By Suzanne Fuller
Peter appeared on Sunday, December 2, 200l, in the middle of a road, barely moving and hemorrhaging through the nose. A passing motorist, George, spotted him and pulled off to the side of the road. This Good Samaritan picked up Peter in a jacket and took him home. George then called the Wildlife Rescue League Hot Line and was given my number.
His call was not especially welcome. The past year I had wanted to specialize in raccoons and squirrels. In addition to working full time, I had been through the process of moving my household. Taking on a lot of different species was out of the question. However, George sounded desperate and caught me in a weak moment. He and Peter arrived shortly and, thus, I had a rabbit on my hands that had lost a large amount of blood, had a broken bone in its front leg, and seemed about to expire.
For the next ten days, twice a day, Peter was given Bactrim and Flagel plus calcium for the broken bone. His medications were given orally while his head was covered by a towel with only his cute nose and mouth protruding. Rabbits react badly to having medication forced into their mouths unless they like the taste. The little lips start smacking immediately if the taste is good. If bad, the mouth is literally locked down and you have to work a syringe in at the side of the mouth. It is also difficult to see them swallow.
In the beginning, he would only eat mush but when I started giving him baby food fruit, his little nose would start twitching and he began to look forward to my putting the dish in his cage. He would even start eating in front of me, which is highly unusual because rabbits are so nervous and timid. In fact, they can literally die of shock in a heartbeat. Their surroundings need to be quiet and dark with as few disturbances as possible. Because they are such beautiful animals, the rehabilitator has to suppress the instinct to pet and cuddle them. The less contact, the better the survival rate.
Peter liked apples, sweet potatoes with apples, strawberry banana, plain banana, plums, garden vegetables and green beans. These were always eaten before raw greens, timothy hay, alpha, and rabbit chow.
Every day his cage had to be cleaned. I would slowly and gently roll up the newspaper so as not to startle him and put in fresh newspaper just as carefully. One day I had a revelation. I could recycle his waste on my flowerbed. Since he was eating seven or eight different fresh greens, the result should be awesome blooms this spring!
I kept Peter nearly two months, and he was the best-fed rabbit in Fairfax County. George called several times to check on his progress. It was reassuring to be reminded that there are caring people in the County because we rehabbers often have to deal with the other type.
When a week of warm weather came, it was time for Peter to be free again. We went to a secret place where I put greens and rabbit chow on the ground and opened his carrier. He slowly came out and stayed for a short time to pose for pictures and bid farewell.
I cannot express how rewarding it is to return a healthy animal to the wild even though it is heartbreaking to say goodbye.
A special thank you to George for bringing me such a beautiful animal.