We recently had a visit in our home, sort of, from a little rabbit of about teenage status. He came in through the dryer vent. My husband heard him late one evening when he went downstairs to turn out the lights before bed. The trapped animal was crying and scratching to get out of the exhaust tube he’d fallen into. Wisely, my husband didn’t tell me about the dilemma in our basement until the next morning when he set about calling a specialist in wild life retrieval to come and get the creature out of the tube. At the time we didn’t know what it was although suspected it to be a chipmunk, which are abundant in our yard. Years ago, one had slid down that same exhaust tubing.
The wild life retrieval specialist came and disconnected the tubing from the dryer and from the outside venting structure and caught the little rabbit in his gloved hands as it slid out. He told me he’d rescued lots of animals from dryer vents but never a rabbit. With great care, he carried the little rabbit outside and told me to get it some water, which he waited for—such kindness—before setting it down. I took a good look at the rabbit and recognized it as the one that had come up to our front door and looked inside just a few days before. My husband and I both met him then, face to face for a good half minute or so, and we thought how unusual to have such a close up meeting with a little rabbit, and then he hopped away. Now here he was again but not in a good way. He was trembling. He barely moved. After the retrieval specialist left, I went back in to work, but walked back out to check on the little rabbit every 5 minutes or so. After just a short while, though, it was apparent he was doing very poorly and so I put him in a shoe box, along with some grass and water, and covered it with a screen to keep flies away.
I texted my daughter-in-law who texted her sister, who frequently rescues all kinds of animals from all kinds of situations, and she suggested putting a heating pad under the shoe box. I microwaved a rice heat pack and put it alongside the box on the side where the rabbit was standing, and then went online and started putting in search terms to find someone or something that could help this little guy. Let’s call it divine intervention. It took only a few minutes before I pulled up a spreadsheet of names of “Permitted Wildlife Rehabilitators in Minnesota.” This list cataloged who to call for ducks and squirrels and even bears. Yes, rabbits too. Regular people who do this as volunteers. I picked a name from my county and called, leaving a message.
About an hour later, a woman called back, her voice full of kindness, full of concern, and since she lived only about 10 minutes from me, came right over to pick up the little rabbit. When she got there, she picked the rabbit up in her bare hands—such gentleness—and turned him over to examine from all directions. He was injured and infected in ways I hadn’t been able to see, and she figured that he had probably tried to hide inside the tubing because he was ill. She would take him home and see what she could do to nurse him back to health. I said to her that given how many rabbits are in all of our yards, and how so many people try to keep the rabbits out of their gardens and so forth, that it was remarkable that she would go to such lengths to help a little rabbit live. She said, “But he’s here and he needs help.”
The next week I emailed her to see how the rabbit was doing. She wrote me back that she had given him a number of therapies, including injectable fluids, pain meds, and antibiotics, but that he had died the next day. She wrote how at least he had died without pain and in a warm and safe environment. I read her email with a huge lump in my throat, which is back now as I write this post. It’s not only that I came to care for that little rabbit, but it’s also, to a huge degree, that I’m overwhelmed that this woman was there with such love and care and that she is there for more creatures than this little rabbit guy and that there are more amazing people like this all over, under the radar. With all the emphasis placed these days on vocation, all the talk about how we need to carefully follow our calls, all the assessments so many of us make about what will bring us money, first author status, top billing, on and on, the image of this woman carefully examining this little rabbit and carrying him to her car is going to stay with me a long time.
[Photo: taken of a boardwalk at a nearby place of beauty]