My husband and I sat on our back patio enjoying conversation with some out-of-town friends — our houseguests for a few days. The evening was perfect, with mild temperatures, a cool breeze and ice-cold wine and beer. Our two beagles roamed the yard with our friends’ Labrador, and our kids played inside with their friends.
As the sun fell lower in the sky, one of our dogs, Beetle, pounced into a bed of flowers under a little trellis that decorates our yard. A rabbit ran helter-skelter from the patch, and we all watched it escape unscathed through the fence. Beetle watched through the fence, before returning to the spot to investigate further.
We heard the horrible shriek of a baby bunny. Beetle had found a nest.
I leapt to my feet, and hollered at my dog, chasing him into the house. One tiny bunny lay dead, and three others huddled together in a nest tucked against a flower pot under our trellis.
A choice laid before me. Do I take the “Animal Network” route, watching from afar as the other bunnies face certain death-by-beagle? Or do I interfere?
I interfered. My maternal instinct, love of animals and my unwillingness to subject my kids to bunny entrails strewn across the yard dictated that I should — indeed, I must — step in to help the bunnies.
Our husbands popped a couple more bottles of beer and sat back to watch. My friend and I set to work to figure out a way to protect the nest from our dogs.
Several trips to the garage, a bungee cord and and a skein of yarn later, we had surrounded the trellis with some of the “in case we need them” items in our garage. Our construction materials included a small pet cage, a footboard and headboard, a wooden folding chair and some plywood.
My dear friend, who helped with the architecture and construction of our little project without a complaint, did muse that she would probably have “let nature take its course.” I’m sure she realized that nature actually WAS taking its course. I’m part of nature, and this is what my nature led me to do.
I navigated the next steps of our bunny-rearing journey with the help of Operation Wildlife, the Kansas wildlife organization that helps in such endeavors.
Their website provides detailed resources on how to build a more secure nest protector out of cinderblocks, how to make sure the mom was giving them proper care, and their phone assistance provided assurance that our scent wouldn’t dissuade the mom from returning to them (although if we touched one, we had to touch them all so they’d have the same scent) and simple accolades for caring — and trying — and participating in the mom’s job to protect her babies.
Without their guidance, we surely would have failed.
My kids helped, and I shared our journey as a bunny guard on Facebook, complete with photos and videos, before leaving town for a vacation, and entrusting the bunny watch to our house sitters, who soon saw them leave the nest.
Our trip included several wildlife conservation visits — first to the Georgia Aquarium, a conservation champion for marine life around the world, and learned the stories of wildlife that for one reason or another couldn’t be released to the wild.
We then visited the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, where we went on a moonlit turtle walk with their researchers, learning about their efforts to protect nesting turtles. We toured their hospital, full of injured and sick turtles recovering under veterinary care before re-release.
During these adventures, I thought about our bunnies back home, and knew that my actions mattered. Giving my kids an active role in learning about and protecting this world that we share with all God’s creatures has value.
We’re not observers in this world, we’re part of nature. It’s home to us all.
Reach Overland Park mom Emily Parnell at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @emilyjparnell.