Rescue successes outweigh the failures

Published 9:45 pm Friday, September 8, 2017

I’ve always been a rescuer. When I was a kid, I kept a match box in my room for crickets with missing legs and lady bugs that had sprained wings. It didn’t usually end well, and I held countless insect funerals with burials at sea via “Three-Flush Salutes.” I tried twenty-one flush salutes for a while, but it took forever for the tank to fill between each one, and when Mama found out she threatened to make me pay the water bill with my allowance, so I decided that three was plenty.

As an adult, my little charges are generally mammals or birds, and the success rate is much greater. It started with a pair of tiny possums. I taught them all I could about being possums- possum diet and possum safety and how to climb. I prepared them as well as  I could, but as I watched their little possum fannies sashaying off into the forest behind our house, I wished that I’d taught them one more thing- how to come home to “Mama” if they needed to.

Most of the time I love raising the wild babies and returning them to their natural surroundings when it’s time. I even love the heart-twinge I get at release time. When things go wrong though, it’s heartbreaking. One of my baby squirrels didn’t make it recently. He ate his dinner and snuggled down for the night, and didn’t wake up. It happens. It was just so unexpected, and I announced to hubby that I was giving up the rescue biz, because I didn’t think the satisfaction of releasing a happy, healthy animal was worth the sadness of unexpectedly losing one.

Hubby’s known me for a while, so he just said, “Mmmhmmm.”

Not even a whole day later, a young man called in a panic, explaining that because of a terrible mowing accident, a mama bunny and all but one baby had been killed. Could I help? I resisted. I fretted. I mumbled to myself. I put out feelers to my other rescue friends, but they were unable to help.

I reluctantly took in the bunny, and I believe that fate put her in my path. She’s feisty and wild and determined to live!

She’s probably plotting revenge against the lawn mower. I’ve watched her grow from a skinny, cold, limp little critter into a young animal with bright eyes and a plump tummy. She’ll hop out of my care and into the secret place where I release bunnies I’ve raised in a week or so.

And I guess the sadness of occasional loss will be worth it, when I watch her little cotton tail hop away into the tall grass.

Pepper Ellis Hagebak is a resident of LaGrange.