The lucky bunny

Monty the cat takes on a baby bunny and loses.

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Contents - WORDS TRISHA FISK

It was May, but still sum­mer. The weather was clear, warm, sunny days, crisp and cool at night. The po­plar trees down the drive had turned a gold that glowed in the morn­ings and the leaves were just be­gin­ning to flut­ter down, but from the dry rather than the cold. The only sign of any sort of pre­cip­i­ta­tion in the last month was the morn­ing mist that drifted up the har­bour, lit­tle tufts of clouds that hung over the wa­ter un­til the sun was hot enough to burn them off. It was a beau­ti­ful sea­son. Feed was a bit short on the farms, but the cock­ies weren’t com­plain­ing. They knew win­ter was just around the cor­ner and the wet would come all too soon. This spell of good days gave ev­ery­one the chance to catch up on all the jobs that needed do­ing be­fore the rain set in. The dig­ger con­trac­tors were busy. The fer­tiliser guys were booked out. Any con­trac­tors with vir­tu­ally any sort of ma­chin­ery were fenc­ing, clean­ing out drains, putting in dams, or mow­ing and top­ping.

For­tu­nately for the Vet, things were not as busy. The preg­nancy test­ing sea­son was mostly be­hind him. Only a few of the bigger farms had au­tumn calv­ing mobs, and the good weather meant there had been few prob­lems.

A cou­ple of calves hadn’t lined up right to leap into the world. One was just a front foot back and the Vet ad­mit­ted he’d had to writhe and groan a bit to make it look like he was earn­ing his fee for that one. But in fact it was lit­er­ally just a flick to bring the leg for­ward and the calf slith­ered out in sec­onds.

There was another case of tail pre­sen­ta­tion, which had not been so easy. By the time the farmer no­ticed any­thing amiss, the calf had gone rot­ten and the cow was pretty seedy. It was a stink­ing aw­ful job to cut the calf up in­side the cow and bring it out bit by bit. Even once it was out it would be touch and go and a lot of an­tibi­otics be­fore the

It’s not its fault it was born a bunny... it’s just a fright­ened lit­tle baby.

cow could hope to re­cover.

It re­quired a big shift in men­tal gears to as­sist Jan Freemont when she pre­sented a small box with holes in the lid and put it qui­etly on the ex­am­i­na­tion ta­ble.

“And what ap­pears to be the trouble with your box to­day?” the Vet asked jovially. “I see quite a few punc­ture wounds.”

“Air holes.” She an­swered. “It’s a bunny. The cat was bat­ting it around down­stairs. Not get­ting much fun out of it. But I heard it squeal­ing at one point and man­aged to grab it be­fore Monty ran off with it. He knows I don’t ap­prove of him bring­ing his catches home. They are usu­ally just heads by the time I find them.” “A wild rab­bit?” “Yeah,” Jan looked un­com­fort­able. “Yeah, I know they are a damn nui­sance. And I know it will prob­a­bly raid my let­tuces. But heck… it’s not its fault it was born a bunny. It’s just a fright­ened lit­tle baby.”

“Well, I guess rab­bits don’t re­ally get out of con­trol up here,” the Vet rea­soned. “The win­ters are just too wet for them.”

“Yes. I think the good weather this year meant Mum and Dad rab­bit had time for another brood. I fig­ure the wet will bring the pop­u­la­tion back into line in a month or two. Mean­time, this lit­tle thing is just hurt and very freaked out.”

Jan had packed the bunny in the dark box with a hot wa­ter bot­tle. The Vet care­fully picked it out. The rab­bit froze in his hands. It was barely a hand­ful of soft brown fur, with big black eyes and long soft ears.

“There is just a bit of blood on the hindquar­ters, might be a bite wound from the cat,” he said. “It’s not too bad, but usu­ally they die from shock. How long ago did you find him?”

“It was two nights ago now. I gave him a few drops of res­cue rem­edy the first night. Then I put him in the box, I didn’t re­ally ex­pect him to sur­vive. I just left him in the dark and quiet in the hot wa­ter cup­board to keep him warm. I put a bit of let­tuce and car­rot in with him. He might have had a bit of a nib­ble. When he was still go­ing the next day, I thought I had bet­ter let you look at the leg.”

“Res­cue rem­edy. Hmmm, well, who knows,” the Vet de­murred. “Well, if it made it through the first 24 hours, it cer­tainly has a good chance now.”

The baby rab­bit was about 100mm long, which meant it was maybe three to four weeks old.

“He is prob­a­bly weaned now,” the Vet ex­plained. “So you don’t have to worry about milk re­placer, though I be­lieve goat milk is the best. But you can just try him on a bit of clover and rab­bit pel­lets, let­tuce, car­rots, all that stuff you read about from Beatrix Pot­ter.

“But re­ally,” he looked sternly at Jan over the top of his glasses. “It’s not a good idea to try to keep feral rab­bits in cap­tiv­ity.”

“Oh I know that, I just want him to get big enough and smart enough to stay clear of Monty or the hawks. I prom­ise I won’t han­dle him any more than nec­es­sary. And I will let him go be­fore he gets too tame.”

“You are a lucky one, Peter Rab­bit,” the Vet ad­dressed the bun­dle of fluff. “I won’t worry about pain re­lief for him, it’s a bit late for that. The wound is more of a punc­ture than tear. An­tibi­otics should stop any in­fec­tion. If he has any fu­ture it will be up to your feed­ing.”

“Oh, and I was just won­der­ing, any chance of telling what sex he is,” Jan asked. “I just sort of as­sumed… but is it a boy?” “I haven’t tried sex­ing rab­bits since vet school, but I know the the­ory: hold bunny on its back, hold the tail out and press un­der the pri­vates with your thumb. See what pops out. It it’s a lit­tle mound with a slit then it is a girl, a po­ten­tial baby rab­bit ma­chine. If it’s a spout like a teapot then it’s a boy.”

He placed his thumb on the ap­pro­pri­ate place. Pressed and looked. Girl.

“Flopsy. Mopsy. Your choice.” n

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