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Hopping To Freedom: Rounder's Long Journey

 
THE RABBIT SANCTUARY @2006
Rounder's journey from a bunny mill ends at the Rabbit Sanctuary.

From the beginning the odds were stacked heavily against the little butterscotch spotted bunny the sanctuary staff named Rounder. He was born in a small wire cage in a backyard rabbitry, one of countless thousands across the country that supply local pet shops. These cruel facilities rival the deplorable conditions seen in puppy mills, but because they are smaller and scattered and because rabbits suffer in silence, these bunny mills operate with impunity.

Briefly, Rounder did enjoy the comfort of his gentle mother. Briefly, he had the companionship of his five brothers and sisters who, despite the deprivation and restrictions of their shoe box size cage, attempted to play together.

At a mere six weeks of age, though, Rounder and his siblings were grabbed up, boxed, and driven to a mall pet shop. Their mother, already re-bred to produce another ill fated litter, was left behind. They never saw her again.

The pet shop must have seemed an unfriendly place to the little rabbits. It was noisy with artificial light so bright it forced them to shut their eyes. They were placed into a stuffy, glass aquarium. The frightened little family huddled together. They tucked their heads under each other forming a ball and wedged themselves into the furthermost corner of the aquarium. They did not play anymore.

One by one Rounder’s brothers and sisters were grabbed away, never to return. Finally, Rounder too was grabbed up, packaged in a small wire cage and driven to a house where he was to fulfill the role of “live toy” for a small child.

Soon the child paid no attention to him. He was left to languish, lonely and forgotten in his age. After what, to a rabbit, must have seemed a very long time at the child’s house (in fact it was about four months) Rounder was once again placed in his small wire cage and transported. This time his cage was placed on the ground in a large, open-ended shed. Rounder’s new owner, a young man, walked into the shed, opened his cage door and walked away.

Rounder hopped out through the shed doorway onto a vast grassy area and began nonchalantly grazing, further and further away from the shed. He began hopping along the fence toward the forest. For the first time in his life he felt the power in his muscles, the speed of his legs, and the wind blowing his long, floppy ears straight over his back. His heart was pounding. Freedom was exhilarating.

As the sun began to set, Rounder set to work. He chose a spot at the base of a huge willow oak tree on the edge of the forest, where he would be protected. Here he would hole up and wait for the other rabbits. Surely, there would be other rabbits. By the third night still no rabbits had appeared but someone was coming.

Rounder heard a rustling in the leaves very close to where he lay. Then he saw a huge, dark form. It barked! Rounder was startled out of his hiding place and began racing for all he was worth for the fence. He felt the dog’s hot breath on his back. Suddenly he was wrenched out of mid-flight into the jaws of the dog. His high pitched scream pierced through the autumn night.

A woman’s panicked voice called out, “No! Lady! No!” The dog gave a short painful yelp followed by a loud retching sound. Lady had caught Rounder as he leaped through the fence, and Lady had thrust her head forcefully through the wire of the fence before she dropped Rounder.

Lisa, Lady’s companion, scooped Rounder up and kissed his head. She kept repeating “You’re alright little rabbit. You’re alright.” Lisa ran around the fence and approached her friend, who had also appeared and who was trying to free Lady from the wire. Lisa’s friend exclaimed, “That’s my son’s rabbit!”

The son had accepted Rounder as a favor to a friend and had intended to let the rabbit out for some exercise only. Then he’d heard the phone ring and when he returned, the rabbit had disappeared.

Once again, Rounder was back in his cage and then back in a car. But, finally, Rounder was on the last leg of his long journey. Lisa, with many animal rescues to her credit, was driving Rounder to the Rabbit Sanctuary. Once there, a thorough physical found that Rounder had sustained injury to his back, though it is unknown whether the injury was caused by mishandling or by Lady’s catching him.

The veterinarian suggested caging him for a few months, which is exactly what the sanctuary staff did not want to do after he’d fought so hard for his freedom. But, it paid off. The injury mended and now he has a beautiful mate and a territory all his own.

Rounder won’t ever have to be bought, traded, chased or captured by a dog ever again. He is now a lucky rabbit with a permanent and safe home at the Rabbit Sanctuary.

Posted May 15, 2006