"Cottontail Rabbit" by Nan Palmero is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Feels So Good

Image credit: “Cottontail Rabbit” by Nan Palmero is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Husband and I set out on a walk with the pup Sunday night and found ourselves an adventure, just a few blocks from our door. A Cottontail rabbit sitting nearly motionless in the middle of the road had been hit by a car. We had two choices: keep walking and hope for the best, or do what we could to help it. For me, there was no decision at all.

I approached the rabbit to see if it would run off to safety. but when I got within 2 feet and it still didn’t move, I knew something was definitely wrong and it needed help. Just then a very nice fireman drove by and offered to help. He gave me a ride back to my house while Husband and pup guarded the rabbit.

Fireman and I got back to the house and I realized that Husband had the keys. So the fireman kindly drove me back to get the keys, and then back to my house again. A very kind and patient man, he was. He dropped me off, headed back to the bunny to help direct traffic around it, but was called away to a fire before I got back. Thanks to whoever that fireman was! At home I grabbed a towel and 5 gallon pail, drove back to the bunny and set about capturing it. Husband told me that while I was away another car had hit the rabbit. There was nothing he could do to stop them; they were going too fast (everyone always drives so freaking fast on that road! It’s a residential street, people. The limit is 30, not 50).

After he told me that I didn’t expect to have any trouble picking the rabbit up, but there was still a lot of fight left in him and he took off like a lightning bolt. A couple minutes later, however, I caught him, and placed him in the pail, gently cocooned by the towel, being careful to not cause him any more injury or stress. I took the bunny in the pail back to my car, opened the door… except the door was locked. Keys in the ignition. Engine running. Remember, this was the only set of keys we had with us. I hadn’t thought to grab my set while I was at the house. Stupid, stupid, stupid!

Luckily a friend of ours has a spare house key and was willing to interrupt his plans to help out. Husband walked with the pup back to the house and met our friend there while I stayed with the rabbit and the car. Husband grabbed my keys, hopped in his car and rescued both me and the bunny. We swapped keys and I drove off to Wildwoods, feeling stupid and useless for having forgotten the keys, not grabbing my set of keys when I had the chance, then locking Husband’s keys in my running car. Ugh.

I got to Wildwoods and the rabbit wasn’t moving. His eyes were half shut and his heart was going a million miles a minute. We put him half-under so he wouldn’t struggle, bite, or be in pain while we examined him, and while we found no broken bones there was blood coming out of his mouth. We were pretty sure this was internal bleeding and I really did not expect him to survive. We gave him pain medication, put him in a small pet carrier and placed him in a dark, quiet room to recover, if he could. He would be kept for observation and his condition re-evaluated in the morning. If the bleeding didn’t subside, he would be put down. I fully expected this to be the case.

However, this little guy was a fighter and a miracle. Somehow he survived through the night. The bleeding stopped—I think that rather than internal bleeding the bunny had bit himself or possibly broken his nose—and he was healthy enough for release! I couldn’t believe it when I showed up for my volunteer shift on Monday night and Farzad, a founder of Wildwoods, showed me this video he had taken of the rabbit being released:

He’s hesitant at first, but look at him go!

 

I was so thrilled to be a part of saving this rabbit, just ask my husband. When I got home after finding out the rabbit had survived, I was jumping for joy all night. I couldn’t contain my excitement. Our actions had directly saved this animal.

Or did they? As a volunteer wildlife rehabber I am always keeping an eye out for animals in danger, but is it because I want the glory, or because I want to help the animal? Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the purpose of wildlife rehab is to help the animal, not satisfy the needs or desires of the rehabber. We always have to ask, what’s best for the animal?

In re-evaluating my actions I have to wonder if I brought the rabbit in for its own good, or for mine. Would it have been better for me to leave the rabbit alone? If the bleeding from his mouth was indeed superficial, he needn’t have been captured and exposed to the stress of transportation, examination, and being in a strange place. If it’s not in danger, it’s always best to leave a wild animal alone. Given the information that I had at the time, though, I feel I made the right decision.

  1. It had been hit twice. Never a good thing. My husband heard the thud and saw it roll after being hit. It was reasonable to assume it had severe injuries that needed attention.
  2. I saw a wet streak on the pavement where it had been hit, and found a tuft of fur attached to some skin nearby.
  3. The rabbit was stunned and acting abnormal.
  4. Most importantly, I called Wildwoods before I brought it in and they agreed it should come in.

If we had just walked on by, leaving him in the middle of the road like he was, he would have been killed. At the very least we saved him from that. The risk of just chasing him off the road and leaving him was if he did have internal injuries or broken bones, he would have died a very slow and painful death. Providing a humane and pain-free end is itself a way of helping when there is no other option but suffering. I am beyond grateful that this was not the bunny’s fate, but that it instead was given a chance at a happy ending.

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