Sad to report that this morning, I found our little guy having a hard time breathing. I put him on my chest so he could feel my heartbeat and my body could warm him but at 7:01 AM Mountain Time, his breathing stopped. Our best efforts could only give him two more days of life…and at least he wasn’t alone when he left.
I know many will find it silly to care about a little orphan bunny, but God gave him life and he allowed me to find him for a reason. I don’t know what that reason was yet, maybe it was just to remind me of compassion and how to be kind. Time will tell.
I faced a moral dilemma yesterday – and I have another one coming.
When I have time and the weather permits, I take my dogs for long walks on the mountain trails that ring Park City – we have two trailheads within a half of a mile on either side of our house. We go between 4 and 6 miles on our chosen routes – yesterday, we did 6 miles.
Three miles into the walk, we found a baby bunny in the middle of the trail. He had been trying to jump out of the trail depression for a while because he was so fatigued, he could barely jump. He is less than 10 days old because neither his eyes or ears were open and there was no way he should have been where he was unless something had gotten into his nest and the little ones had to scatter as best they could.
So, the first thing I did was search the brush on either side of the trail for his nest – no luck.
Now I have a decision to make. It’s about four o’clock and I have a severely stressed and fatigued, deaf and blind baby bunny in front of me. If I leave him, chances are he’s not going to make it through the night. He will either die of hypothermia (still getting under freezing at night here), starvation (he’s not old enough to have been weaned) or he will wind up as a tender little snack for a coyote or a hawk – or a more aggressive dog will run across him and make him a chew toy. If he makes it through the night, he might still die of dehydration or kidney failure (kits – baby rabbits are called kits – can’t pee or poop on their own until they are over 10 days old – their mom must lick their genitals to stimulate the urination/defecation reflex – people can do it with a warm, wet cotton ball).
If I bring him home, there is a better than a 50/50 chance he might die of stress…and since rabbit milk is massively loaded with caloric content, I have to find something to feed him.
Given that he had almost zero chance if I left him – I rolled him up in the tail of my shirt, snuggled him up to my chest and brought him home. Given where he was, a 50% chance is pretty good odds. I called a wildlife rescue center about an hour and a half drive from my house and they gave me some information and a caution that he probably wasn’t going to make it, no matter what I did.
Well, that pissed me off. I don’t like losing, especially when the odds are against me.
He made it through the night on a mixture of whole milk with a little heavy cream mixed in for a fat/calorie boost. He seems to be doing OK today – he better make it, I went to Petco and bought 30 bucks worth of special milk, timothy hay pellets (he can eat solid food soon) and a better dropper with which to feed him (last night, I jury rigged an unused ink reservoir for one of my fountain pens to feed him).
Now comes another dilemma, one that ties into my ideological philosophies.
If he makes it, and it looks as though his chances are improving, I have a choice to make. I can:
- Take him back now and he will likely die, or
- Completely protect him and care for him but he will have to live in a cage for the rest of his life – no freedom, or
- Feed and take care of him until after his eyes and ears open and he is strong enough to fend for himself – then let him go.
I decided that we will go with the last option. As a wild animal, I have no right to deny him his freedom. He’s not a pet and does deserve a chance to live the way God intended for him to live – free. I didn’t want to alter the process of nature, but I simply could not leave a defenseless animal to an almost certain death. I had the power to alter that fate, so I chose to do so. I want him to have a chance.
If I feel this way about a rabbit, you can imagine how I feel about people.