I was wrong.
I came back 4 hours later and he had seemingly disappeared. I thought maybe the neighbor had gotten peckish and eaten him, or maybe a Pentecostal rabbit preacher had come by and lain paws on him in the name of Rabbit Jeeeeezus.
Reality wasn't quite so whimsical, though. After a little investigating, I found that he had actually used the last of his strength to drag himself over to the dirt where he was resolved to die. Flies were circling his head and making him cringe with each aggressive peck. I wasn't sure why he was out here. This was a concrete alleyway with no plant life, after all, so the little guy was far away from mama rabbit, and now he was going to die in the hot, summer sun, being picked at by flies.
The wife and I just couldn't stand by and let that happen, so we wrapped him up in a towel and brought him inside. We then consulted Lord Google, where we learned a ton about baby rabbits.
Like... he was actually a she.
We learned that she was about 10 days old, and wasn't very far away from being able to live out on her own, but because her eyes were still closed and she was still on her mother's milk, she had left her nest (for whatever reason) way too early*, almost completely ensuring her doom.
*Meanwhile, I know 30 year old men that still haven't left their mother's "nest"
And speaking of doom, we also learned that wild rabbits, when taken in, have only a 10% chance of survival. Really, just 10%. Because everything will kill them. Everything. It might actually be easier to just give you a list of what won't kill them.
For starters, you have to give them the right food. It's not just as simple as grabbing some lettuce out of the fridge and hoping for the best, because if they don't get exactly the right type of nutrition, a rabbit's stomach will collapse in on itself like some kind of digestive black hole.
But here's the thing; even if you do feed them the correct food, you have to be careful how much you give them. Because if you give them too much, then they'll get what's called 'bloat', which is apparently the medical term for 'stomach-go-boom.'
They can also die of dehydration. They can die from getting diarrhea, and not to be outdone, they can die from constipation. Oh, and don't dare give one a bath, because the sudden spray of water can induce a heart attack which will kill them instantly.
In fact, even stress will kill them. Stress. This, while they're already in a very stressful situation. So let that sink in.
What I'm saying is: you can literally sneeze on a baby rabbit and kill it.
And so I pretty much knew we were fighting an uphill battle. I knew that for all of the hours I spent nursing this little thing back to health, that there was a 90% chance she'd die anyway. But I still did it, because I know if I had to die, I'd rather go in a hospital being cared for than left out in the street to suffer.
I was told by a few people that this was silly. Stupid, even. If she was going to die anyway, why not just let her die outside instead of prolonging the inevitable?
But frankly, I think that's bullshit. I mean, we don't do that with people, do we?
Even if she was just a stupid little wild rabbit, we wanted to give her a chance at life. 10% was still something.
So with the odds against us, we bought kitten milk replacement and a bottle. Fed her. Tended to her. Named her. When we found her (and thought she was a boy), she had a grungy beard, she was crawling in the dirt, and we felt that despite all of that she would end up being a survivor in a cruel world, so we called her Rick Grimes. Then we found out she was a girl, so that became shortened to Grimes.
We bathed her the best we could by gently dabbing her with a wet cotton ball.
We prepared kitten milk replacement and fed her from a ridiculously sized baby bottle twice a day, between giving her fresh grass to help her stomach digest.
And then something amazing happened. She opened her eyes. She stopped crawling around like a dying frog and started hopping. She started getting a little plump.
She started jumping around so much, she hopped up my wife's shoulder and into her hair... which she then tried to chew like purple grass.
She got better.
And so we did have to end up saying goodbye to little Grimes, but not by burying her in an Altoids tin coffin or giving her a 21 flush salute. No, two days ago we released her in a nice wooded area, lush with greenery, not overly populated with rabbits, and not known to house foxes or coyotes. Now, I know that she could have been out there for a grand total of 10 minutes before getting swooped up and eaten by my buddy the hawk... but she also might not have.
At least she got a chance at life. And whether that chance is 10% or 100, that's what it's all about. Because in the end, I'd rather have failed knowing at least I tried than let someone - be they human, pet, wild animal - die in unnecessary agony.
Anyone else have any good animal rescue stories?
Cheers and stay classy, friends,
Bryan (and Brandon)
PS: If you're wondering why we aren't answering questions (and where the hell Brandon is) my cohort's just coming home from a lovely honeymoon with his wife. Answers will resume next week, and all disgustingly cute pictures of baby bunnies will cease in favor of regularly scheduled shenanigans.