August 21, 2013: Miss Bunny Blueberry

~by Susi Pittman

It was a beautiful and sunny Thursday morning on Saint Augustine Beach, and I had the garden hose out on the back porch of our condo, watering some of my potted plants. In the peripheral vision of my left eye, I caught what I thought was a snake, and I heard a sharp peeping sound. Turning quickly, I saw a large five-to-six-foot tan Coach-whip snake carrying a new baby bunny in its jaws, whipping through the high grass and heading right at me.

I took what I had, the garden hose, and I hit the snake’s neck with the nozzle, causing the snake to drop the little rabbit into the tall grass at my feet. Both the snake and I went for the rabbit at the same time, and I got it! I dashed back to the patio, leaving the brazen snake to search again and again where the bunny had landed.

God smiled on that little bunny. She was no bigger than my thumb, with eyes shut tight and soft, tiny ears. I could see the alignment of heaven in the precise moment and the unusual way that the bunny had been saved. Just a harrowing split-second decision by me had rescued that little bunny, and I knew it wasn’t by chance.

Bunny Blueberry–her new name–was a wild marsh rabbit, a very small brown rabbit indigenous to the beaches and marshes of north Florida. I had an obligation to try and help this little rabbit first to live, and then to return to its natural environment to live out its life.

I contacted a local wildlife rescue group for further help, thinking that maybe they had someone in place who could take the bunny. That was not to be the case, so, I asked if they could advise me on trying to care for the rabbit myself. They gave me instructions prefaced with the words, “It is highly unusual that these infant rabbits to survive two weeks. But, if it does, call us back, and we will help you further.”

Well sir, this little girl made it the two weeks. So we got the advanced course on raising her further from the rescue group. She would need to make it another two to three months before we could release her back into the wild.

As Bunny grew, it was evident that something was wrong with her hind legs. They seemed to be dragging to one side, and she would start to roll over after several hops. This was not good. It appeared that the snake might have pinched the nerves to one of her hind legs while he was carrying her, and now the possibility was surfacing that she would be a bunny with a disability.

Two months, then three months came and went, and my family and I decided we would just keep Bunny Blueberry. Our cat had already adopted her, and our dog was her biggest fan and guardian, so it was just meant to be. Bunny had us and we would be her family—and we were for over five years. My husband said that the stock on a “national organic lettuce” company went way up after Bunny’s arrival–not to mention how much she loved blueberries, thus earning her distinct title.

Bunny never could hop right. She learned to overcome her disability by hopping more on one hind leg, but if she tried to hop quickly, she would end up rolling over. Her leg never cooperated, and eventually it got to the point that it never moved.

Bunny let us know when it was her time to leave us. December 12, 1998, I noticed she was becoming lethargic and wouldn’t eat. We went into preparation mode, which always requires prayer. I don’t think I could make it without my prayer life, especially in dealing with death. As it was, Bunny made a miraculous recovery overnight and was her old self the next day.

Then December 27th arrived, and it was a different story. Bunny had been struggling more and more with eating and even breathing. It was getting close. That morning, her eyes said it was time.

I took her around to the other animals to allow them to sniff her and, in their own unique way, to say goodbye, and I shared in Bunny’s last moments with them. Then we blessed Bunny with holy water, prayed the prayer we called “The Reception Prayer” to Jesus, and my family and I petted her and loved her with kisses. Then I drove to my vet’s office, having called ahead to make arrangements, and I prepared to be at her side for the moment of death.

Our vet is so compassionate; he handled her little body with such tenderness as she lay there, weak and dying. The injection was given, and Bunny Blueberry left peacefully. Our Vet left me alone with Bunny for a little while so that I could make my final goodbye.

He returned eight or so minutes later to check her heart and to be sure that all was final. As he moved his stethoscope on her chest to confirm that she was no longer alive, her hind leg– the one that had never moved–began moving in a running motion. Now some might say it was just a muscle reflex, and perhaps it was. But, my vet found it peculiar that the leg was not moving in a spasmodic way, but in a rhythmic, running motion.

For me it was a signal grace, a sign that having prayed for Bunny’s safe return to her Creator, I received the grace to know I was heard. The little leg that never had been any good was now in the hands of God and all was right with the world.

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Susi Pittman is founder of CatholicStewardsofCreation.com and Owner-President of Twin Oaks Publishing; she is author of Animals in Heaven? Catholics Want to Know!; an advocate for the Florida Catholic Conference; a member of the St. Joseph’s Catholic Council of Women in Jacksonville, Florida; an Associate of the Sisters of St. Joseph, St. Augustine;a member of the Florida Publishers Association, Independent Book Publishers Association, the National Association of Professional Women, the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the United States and the National Audubon society.

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