It had been 5 weeks since the rescue. The helpless baby had been pried from the mouth of a dog by my son. He had wrapped it in a blanket of grass, cuddled it into an empty planter and frantically driven home for advice.
We made calls to wildlife rehabilitators because we had been through this before and it had not ended well. Unfortunately, no one answered the phone so we did some quick research online and then drove to Petsmart. It was my day off of work and I was not expecting such drama. However, I knew how important this was to my son and I committed myself to the rescue efforts.
He attempted to feed the injured bunny with a rubber nipple and formula designed for orphaned kittens. Only a few sips were taken so when he wrapped the bunny in a dish towel and placed a space heater near the planter to keep the bunny warm for the night, I did not believe she would see the light of day.
Shockingly, the next morning the bunny was not in the trough! We searched every nook and cranny of my living/dining rooms and finally found her huddled in a corner under the sofa. Amazingly, the crucial 24 hours passed and extended into days and weeks. My living room showed signs of stray hay on the floor and milk stains on the coffee table. The game of hide-and-seek continued throughout the 5-week period as the bunny was slowly nourished back to health. The containment vessel became larger and deeper with more obstacles to prevent escape until we finally used a 40 gallon blue utility bin with a mesh screen over the top.
My son took his rehabilitation responsibilities seriously. Every morning before school he got up early to feed it carefully warmed formula. Gradually a few sips became 10ml at a time. He supplemented her diet with tender lettuce greens from our garden. It turned out she had a voracious appetite for those and the supply could not keep up with the demand.
As the bunny grew, she became more intent on escaping and foraging on her own. Finally, my son realized it was time to set her free. He knew he had done everything he could to prepare her for the real world. Now it was up to her to follow her instincts.
So that evening, we walked down the wooded path along the power lines and released her in an area where we frequently spotted other cottontails. As we watched her hop away, we felt a little regret; but mostly relief that she had made it this far and that all of our efforts had been a success.
I recognized the emotions my son was feeling all too well. I will feel the same way this fall when he leaves home to pursue his interests in college.I know he is looking forward to his freedom and his right to choose his own path. I have gotten him this far (high school graduation was a week ago); now it is up to him.