On Sunday afternoon this past weekend, I was at a Menards home repair store in Hammond, Indiana, some 231 miles from home. My husband was inside buying a drop cloth. I was outside in the parking lot with Marjorie, a volunteer from the St. Louis House Rabbit Society, and 19 rabbits in 17 carriers.
This was my introduction to the time consuming, tiring but genuinely worthwhile and rewarding world of animal transport. I was introduced to it by my ASI colleague and rabbit person extraordinaire, Margo DeMello. Last month, Margo happened to mention to me a hoarding situation near her home in New Mexico, where she had participated in the rescue of over 300 rabbits, all of whom needed suitable placements. Since one of the groups who offered to help was in Michigan, I told her I'd be happy to assist in the transportation. In the ensuing weeks, I have watched with amazement as Margo planned the transport (ours as well as several others, to different parts of the country, some still not completed), which at times seemed to have the complexity and logistics of a minor military engagement.
But the details were finally worked out, drivers assembled, and rabbits selected and here I was at that parking lot, switching the bunnies from Marjorie's vehicle to ours. These rabbits had left some 36 hours earlier from New Mexico and were showing signs of stress. Although we offered them lettuce and carrots, few seemed interested in eating.
Marjorie was a pro at this. She had brought bungee cords to secure the rabbits' carriers inside the car, and had a removable rubberized piece fitted into the bottom of her vehicle so that any leaks the bunnies made could be cleaned easily. (Which was why Don was buying the drop cloth, as we'd brought no similar protection for our vehicle!)
Our 14 rabbits (Marjorie was taking the other 5 of them to an Illinois rescue on her way back home) were destined for Tiny Paws Rescue in Warren, MI, where Linda, the founder of the group was going to take them in, get them spayed or neutered, have them fostered by her volunteers and - ultimately - adopted. We arrived at her house Sunday evening, where she had readied cages for them before their arrival, and gave them romaine lettuce, kale and cilantro (which rabbits much prefer to curly parsley), as well as a water bottle for each, and comfortable bedding. By the time we left Linda's, most of the rabbits had eaten and settled in. One, Frederick, was so relaxed that his feet were splayed out in a position typical of a serene, happy bunny. I worried a bit about Bruiser, a large gray rabbit, who had seemed the most uncomfortable during the trip from Indiana to Michigan. He didn't start eating right away, but Linda assured me that one of her volunteers was especially good at working with the shyer, more stressed animals.
While I don't expect to become a regular in the transport circuit, I will keep my eyes open for other opportunities to help. And I urge anyone with a car, a good driving record, some time and a desire to help animals, to do the same.
As I have said many times, to improve the lives of animals we must work on the big picture, and to strategize and intellectualize and write and lobby and do all those activities which involve other humans. But it's also vital to help individual animals, one on one, by work as simple as driving them from Point A to Point B, so they can have a chance at a better life.