The Never-Ending Bunny Project is finished. (Almost)

My daughter loves animals and is in the Animal Science Magnet Program at her high school. Which is all well and good except for these year-long projects that somehow involve the whole family. This year it was rabbits. I can truthfully say that I’ve learned more about rabbits than I ever planned to know. She submitted the paperwork and essay yesterday and carried the trifold poster out to the bus stop this morning.

Every parent knows this trifold poster, right?

This year’s project had two parts.

1) The science experiment part. In this case she had an adult female rabbit named Storm produce a litter with Butterscotch and a litter with Opie and then compare the phenotype and guess at the genotype. <— See, I’m speaking science already.

2) There had to be an entrepreneur aspect. In this case, selling the offspring (to loving, committed homes with the understanding that babies would be returned to us if something didn’t work out).

She wouldn’t let me read her essay about what she learned this year, but we had some adventures. Remember this? Bunny Soap Opera

I learned a couple of things too.

  1. Even if student starts the project in June of 2017, the student will finish the night before it is due.
  2. Baby bunnies really are that cute.
  3. One orea bunny, two white with caramel markings, one striped with a Harlequinn face, one striped with solid face, and two fawn colored with gray bellies.

  4. There are dog people and cat people…and there are bunny people. And, bunny people are some of the nicest, most generous people you’ll meet. Pam, the alpaca farmer, has been so kind with lending us Opie and giving advice. The young women who lent us Butterscotch. The couple who adopted Clover when Clover turned out to be a boy and then they came back and bought little Luna from us so the bunnies could be a bonded pair (after Clover was altered).
  5. The phrase “herding cats” should be “herding bunnies.” Once they turned two weeks, bunny eyes opened and suddenly seven adorable fur babies were jumping into and out of their nesting box and hopping in seven different directions. This made for a very challenging picture. Also, they have no problem “bunny piling” and there is a brown bunny beneath these six. I think. Either that, or we lost one.

    Three weeks old

     

  6. If you feed a large carrot to a bunny, perhaps as a “thank you for having this second litter so the project is almost done” present, they will have red urine the next day that looks like blood and may freak you out. This time, before rushing to the Bunny ER, you check the internet.
  7. If you need to give bunnies an oral antibiotic you wrap them in a “bunny burrito” with a clean towel and approach from the side, not the front.
  8.  

    Also, pick up a bunny from underneath and support the legs, cradling the animal to your chest — do not swoop down from above because then you will seem like a hawk and they will hop away and they are fast and you will land on your face.

  9. Once you bring hay into your house for the bunnies, you will never get all the hay out again. There will be little pieces stuck to your socks and in your hair. Like Christmas Tree pine needles that you vacuum up until Thanksgiving…and then you start again. 
  10. Perhaps the most important thing I learned (beyond how to battle botflies) is that bunnies are cute, sweet, adorable, cuddly…blah blah blah. I am a dog person.

 

The babies are three weeks old and three have already been reserved. Four more to go and then Storm will return to her owner and this chapter will be over…until my daughter needs to start next year’s project. AHHHHHHHHH!

Love,

Sherri

 

 

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Three-Legged Dog

I took Gabe to the dog park on Thursday, December 22nd  to run off some excess energy. Within five minutes another dog attacked him. The other owners and I ran over. I pulled off the first dog, but behind me the rest of the dogs had piled onto Gabe. When my dog got up, his hind leg dragged behind. My daughter was with me. I carried him to the car and we rushed to our vet. The vet squeezed us in, shoehorning an exam and x-rays between all the other appointments right before the holiday.  The news wasn’t good: Gabe had puncture marks in his throat, in his shoulder, and a dislocated hip.

I sat, stunned, as my mind flashed through everything supposed to happen between December 23- Jan 3rd . We are hosting Christmas and New Year’s at our house. My niece Izzy from Germany is visiting. Between her and the twins we have three birthday celebrations. I’d already arranged a trip to Virginia with each day over-scheduled: ski trip for seven people, a visit to my mother-in-law, our annual New Year’s visit to our friends the Perrones, and we’d even bought tickets to tour Monticello. My wedding anniversary is January 2nd. And, perhaps the most important celebration for our family: on January 3rd my daughter will return to Hopkins for her 5-year post-chemo check-up.

The vet said that Gabe would need to go to the emergency animal hospital. That way the doctors wouldn’t be rushed through the surgery and then he’d stay overnight for observation. I looked at my watch. My daughter and I had already been there three hours.

“Can’t you do it here?” I asked. I’d seen the movies where you put the cloth around the joint, pulled, and that sucker popped back into place: easy-peasy. The vet sketched a picture for me and said things like “shallow socket” and “cutting off the femoral head” and “false joint.” So….NOT easy-peasy.

I nodded my head. “I get it.”  I called Izzy. She’d already stepped up to drive my oldest daughter to drivers ed and my son to basketball practice. Now she drove over to pick up Syl so the three of them could have dinner before she picked up the older kids, who were literally in opposite directions. I waited with Gabe.

The vet came back in. I knew she felt bad about his being attacked, but by now the office was closing down. She said, “I’m not making any promises, but I’ll try.”

My mouth dropped open. If it worked, her doing the procedure would save me a lot of money and a lot of time. And it would get Gabe back together that much more quickly because his dangling leg was…upsetting. To both of us.

I waited. The vet and the vet techs stayed late as they tried to fix my dog. I pulled up my feet to get out of the way of the mop. I moved from the exam room to the waiting room and back again. It was super quiet. I waited.

And then…the vet said, “It worked. His hip is back in the socket. We’re just waiting for him to wake up from the anesthesia.”

I hugged her. He was fixed! She explained, “I had a horrible experience with a certain company. They’ve been so frustrating…well, I just couldn’t be that company.”

Here’s Gabe. He’s taking his antibiotics and anti-inflammatory and pain medication. He’s moving around and learning how to navigate the stairs. Hint: going down is much easier than going up. I called the dog sitter to let her know about his situation and my niece will stay behind to take him to his follow-up and then join us in Virginia.

But, my friend Lyn always advises to look for the lesson in situations. What was I supposed to learn here? How wonderful animal lovers like vets and vet techs are? I already knew that. That emergencies happen even when you already have plans? I already knew that too.

I think the take-away is what I noticed yesterday, after Gave was tired of laying around. He got up and I hovered over him with my arms outstretched so he wouldn’t fall and his hip wouldn’t fall out of the socket. I worried about if he was going to fall down and how he was going to use the bathroom outside and whether his bed should be down in the family room so he could see what was going on or up in my room so he could be by himself. I berated myself for deciding to go to the dog park and for him getting hurt.

Gabe gave a quizzical look at the leg in the sling and then stood on three shaky legs, figuring it out. He didn’t think of himself as crippled or needing special treatment. In fact, he was very confused when I gave him a treat “for free.” Instead of taking it he went through the “sit, shake, down” sequence he is familiar with and today we walk-hopped two half-miles instead of two miles but that was because of the rain, not because he wasn’t willing.

Gabe’s simple acceptance gave him the freedom to move forward, to literally get up and hop around without embarrassment or blame or anger. He didn’t have an idea in his head of how he wanted to be; he wasn’t disappointed when he didn’t match that idea. Maybe that’s the letting go and surrendering to each moment AS IT IS that I need to learn.

I wish you a wonderful holiday, whatever you celebrate, and a season of light.

Love,

Sherri

PS Just to make sure that we didn’t get too comfortable, our dishwasher broke today too. Did I mention we are hosting Christmas AND New Year’s here? Bring on the paper plates.

The Great Bunny Soap Opera

Friends, we are stressed about Hurricane Harvey. We are stressed about school starting. I invite you to read something that was also stressing and also bizarre. Also, a little gross, but I won’t post the graphic pics here. If you want to see you can email me privately and I will be happy to share.

On Thursday I got home from work intending to take the kids to the pool so we could enjoy a couple hours of sunshine in what has been a pretty wet and cool summer season here in Maryland and then head to Open House at the elementary school. Except….(drum roll) my high school daughter calls for me. Her voice tells me this is a “real” situation, not to be confused with her screaming when there is a stink bug in her room.

BACKSTORY: We have seven rabbits as part of her Animal Science project for her magnet high school. Two adult females and a litter of bunnies who are three weeks old. The mama of the bunnies is a black mini Rex and her name is Storm. The other female is a white Hotot-Lionhead mix with “fancy” eyes named Clover.

PROBLEM: “There’s something on Clover’s chest.” Sure enough, there is a spot on Clover’s chest without hair and the tissue underneath is hard and about the size of a silver dollar. My guess is that it’s an abscess so I call the vet. Meanwhile, the other three children are in their swim suits asking me where their goggles are and the oven timer is beeping because the chicken nuggets are done and I’m still wearing my workout clothes and the vet says, “It’s almost Labor Day and we’re totally booked, but if you come right now, THIS SECOND, we can see the bunny.”

What am I supposed to do? The day before I’d sat with the younger kids waiting and waiting in the orthodontist’s office for my son.  I was NOT taking my bathing suit kids to hang out at the vet’s office when I didn’t have time to run around and get books and pack the chicken nuggets. But, if I did take the time to pack then maybe the vet wouldn’t see the bunny and she would die. Nope. Not doing it.

So, my daughter and I put the bunny in a tupperware bin for travel, text my neighbor to ask if the three kids can swim at her pool with my son as lifeguard (she graciously says yes), and we’re on our way. Now, my daughter’s project is to breed both Storm and Clover with Butterscotch (aka “the boyfriend”) and then compare the litters for dominant and recessive traits. Also, this year the project has a financial component with the goal being that you not lose money and maybe even make a little. Twelve days before we’d taken Clover to visit Butterscotch so we could start this second litter.

MENTOR VISIT: The vet immediately tells us what is wrong: our poor bunny has been attacked by a parasite called a Bot fly. It laid a larvae, warbel, inside the bunny’s chest. THERE IS A GIANT MAGGOT INSIDE MY RABBIT. The vet showed us the breathing hole in the skin. Repeat: We saw the maggot breathing from inside my rabbit. Have you fainted yet?

She, the vet, said they could fit Clover in for surgery immediately. I understood this to mean that this is life threatening. She shows me the cost. I nod my head because our rabbit is a living thing, she will recover 100% from the surgery, she was in our care when this happened, and THERE’S A MAGGOT INSIDE OF HER CHEST AND IT NEEDS TO GET OUT.

I say, “Wait, do you think she’s pregnant?”

The vet squinches her eyes at me and says, “No, I don’t think HE is pregnant.”

PLOT TWIST 1. My head explodes. Although that does explain why Clover and Butterscotch didn’t really….I mean, they hopped around each other when we put them in the same play yard, but didn’t, you know. We thought maybe “she” wasn’t interested or too young or we missed “it” because we weren’t trying to stare. Moving on.

COMPLICATION: my daughter and I look at each other. With the nice weather we’d been putting Storm and babies out in the year WITH Clover. Like, as an aunt. Aunt Clover who might be pregnant getting some time with the nieces and nephews to get some practice.

FORESHADOWING: “Is it possible,” I swallow and continue, “that Clover got Storm pregnant even though she is still nursing the babies?”

Vet tilts head. “Maybe.”

Me to daughter: “I’m sure she’s not pregnant. It’s too soon. They were only together a couple days. Storm’s still nursing and hormones and such.”

Daughter: “She’s pregnant.”

*If anyone is counting I’ve now missed the fact that my bunny has boy parts AND I’ve tried to use “nursing as birth control” logic. So, really being a great example of sex education here.

Vet takes the bunny away for surgery prep; we go home and get ready for Open House.

Check on Storm.

FORESHADOWING PAYOFF/PLOT TWIST 2:

She’s stretched out in the grass, snoozing. Her side undulates as the bunnies inside of her stretch their little legs.

My daughter: I told you so.

Me:

My daughter: I TOLD YOU SO

Me: There’s a lesson in this.

My daughter stalks away.

We leave Open House early to get to the vet to pick up Clover post-op. His whole chest is open. A gaping wound. They had to cut away all the compromised tissue. And they saved the warbel for us. A white maggot crawling around the specimen jar. We took pictures for my daughter’s project. Then we get bill. Total= $300.

I blink. “That seems higher…”

Vet tech: “Yeah. We’re about to explain the antibiotics that you’ve purchased.”

Me: “Uh huh.”

We’ve got syringes to flush out the area and Rx ointment and needles to inject penicillin into this boy and pain reliever and twice daily oral antibiotics and other stuff.

PLOT TWIST 3:

Husband, rational and analytical: “You paid $300 for surgery for a $25 rabbit. That wasn’t in the budget.”

Me: “It wasn’t in the budget because I didn’t even know that Bot flies were going around injecting larvae in bunnies. This is new information.”

Husband: “And he’s a boy. The project doesn’t need him. If Storm is pregnant, then the project can shift to same mother with different fathers instead of different mothers with same father.”

Me: “Right, so we can sell him now.”

Husband: “For $300? How else are you going to make up the deficit you caused with the budget?”

Me (continuing): “Find him a good home.  Maybe he could be a classroom pet? He’s a sweetheart, outgoing, and not even six months old. (Thinking out loud) Although we’re going to need his hutch for the current litter so the new litter can stay in hutch with mom. Oh. This is getting crazy.”

Husband: “No, it got crazy when you paid $300 for a male rabbit that blew the budget that our daughter spent so much time making.”

Me (petting Clover-the-boy to sooth myself): “AHHHHHHHHHHH. THERE’S ANOTHER ONE. THERE’S ANOTHER BOT FLY WARBLE THING ON HIS FLANK. THERE’S THE HOLE.”

Husband: “Ew. Is that it’s head poking out?”

I called the vet and left an emergency message. My daughter and I had a serious conversation about our options. Then I got on the internet. I read articles about the Bot Fly (cuterebra). I watched Youtube videos. I made my plan.

Yesterday we smeared Vaseline on the hole so the critter couldn’t breathe. We waited about thirty minutes, watching while it came partway out of the hole and the going back in. You can’t rupture the larvae or it releases toxins and the rabbit could die of anaphylatic reaction. That’s why the vet is safest option. But, we’d studied and talked through it. We were going for it.

CLIMAX

I held Clover against my chest, a light shining on the wound. My daughter used sterilized tweezers and grabbed the larvae behind the head as it came out. She pulled slowly and steadily, just like the video said to…and it came out in one piece. SHE IS A ROCK STAR.

We flushed the site, packed it with ointment, and gave Clover spinach and carrots.

Here are the two larvae. The vet removed the small one (left) and my daughter pulled out the HUGE one (right).

CONCLUSION

Clover is doing well, taking his meds and chilling.

Prognosis: Full recovery.We’ll take him to vet for final check in a week and then we’ll try to find him the perfect home. This boy deserves it!

Love,

Sherri

 

Fostering Gabe

So, let me acknowledge that it’s crazy. That my life with four kids and a husband who travels for work is full. Let me add in that I recently, after years of work, signed on with an amazing literary agent for my novels and there is a lot of revision in my future. I volunteer at church and at the elementary school. I’m FULL.

Gabe's glamour shot. He's 11 weeks and 11 pounds.

Gabe’s glamour shot. He’s 11 weeks and 11 pounds.

But, I wanted a puppy. Well, a dog. But we got a puppy and now I can’t imagine not wanting a puppy. For about two years now I’ve had this hankering for a canine companion. Every time I brought it up with my husband he would, in a very rational and analytical way, point out that we’ve just gotten to the point where our kids are all in school, they can all read, swim, bicycle. We still have to watch them…but we don’t have to hover anymore. We can go places on the weekends. Everything he said made sense and I would fold away my dog dream. A few days later it would unfold itself and I would want again. I looked at pictures on the internet and read their stories.

I filled out an application at a local rescue, was approved, and picked out the bundle of sweetness that I wanted. I e-mailed my husband every step of the way…because he was in Singapore for business. By the time he came home, she was adopted. I was heartbroken. I’d already pictured us romping through the fields together. She was beautiful and I wish the little pup well with whatever family adopted her. But, now I was on a mission.

My husband asked if my wanting a dog was code for wanting a baby. No. NO. I want a snuggley pet. I grew up with dogs. I like them walking around the house doing their thing. I like when dogs are happy to see you when you walk in the door. I like when they put their paw on your leg and give you THAT look. I wanted my own dog.

Oldest with Gabe. She waited 8 years for a dog in this house.

Oldest with Gabe. She waited 8 years for a dog in this house.

My kids wanted a dog. The oldest girl has been asking for a dog since she was 5. She’s now 13. The twins race up to strangers and ask if they can pet the dogs at all the soccer practices. My boy dreams of a dog like a Jack London book. Them against the world (and all his sisters).

My husband agreed we could compromise. We’d foster. I filled out an application with Big Fluffy Dogs. I’d come across the organization while looking at pictures of Great Pyrs. In the novel I’m about to revise, one of the characters is a white half-wolf (Dido) and I wanted to see photos.

I got an e-mail Thursday afternoon and the phone call Thursday night — there was an 11-week old puppy who needed a foster home. Of course Mike was in New York. I tried to call him. Got voicemail. Had to make a decision. I said yes. My coordinator is Nan. She’s tricky — she LISTENED during the interview and then picked a pup that EXACTLY matched our family needs. She was the first to mention the term “foster fail.” That’s when you realize your heart is not going to let your puppy go. Then, to discuss transport, I spoke to Cookie. I’ve never met Cookie, but I already like someone who would choose this name. I picture a woman wearing a nurse’s coat with chocolate chip cookies with arms and legs and big smiley faces. In the background of her phone I could hear her dogs (she had a puppy that was very happy she was home) and in the background of my phone my twins girls, wrapped in towels and dripping water, were repeatedly asking, “Is that the dog lady?”

Transport. The dogs are sent out from Tennessee and then stop at certain pre-planned sites. For me, in northeast Maryland, I had two options. Both were 2 hours away. I was worried about how to fit in 4 hours of driving on Saturday. The twins had soccer from 9-10:30, we had a neighborhood party at 2:30, my older daughter’s soccer at 4:30, and my son’s travel football game at 8. I can’t remember if Cookie laughed, but she did tell me that the pick up wasn’t going to interfere…..I was to pick up GABE at 2 AM in the empty parking lot of a Toys’R’us.

An emergency trip to Petsmart on Friday after school. I kinda wish I had a picture. The five of us, 4 kids and me, testing out the squeaky toys, voting on the dog bowl, discussing the merits of any and all puppy accessories. One of the twins tried out the cushion for the crate to make sure it was soft enough. Friday night Mike arrives home and sees the dog food dish, the food, the crate. “Is there something you need to tell me, Sherri?”

A few hours later, at 11:45 PM, my oldest daughter and I head out, armed with blankets and water and a dish, etc. Big Fluffy Dogs gives all the information and tells what to do and I read the instructions like a million times. I drank some tea, but my daughter was supposed to talk to me on the drive, keep me awake. Yeah right. She was asleep, sprawled on the backseat snoring, before we turned out of our development.

The men doing the transport were there, the whole process was only a few minutes. I made sure to drive my minivan up to the transport van in a very clandestine manner so that the drivers windows faces each other. I learned that from THE WIRE. “You Sherri?”  “Yeah. You got GABE?” “Yeah.” “Come around to the back of the van.” “Alright, I will.”

No, that wasn’t how it went, but I was so sleep-fogged that I can’t remember the exact dialogue. I do remember commenting on how awake the men seemed and they advised energy drinks and heavy metal music. My daughter woke up. We cuddled little Gabe, she took him, and we headed home.

In the morning, the other three kids couldn’t believe it was real. WE HAD A PUPPY. Look at my son’s face.

We're really doing this? Does Dad know?

We’re really doing this? Does Dad know?

Gabe is hilarious, and he’s definitely family friendly. He’s been inside, outside, slept in a hammock, gone to the park (not a dog park because he doesn’t have his last shots), watched his first soccer practice from the warmth of the car, and tested out everyone’s bed. He does have a crate that he uses during the night and when I go to work.

twins

But, everyone is still so excited, that we have to use a timer at bedtime. He sleeps with each child for 12 minutes and then I have to move him to the next child for snuggles.

I’m not sure how fostering works out — we’re still getting into the routine — but I can’t STAND the thought that this little guy might have been in a shelter, one among many, kept in a crate because there aren’t enough resources to care for all the animals.

HURRAY FOR FOSTERS!

I’ve got to go. Lots to do today.

Love,

Sherri

A hedgehog, a frog, and two chicks walked into a bar…

So, what happens when you put two blonde chicks in with a misanthropic hedgehog?  I had the video camera all ready….

NOTHING

Seriously.  Not a thing.  Hufflepuff walked to the corner of his cage and showed his hiney to the new girls.  They, in return, gave his quills a couple of friendly, exploratory pecks.  Then they pooped.  Checked out his food bowl.  Looked at his water bottle.  Gave it a couple of friendly, exploratory pecks.  Then settled under his heat lamp.  So much for a super-cute video of the chicks imprinting on a hedgehog and following him around.  So much for Hufflepuff puffing up and huffing to defend his territory against the blonde interlopers.  Nope.  Plain old boring.

But, let me back up.  Perhaps you are wondering why the Woosley family currently has 1 pygmy frog, an African hedgehog, and two chickens.    It’s because my husband won’t let us get a dog.  Too much responsibility.  I can also blame Stein.  He’d just gotten baby chicks when we stayed at his house in Virgina last month.  He made them look easy to care for.  Heck, he let us hold them with their downy softy-soft fur and their funny feet.  The way the little blondies fell asleep in the palm of your hand.  The way they drink and throw their little necks back to swallow.  The perfect little nail on the end of each toe.

Back in Maryland, then, Diana’s 11th birthday was approaching.  She asked for a horse and a car.   Chickens suddenly seemed reasonable.  My friend Mrs. Kathy Peter was soooo nice.  She is loaning us two chicks.  The twins and I went to pick them up and Diana was able to have them when they were two days old.

DSC04977 DSC04980

The one on the right has a little dark spot on her head.  Her name is Hot Wings.  The girl on the left is Tenders.

Because we’re a family that needs more chaos, right?  The chicks grow fast.  In fact, while we were camping over Memorial Day, they learned all about flapping their wings and this thing called flying.  Our friend Isabel came in to feed/water them and ended up finding Tenders strolling through our family room and Hot Wings pooping it up in my closet.

Being almost two weeks old, I guess they are in their early teens in human years.  They are sprouting tail feathers and ‘developing.’  I kinda wanted to make a chicken bra with two half coconuts, but I got distracted looking through the Polly Pocket bin trying to find coconuts that small.  They don’t need their incubator anymore and are moving out to the garage until they learn to tidy their cages and use deoderant.  And, also, stop spilling their water.

They also like to roost and feel out their independence.   Here’s the chickies helping Diana with her homework.

chicks

So, no viral video of Hufflepuff and the Chicks, but right after I put the camera away our neighbors came over to play.  The girls let the chicks perch on a toy pirate ship and we were trying to figure out to make Hot Wings walk the plank (about three inches off the ground, no animals were harmed during these reenactments!).  Suddenly the door flies open and there is my neighbor’s 3-year-old son with a sword in one hand and sporting a crooked eyepatch with the elastic folding over his right ear.  His face is absolutely filled with horror.  “No chicks on the pirate ship.  No chicks allowed.”

Yeah.  Where was my camera then?

 

Love,

Sherri