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- Small Mammals
How a Stray Rabbit was Rescued after Months on the Streets
I was often driving about all over the country
After first passing my driving test, at the age of just 17, there was no stopping me.
I could often be found driving all over the country, going to see live bands with my friends, loving my new-found freedom.
I was lucky in that my dad was very easy-going and didn't mind my borrowing his car, an old Morris Marina, as long as I put the petrol in and it was home in time for him to drive to work.
I had been to Blackburn, England, to visit friends on the night in question and reluctantly started the 40-minute drive home on the Sunday night, after midnight, as I had work the following morning.
I was about 19 by this time and it was my first job as a junior reporter with a local newspaper. I still lived at home with my parents and a house full of animals.
A small black shape darted in front of my car
As I drove through the outskirts of Blackburn, an urban area, thinking I was rather late and should have left earlier, I was shocked when a small, black shape appeared out of the darkness, narrowly missing running under the wheels of my car.
I did an emergency stop and saw a little rabbit, captured in the glare of my headlights, in the middle of the road.
I sat for a couple of seconds, heart pounding at the ferocity of the braking and subsequent stop, but relieved I hadn't hit this little creature.
It appeared shocked and dazzled by my headlights. I was shaking like a leaf.
First thought was to catch the rabbit
As soon as I had calmed down a little, I knew I had to try to capture the rabbit. There was obviously something wrong in that he was out running through the streets at 1am and it was lucky he hadn't been knocked down and killed.
I pulled the car over to the side of the road - a built-up, busy street with houses on either side and some kind of industrial premises a little further down - and began to walk towards the rabbit, who was sitting at the side of the road by this time, looking a little dazed.
At first, I thought it would be an easy job to capture him, as he didn't move.
However, as soon as I was within about 20 yards, talking quietly to him, he suddenly bolted into a garden.
Catching the rabbit proved more difficult than anticipated
Not one to give up easily where an animal's welfare is concerned, I followed him, although he was hard to see in the darkness, due to his being jet black.
I managed to spot him again and continued my pursuit, but the pattern of my getting closer and then the rabbit running off continued for some time.
With hindsight, I imagine he was terrified of me! In my youth, I had a shock of white-blonde hair and dressed all in black (I haven't actually changed much to this day, thinking about it!) but I guess I must have looked pretty scary looming out of the darkness.
Our game of cat and mouse continued for about two hours, with the rabbit leading me a merry dance around gardens and up side streets, until I realised it was almost 3am.
Success eventually - after I injured my knees
Still determined not to give up, I continued my pursuit, until finally I struck lucky when the rabbit wandered through a gate into the concrete yard of industrial business premises.
There was only one entrance/exit and I was blocking it, so I was sure I'd grab him this time. As I spotted him hopping about, I stepped forward, but it was pretty dark and next minute, I fell over a low 2ft brick wall and landed flat on my face!
I ripped my trousers on both legs and my knees were cut and bleeding, with bits of gravel and dirt stuck on them! However, with dogged determination, I grabbed the rabbit, who was within touching distance. He didn't put up much of a fight and I carried him up the road to my car and sat him on my knee.
Rabbit was quiet all the way home
As I again embarked on the 40-minute journey with my new companion, he remained sitting on my knee all the way and apart from twitching his nose, he never moved or made a sound.
I hadn't actually thought about what I would do when I arrived home with him. I had my own rabbit, Snowball, a mature, male rabbit, who would not take kindly to another male.
I also had my dog, Susie, who was okay with Snowball, but she had known him since she was a puppy. So I was unsure how she would react too.
In addition, I had guinea pigs and hamsters, so every corner of the house was full with an animal of some kind.
Stray rabbit ended up in the bathroom for the night
In fact, when I arrived home, Susie was waiting for me halfway up the staircase. She wouldn't go to bed till I arrived back safely. She was like my little mum waiting up for me!
She was rather too interested when she saw the black rabbit and was jumping up and sniffing him, spooking him. I realised I wasn't going to be able to leave him in my bedroom due to Susie's behavior. It wasn't her fault - she was just curious.
I decided I would have to shut him in the only room where he would be safe and contained - the bathroom. I found a cardboard box and grabbed a lot of hay and rabbit food, plus some lettuce, carrots and any other fresh veg we had in the fridge. I also found an old water bowl belonging to my dog, so gave the rabbit a makeshift home in the bathroom.
He ate to his heart's content, as if he hadn't eaten in a long time, then he started snuggling down in the hay to go to sleep.
Finally, I collapsed into bed at about 4am.
Mum shocked to find a rabbit in the bathroom
Perhaps I should have left a note on the bathroom door for my long-suffering mum, but I had been too tired.
As I got up for work the next morning, feeling drowsy and fuzzy-headed due to lack of sleep, I heard a squeal from the bathroom.
Then my mum came thundering into my bedroom squeaking, "Why is there a rabbit hopping round the bathroom?"
After explaining what had happened, I knew mum didn't really mind. My parents were wonderful like that and quite used to my "collecting" various waifs and strays and bringing them home.
Rabbit's coat was tatty and matted
In daylight, I could see that the black rabbit's coat was very matted, as if he had been on the streets for weeks, or maybe months. He was continually hungry and had munched his way through all the food I'd left for him the night before, so I gave him a lot more.
I brushed out as much of the knotted fur as I could and he seemed quite tame, although nervous, which wasn't surprising.
My dog Susie remained unimpressed by the new addition to the household and growled outside the bathroom door.
Mum, dad and I were all working full-time in those days, so my grandma - who was elderly and had arthritic knees by this time, so wasn't too good on her feet - was left as chief rabbit-carer for the day.
To my sorrow I had to re-home the rabbit
Unfortunately, it soon became apparent I would have to re-home the rabbit.
I had put an advert in the local Blackburn newspaper describing where I had found him and listing my telephone number. My friend, who lived in Blackburn, had also placed adverts in local shop windows saying a rabbit had been found. But nobody ever came forward to claim him, which was sad in itself.
Today, with my own house and used to looking after a wide variety of animals, it would have been a different story. But in my teens, living with my family and out all day at work, in another town, I realised my elderly grandma couldn't cope.
My rabbit Snowball would not accept another male rabbit and my dog Susie would just worry him and growl - plus living in the bathroom wasn't ideal, as grandma daren't go in there while on her own in case he escaped or she fell over him.
Determined he would go to a good home
In those days, it was before widespread internet use, so I had a very long task in going through the Yellow Pages phone directory looking for a local animal rescue. I would not have taken him anywhere which had a policy of euthanising animals if they were not re-homed.
Eventually, I found a wonderful rabbit, guinea pig and small mammal sanctuary, which was about 45 minutes' drive from Lancaster, where I worked. They gave any animals that weren't adopted a permanent, lovely home.
I spoke to the owner at some length on the phone and she said they would be happy to take in my little lost rabbit.
Rabbit came to work with me!
I don't know if businesses were more easy-going in those days, or if I was just very lucky, but my employer allowed me to take the rabbit into work with me on the day he was going to the sanctuary.
I was also permitted to take an extra-long lunch break to enable me to drive to the rural animal shelter. I was only supposed to have one hour's lunch but my boss agreed to let me take two hours.
So all morning, the little bunny was sitting in his box of hay, munching carrots, next to the filing cabinets, or hopping around to stretch his legs!
All the girls in the office loved him and kept coming in to see him. Nobody minded his being there.
Rabbit seemed to like his new happy home
When lunchtime came, I was very upset to be saying goodbye to my new pal, although I knew he was going to live a better life than the one I could offer him at the time.
We drove to the animal rescue shelter and he sat on my knee in the car, as he had the night I had first found him.
The moment we arrived, I knew I had made the right choice. It was a fabulous animal sanctuary in the countryside and the staff welcomed me and the little black rabbit with open arms.
His new home was a massive outdoor run which was as big as a medium-size garden and already had some furry residents - guinea pigs - all of whom looked happy and in good health.
There were tunnels, logs, nesting areas and a variety of toys, treats and piles of food to keep even the most discerning small animal happy!
After an initial vet check, when the rabbit's rather patchy coat was noted (and diagnosed as being due only to poor diet while he was on the streets) he was released into the pen with the guinea pigs. It was a beautiful, sunny day and to be honest, he hopped off without even a backward glance at me!
Although sad to see him go, I knew he was going to have a wonderful life, as if he wasn't rehomed, the sanctuary would look after him for the rest of his life.
Always help an animal in need
This is just one of many experiences I have had of picking up lost and abandoned animals and either returning them to their owner, rescuing them myself, or ensuring they go to a new, loving home.
I would like to say to everyone never just drive past a domestic animal who looks lost, injured or otherwise in distress on the street, because if everyone looked the other way, it could lead to the loss of the animal's life.
It takes such a short time to stop and make sure everything is okay that it is a small price to pay, in terms of your time, to potentially save a life, or reunite a missing pet with its family.
Every living creature deserves a chance at life and if everyone remembered that, then the world would be a much better place.