,” she said, her eyes crinkling into a smile behind her mask as she passed the box to another woman behind the desk, who disappeared behind a door with it.
“I didn’t know what else to do,” I rambled off all the options that ran through my mind, wondering aloud if they even took little rabbits, if it was the right thing to do.
“Trying to help another living creature is always the right thing to do,” the masked woman behind the desk assured me; immediately, her words flooded my veins with peace, and at that moment, became my official life motto. “We’ll check it out—maybe it’s just stunned—if that’s the case, you can bring it home and put it back where you found it. If it’s not, we’ll do what we can to help it.” A few minutes later, the other woman reappeared; as I suspected, it looked like the little bunny had a run-in with another animal, maybe a cat or dog (that explained the smell); it’ll be a few days before they’ll know for sure if it’ll survive. “It’s about the age that it’s ready to leave the nest—old enough to wander out on their own for food, but not always so savvy about predators,” she told me.
“Is there some way I can check up on it, see how it’s doing?” I asked, feeling kind of foolish, but also suspecting that like tears, the question was common in these parts.
“Of course—just call or email in a few days, we should have an update by then. Oh and make sure you take one of our bunny magnets, since you seem to have a bunny theme running through your life lately!”
I had some time to kill before my 11 am Zoom client, so I took a meandering walk along Harriet Alexander’s boardwalk trail, still crying as I absorbed all the sights, sounds and sensations of the world around me, the songs of redwing blackbirds, gold finches, chickadees, so many other birds I don’t know the names of, filling the air; swamp milkweed, cattails, arrowhead plant (which produce edible tubers, once an important food source for indigenous people), knowing the tears were more than just for the bunny. They were for a past life, a present life, a world that has unplugged me from so many loved ones, for a future unknown. I just let them flow.
At the end of the trail, a little bunny stopped me in my tracks; this one was larger than the one I brought in, though still small enough to be considered a bunny in my book. I crouched down and watched it for a while, it kept hopping closer and closer to me, chomping down grasses and other greens with abandon. Every now and then it’d stop eating, and flip a back foot up to its ear, furiously scratch for a few moments, before resuming its meal. I imagine the little bunny I brought in living its life out like this; not entirely safe, but at least in a more natural setting with far fewer dogs and cats, lawnmowers and garden rakes to contend with.