Adventures in Bunnysitting

As the owner of a good-sized, fenced backyard, I have seen my fair share of neighborhood wildlife. Without fail, we usually serve as landlords to at least one wild bunny hutch each summer. Prior to losing our 12-year-old golden retriever a couple years ago, we had the occasion to have a baby bunny [uninjured, but slobbery] delivered to our backdoor. Annie had a very soft mouth and a motherly demeanor–even for bunnies. Another summer, our small dog, Gibson, was not as diplomatic or careful–Annie did not speak to him for days. After that unfortunate incident, I have kept an eye on Gibson. Lily, our black lab, just turned 1 in August and it was her first summer for bunnies.

Prior to our adventure in bunnysitting, Lily had snagged a bunny from its nest, run through the yard with it at warp speed, and faced a stern talking to from my husband when he finally stopped her, grabbed her collar, and made her drop the bunny. He dragged the lab into the house and returned to scoop up what he presumed would be a deceased baby bunny. To his surprise, the previously squealing bunny was nowhere to be seen.

From the way the escaped bunny was described, it sounded as if he would be leaving the nest soon anyway and likely was a straggler in his group. But, he might have been the early bloomer.

Fast forward a bit and my husband tells me he is pretty sure we have a baby bunny spot not even fifteen feet from the door we use to enter our backyard and that the dogs also use. We were using eagle eyes on the dogs & keeping them from accessing the area while we were outdoors. Somehow, our inquisitive Lily the Lab caught the smell & shoved her nose directly into the bunny hutch! We were able to shoo her before anything happened, but once again, we needed to step up security.

My youngest, who is 13, took Lily out during the evening almost a month ago and almost immediately, I heard her screaming for me and beating on the sliding glass door. “Mom! Mom! Help me!! Lily has a baby bunny!” Oh, good grief! I dashed into the yard, the chase was on, and Lily had a definite advantage–she’s fast as lightning. But, numbers were on my side and before too long, my daughter and I had caught hold of her collar. She was persuaded to drop the bunny. When the poor little thing was plopped on the ground, I noticed it was moving. We rushed Lily to her kennel and I grabbed a soft towel. I wanted to assess the little guy and put him back in the nest–the best chance of his surviving.

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 6.31.35 PMOne of my softest kitchen towels is also one with a pretty wild pattern–the bunny was not injured or punctured in any way–just slobbery–although this towel would suggest otherwise. My daughter and I checked the little one over thoroughly. I noticed the bunny’s belly was full, so I hoped that meant Mama Bunny had already visited and we had some time to settle the little guy again.

My daughter exclaimed she had never SEEN a bunny so small and wanted to snap a couple pictures. I have seen bunnies at every life stage, but could completely understand her excitement. This little one certainly was adorable–the ears alone and the white blaze on the forehead get me every time!

When she snapped the second photo, she said, “Oh, Mom, look! The bunny is smiling!” It did Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 6.31.53 PMappear that way and I had hoped that we had tucked him into the nest as best as humanly possible.

I don’t have super gigantic hands either which just emphasizes the point that this little bunny was LITTLE.

This began a couple weeks of us taking the lab out on a leash EVERY time she had to go outside. This may not sound like that much of a big deal to those who live in the city and walk their dogs to do their business every single time.  Our lab loves to RUN and play fetch and spend some quality time nosing around the yard without being hindered by a leash. We played a ton of fetch inside, took lots of walks, and counted down days for the bunny to grow.

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 6.33.14 PMI tried not to peek in the bunny’s nest very often, but it was hard. In the days following the incident, it appeared that the grass, leaves and such covering the hole had been expertly packed. I worried a little less. Then, after taking Lily out four days after the scare, I had glanced toward the hutch and saw movement. I went to look and saw a bunny who was old enough to have opened eyes! Phew!

We could then feel confident that Mom was still on Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 6.35.47 PMboard with bunny care and we rested a little more easily. I did a ton of research on wild rabbits and learned lots of facts that
filled in my knowledge gaps. I happened to catch Mom visiting two nights after seeing that baby had lived and many nights when my husband left for work, he would send us a text with the bunny emoji which meant he had seen Mom in our yard or nearby.

Because Gibson is so much older since his last bunny incident and rarely, if ever, ventured into the area where the bunny nest was, we became a little complacent and began letting him into the backyard rather than the front yard. I happened to catch him tearing around the side of the house and through the flower bed and just saw a flash of brown. My mind quickly connected the dots and I realized he was chasing the bunny! I called him off, he came running and I went to see where the bunny might be.

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 6.23.58 PMThe bunny was lying low in the ivy and it took me a bit to even realize where he was–right in front of me! I realized then this bunny was learning some yard smarts and while we were keeping him safe from the unpleasantness of being run around the yard in a labrador’s mouth, we were not keeping him from using his instincts to evade capture or avoid humans. Good job!

Time passes and bunnies grow FAST. My youngest and I went to Michigan for a long weekend at the end of August. We figured that the bunny would be packing up to move out or already gone by the time we arrived home. I wondered how big he had grown or whether we might see him again.

As if to answer my co-parenting worries, it seems he made one final appearance to appease me. Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 6.23.07 PMThanks for the memories–you’re a big bunny now!

Maybe this bunny is actually a girl and she will come back and visit when it’s time to have a family of her own…I’m sure Lily will be thrilled.

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