Bunnies at the Gate

One of the two visitors.

Weighing at least sixty pounds, our one-year-old dog Roxy is an awesome and beautiful creature. She can charm by simultaneously resting her haunches on the back seat of the pickup, her two enormous feet on the front console and her head on your shoulder while you drive, there to leave bits of drool to remind you of her affection.

But she can do a scary guard dog routine too, crouching, growling and baring her formidable teeth if she doesn’t recognize or like visitors outside the main gate. If I were asked about Roxy’s mixed-up pedigree I’d venture equal parts Doberman, Rottweiler and honey.

The clumsy hunter at rest. 

This time of the year, when it’s rainy and cool, the ranch turns Irish-green, looking almost subtropical except for the cacti poking their thorny heads above the vegetation. It’s also time for wild animals to go into reproductive overdrive and for the dogs to start chasing, killing and sometimes eating the younger and more defenseless ones.

We’re convinced that Gladys, our Dowager Mutt, undermines our attempts to put her on a diet by catching and eating her own appetizers outside, mostly rabbits. In fact, the less we’ve fed her the more rotund she’s become, gradually turning into a four-legged watermelon.

Roxy catches stuff but not much. She doesn’t trot, gallop or in any way move discreetly or elegantly, like a greyhound or a jaguar. She leaps and galumphs instead, her huge legs not quite synchronized with the rest of her powerful body. Stealth is not part of her hunting style.

And when she catches a rabbit or a mouse she doesn’t kill or dismember it but instead deposits the prey on her cushion on the garage floor for further nose-to-nose observation, showing a surprisingly delicate touch as if she were dealing with one of her own puppies. Sure, some of the animals she catches die but I’m convinced it’s mostly from fright. Imagine yourself staring up close at the face of a rhino that just snared you with the tip of its horn, no matter how gently. I predict a quick, two-step demise for you consisting of soiled underwear followed by a massive heart attack.

The doctor at work.

Two days ago Roxy brought us two tiny bunnies, their eyes still shut. Stew found her on her cushion staring curiously at one tiny rabbit. As soon as Stew removed the critter, I found Roxy on the driveway with another bunny, probably from the same litter, giving it the identical here’s-looking-at-you treatment.

So we’ve inherited two baby bunnies that we are trying to nurse. For that we called on Félix, who must have genetic bits of Dr. Doolittle and Francis of Assisi running in his blood. I’m convinced he can communicate with animals. While we unsuccessfully tried to feed Cat Sip, a special kind of kitten milk recommended on the Internet for baby rabbits, Félix calmly took over and nursed both of them as if he had been doing it all his life.  Maybe that’s what being born and raised in a farm does for you. He warned us that one of the babies had been injured on its shoulder and didn’t look as lively as the other. Indeed, the weaker one died this morning.

Meanwhile, Félix has retrofitted a cat carrier with layers of dirt, dry straw and shredded toilet paper to serve as a new nest for the survivor. This tiny bunny is in good hands right now though given the realities of life in the wild, the future doesn’t look so bright.


Sad news update: After three or four days of nursing and intensive care, both of the baby bunnies died. In truth, it’s always a very long shot to try to rescue wild animals that small. It was a valiant try on the part of Félix though, who seem pretty upset about it—particularly for a guy raised in the country where critters are born, live and die in front of you all the time

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