By Rick Euker • January 7, 2016
Deep in the woods I saw my Lab dart over and sniff intently at something in the leaves. Not wanting him to disturb wildlife I called him back and went over to see what it was. He had found a small nest lined with rabbit fur and traces of blood. It appeared that coyotes had found a rabbit's nest and eaten it's young. Had I not been watching my dog closely I might have expected that he did this. Then I saw him sniffing all around the area for several feet. I surmised that the baby bunnies tried to make a run for it in all directions as the pack found them... but didn't make it very far. My wife and I had a heavy heart as we thought about this tragedy. The fact that it was nature's way gave us no comfort.
Then I spotted something moving in the leaves. It was perfectly camouflaged. I had to get close to see what it was. I motioned my dog to stay back. It was a tiny baby bunny dragging it's two limp hind legs straight out behind it as it tried to escape us at a crawl. I slowly reached down and picked it up. The sadness of this crippled bunny overwhelmed me. Somehow it escaped the fate of it's siblings. Maybe in the first bite into the nest it's legs were broken and didn't run like it's brothers and sisters, who were quickly snatched up. There was blood on the leaves all around but none on the little one in my hand.
We sat and petted the poor creature for several minutes till it seemed no longer frightened. We were many miles into the forest and wanted to get home before night fall. I made a protected little den for it under a heavy log near by and put grass there for it to eat, hoping it's mother would return. I'm sorry, dear women readers, guys don't have a strong maternal instinct. My wife was incredulous as I got up to walk away from this crippled baby. Her eyes were so wide and sorrowful and I felt so ashamed when she said, "You aren't going to just leave this poor thing in the forest are you!?" My response was even more lame than the bunny, "What? how could we take care of a paraplegic rabbit?" I had visions of taking him for walks around the neighborhood in a wagon or something. I have no defense. My wife and you are right...I am a fool.
We made a soft nest of grass in my backpack for the long journey home. We checked on him regularly to make sure he was comfortable and not dying. Before going home we stopped at the supermarket to pick up every vegetable we thought a bunny might like. Yes, we found they like them all. And goodness sakes was he a hungry one. To this day I can't figure out how a micro bunny can eat a bowl of vegetables twice his size in a day. He seemed to grow as we watched him. But it was a real drag to watch him drag himself around the living room. Then, after a week, he pulled both legs under himself and sat like a normal bunny. I was overjoyed. He couldn't get around real well but he was healing faster than my shame of thinking to abandon him in the forest. My wife says, "What would you do without me?" I try not to think about it.
In another week we saw him walking around and almost hopping. The dog was as excited as we were. Within three weeks we almost couldn't catch him, except he knew we were his friends. It was amazing how quickly he grew to near adult size. Still mid summer, I decided to build him a coyote proof rock den deep in the woods. I stocked it plenty of vegetables till he found natural food sources nearby. I never saw him again. He left home much more quickly than our daughter. I shall never turn away again from an injured animal in the forest. There is a lesson in compassion that feels much more like a reward.
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