Sunday, July 3, 2016

Sad Saturday

Yesterday turned out to be a very sad and disturbing day for me, as I found destruction at my second pet-sitting site.  I had stopped at the first house and fed the dog, cat, and hens; checked that fresh water was available for everyone; turned the dog out into the back yard, and released the chickens from their coop. I gathered fresh eggs, cleaned them, and headed off to the second house.
   The second house is a "new place" to me, but the pets aren't.  I've taken care of Chocolate and Blackberry for almost five years - ever since Paulina was received them as her 6th birthday present.  The family recently moved to another neighborhood, but I was happy to continue caring for the rabbits.  Chocolate was a female and Blackberry was a neutered male, and they were Paulina's pets, as her father is allergic to both dog and cat hair and dander.  The bunnies knew their names, would come when called, and had very distinct personalities.  I walked up the drive and around the back of the house, and realized the solar cover that normally covered the front of the wire hutch was laying on the ground, several feet to the west of the hutch and fence enclosure.  Then I realized there were little patches of black and white and brown fur all over the ground inside the enclosure.  Next I saw that the wooden ramp on the side of the hutch was closed and locked, but the small rectangular wire door in the front was punched back through the opening, inside the hutch, and was covering the upset food and water bowls.  Then it hit me that the 30-inch high wire fence was folded down like an accordion on the west side, near the solar cover.  I ran over and jumped into the enclosure - fur and blood everywhere.  I sat down and cried.
   The neighbors heard me sobbing, and came into their back yard.  They had heard a dog barking early in the morning - about 2 or 3 o'clock - and the husband had heard the bunnies screaming.  Then it got very quiet, according to them.  At dawn yesterday morning, they decided to investigate, not knowing that the family was away.  They came out, stepped across the fence and saw the carnage.  Both of the rabbits were lying inside the enclosure.  Both had been bitten and torn apart, but very little was actually eaten.  They had the bodies in their freezer, in case the girls wanted to say good-bye and/or bury them.  The girls (Paulina has a younger sister) and their mother are visiting another country to see relatives.  I had to call and break the news.  I left both a voice message and an e-mail for the father and received a response this morning.
   I dug a very deep hole for the burial this afternoon.   I put the little broken bodies into the ground, as well as all of the fur that I could gather from their enclosure, I cried again as I replaced the dirt and tamped it down.  Then the neighbors and I placed several large rocks onto the grave.  Hopefully nothing will disturb the rest of two fine, loving young rabbits.
    The neighbors and I discussed what might have done the killing - there are black bears, fox, raccoons, bobcats, mountain lions, and coyotes in the area.  Since the fencing around the enclosure was mashed down, we decided it might be a bear, since all the other creatures should have been able to easily clear a 30-inch fence - and, even though a raccoon might  have climbed the fence, it wouldn't have crushed it down to the grass.  Then there was the way the solar reflective cover had been ripped off the roof of the hutch - unless the critter had stood on top of the hutch to tear the cover off - it seemed likely to be a bear.  The third item was that the wire door of the cage had been pushed inside - and I wasn't strong enough to pull it back out.  There had been a 1 to 2 inch overlap in the wiring, along with the two sliding clasp locks.  The clasp locks were still there, but the door was smashed through to the other side of the opening.  Looking at all of it, along with the tooth marks on the bunny bodies, we concluded the intruder had been a younger black bear.
  I know that's a risk that any pet owner runs when they live in an area that is known to have plenty of wildlife.  I'm just sorry that the bunnies were not kept safe enough......

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