On a Rabbit Trail (written 7/9/20)
After the fire of yesterday, I started out this morning feeling pretty low. Not devastated or anything. Just downhearted and discouraged. Definitely a crummy thing to have happen.
But life goes on. Animals get hungry and thirsty and dirty. The daily grind goes on.
So I dragged out of bed, fed everyone, watered everyone, walked the dogs, milked the goats. Lunchtime came and went. By the time it was finished, I had accumulated several items that needed to be stashed in the bag for recyclable stuff. One of them was an empty Kleenex box.
Empty Kleenex boxes make excellent toys for rabbits. Several of my bunnies really love playthings, so I decided to get motivated, cut the center out of the box, and hustled off to give the new toy to Soda Pop.
Soda is my most recent German Angora. She's the female I got this past April, now about five months old. And she really likes her toys.
I unlatched her door, slid the Kleenex box in to the cage, and reached in after it to give her some love.
And she wasn't there. The cage was completely and totally empty.
My heart just about stopped. That morning I had said hello, checked her food, checked her hay, and then realized that she needed water. I had refilled the bowl and popped it back in the cage, not thinking I needed to mess with her again.
Rightly or wrongly, it has always been my habit to leave the cage doors open while I do quick rabbit errands. For one thing, the cages are set high up off the ground, about four feet in the air. A long fall for a rabbit, and one they have no real incentive to make. For another thing, the rabbits absolutely never jump out. Ever. I have done this for years, and other rabbit people have told me they do the same, and the bunnies simply never escape. Not ever.
Until this particular bunny on this particular day.
My heart now bolted forward in to terror mode. If Soda had gotten out that morning, and if it was now after lunch, then that meant she had been out during the critical danger period when seven dogs had been loose and running wild in the front yard, waiting to leave for our morning walk. I don't trust many, if any, of the dogs with a loose rabbit on the ground, especially when one of the dogs in question happened to be Banner, who happened to be a whippet, a breed that just happened to be designed to chase down and kill rabbits.
By this point I was beginning to feel queasy. Tell me that this wasn't going to end the way I was pretty sure it was going to end. That I wasn't going to find what I was almost certain was waiting for me, somewhere in the front yard.
But I started searching. Slowly and methodically, I crawled along the fence line up to the rabbit hutch, groping under the hutch itself, crawling forward, poking along the side of the chicken coop, crawling forward again in to the carport, checking under Cumi's cage, under Soda's vacant cage, under Cloud's cage, under Toddy's cage. . .
No movement, no sound, no rabbit.
My stomach clenched. Where was she? What had the dogs done with her? I hadn't heard anything when they had been out front, aside from the usual running and barking routine. But that didn't mean anything.
I pivoted on my heels, got down and reached as far as I could under the Gator parked in the middle of the carport. Nothing except prickly hay and sticky cobwebs.
But it would be a good place for a bunny to hide. No dogs could get underneath the Gator. And neither could I. But it was worth a shot, so I grabbed the broom and gingerly pushed it under the front bumper.
And it came up against something soft that jumped away. I could hardly believe it. But that felt an awful lot like a bunny. I scooted to the rear of the Gator and there she was, hopping out between the back tires, sniffing my hand, and then bouncing away to the rabbit hutch.
I followed. She was having a great time. I could hear her nibbling grass, taking little, crunching bunny bites, pausing, then hopping calmly over to the next tuft of grass for some more. I could barely keep track of her. My bunnies don't wear collars or tags or bells, and it's not like rabbits are loud. They aren't vocal, and even when Soda Pop hopped, it was with just the faintest patter and shuffle of gravel.
By this time, of course, she was done saying hi, and she guessed that I was trying to catch her. And while she wasn't afraid, she had decided it might be best to stay just out of mom's reach and keep working on that grass.
I could be out here for an hour before I got hold of her. But get hold of her I would. I was determined on that point. No way was I going to leave my prize bunny loose and unprotected out in the front yard again.
I sat there and waited. And listened. She was off to my right, slightly behind me, moving farther away across the gravel drive. I gritted my teeth and heaved an inward sigh. Don't go that way, Soda! I tried to will her back to me. Come on, sweetheart, turn around and come back to me this way. You absolutely can't stay out here.
She hopped a few paces farther away, scattering pebbles, nibbling grass.
In moments like this, patience is my first strategy, and prayer is my second. So with my feet tucked under me and my right hand stretched toward Soda, I asked:
"Please, God, turn this bunny around and send her. . ."
I was going to add "to me," but never got the chance. Something must have startled her, because the next thing I knew, Soda was bounding across the driveway and diving straight into my lap. In a blur of fur and muscle and scrabbling feet she was there. I closed down my right arm, caught her in my left arm, and scooped her up against my chest.
Both our hearts were beating pretty fast.
I don't think she was as grateful as I was, but back to her cage she went, with some serious petting and ear-stroking thrown in for good measure. And then the door was firmly latched.
Wow, all's well that ends well! And it could have ended so, so differently.