Red Ribbon Blues

This afternoon as my husband and I pulled in the driveway coming home from our congregation meeting, he points to something sticking from under the wood fence gate, and says, “Look!” To my dismay, a reddish paw is sticking out. “Somebody got out,” I replied. After getting out of the car and approaching the non-moving foot, I tickle its toes and pad, and it did not move. “Whoever it is, they’re dead,” I sighed sadly. I had hoped maybe an orange colored neighborhood cat had come behind the fence to expire, but not so. We went to the front door to go in the house and I anxiously cataloged who it could be. Rosebud? She’s clever and has escaped before. Cinderella? Not likely, since her cage is high up. Hammer? He’s not the intrepid type. 

Both of us went to the back door to see who the unfortunate was. Scanning the back cages, I see that Cinderella, Rosebud, and Hammer are all accounted for. That just leaves the youngsters in the Rabbitude. We rounded the corner towards the fence gate and I see that the door to one of the youngster’s cage is open. Then we see the poor buckling on the ground, alive, but worse for wear, bleeding at both knees. It’s apparent he has broken his back at some point.

I scoop him up gently, dodging the feces and urine raining uncontrollably from his behind. I put him back in his cage where he cuddles up to his brother on the other side of the wire divider. He cannot control his back legs for certain. He takes a small drink from the waterer and stretches out. The third eyelid is bulging, so I know he is in pain and fear. “Hang with your brother until I get changed,” I tell him. A broken back means he will be euthanized, there is no other option. It is a waste of a fine young buck who took 2nd place at a recent show and who I was hoping to sell. Right now, it’s my job to make him as comfortable as he can be until the end.

I change out of dress clothes and into civvies, then go to the garage to fetch a shovel. I pick a nice spot in the yard and dig a hole big enough to receive the incoming body. When that is done, I check on the other rabbits. Another cage door is open! Thankfully Trooper is smart, and is tucked the corner of his cage. We live in the city, in a neighborhood where there are those who have trouble keeping their hands out and off of other folk’s things. It would not be the first time someone has messed with the rabbits, but it would a first since the gate is padlocked. I check the perimeter for human entry but I don’t see anything obvious. I look about the yard some more and I see evidence that the buckling had visited the other rabbits, that he’d eaten in my garden, had left poop calling cards in critical spots. Perhaps the buckling survived the drop to the ground, went visiting, and was spooked later on by something else which caused his injury. Maybe someone was in the backyard “visiting” the rabbits, and made a bad grab for the buckling? Maybe cages didn’t get fully closed when we removed ice bottles the other day? Maybe he broke his back during happy hijinks–it has happened before. Maybe today was just a day when a bad thing happened.

I returned to the buckling’s cage, gently removed him, performed the euthanization, and laid him to rest in his freshly dug grave. He is buried by three littermate siblings who didn’t survive being born, and another sibling in a prior litter who was killed by a rat. He rests in good company and now his story will be added to theirs in that little graveyard, but the red ribbon will always be his.