“You call to a dog and a dog will break its neck to get to you. Dogs just want to please.” – Lewis Grizzard – Little Tassie Prepper

“You call to a dog and a dog will break its neck to get to you. Dogs just want to please.” – Lewis Grizzard

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Morleigh, in 2010, standing in what was to become my Vegetable Garden.

Last night I went out with my Great Dane, Morleigh, to feed my animals.  Morleigh is getting old, so I like spending as much time with her as I can.  When I entered my garden to feed the animals living there I noticed a black Rabbit sitting on the grass and having a meal.  She was not in her hutch and was all by herself.  I calmly walked to her hutch and noticed that there was a gap at the back through which she must have escaped.  I realised that when I last moved the hutch I apparently ripped the backboard from the rear, making a gap large enough for a rabbit to push through.  I could not leave her to roam the garden as she would damage my young trees and my vegetables.

This is not the first time a Rabbit has escaped a hutch.  I normally have no problem at all in catching the rogue Rabbits.  They are fairly tame as I have been their primary carer/feeder their whole lives.  I normally walk up calmly and quietly, talking gently to the Rabbit is a low voice.  Once I get close I quickly reach out and grab them on their skin at the back of their neck (the skin there is flexible, similar to a young puppy, so it doesn’t hurt them) and then I carefully place them back in their home.  I have had 100% success rate in this method until last night.  When I reached out and grabbed the Rabbit she moved.  I tried to grab a hold of her, yet I couldn’t get a grip.  She hopped away and for the next 20 minutes she kept running away as I chased her around the yard… she progressively became faster, I became tired.  The light was beginning to fade so I did not have long to complete this.  I decided to try to coax her with some food, yet she had been eating flowers and grass all day, so she wasn’t interested in anything I had to offer.  After another 10 minutes I decided I would have to get some help.  Morleigh was just outside the fence and I know she is good at catching Possums (She apparently has an intense hatred for them, I don’t know why and I don’t think she would tell me if I asked).  I decided to let her in and I gave her a command to catch the Rabbit.  She was off immediately, running after the Rabbit… I helped, yet the Rabbit hid behind one of my Compost bins (one made out of old wooden Pallets).  I tried to reach her, yet the Rabbit was just out of reach.  For minutes I kept trying, scratching my arms, bumping my head, being attacked my ants.  Eventually, I managed to grab her… all I could reach were her ears so I picked her up by them.  Now, it is vital that I tell you that this is something you should never do… that old image of a Magician plucking a rabbit from their hat and holding it aloft by it’s ears is not accurate.  It can hurt the Rabbit so if you need to hold a Rabbit in one hand you should hold it by the skin on the back of it’s neck (or cradle it in your arms, which is even better)… yet I had no choice, it was all I could reach.  I lifted her from behind the compost bin and held her aloft for a moment, smiling with pride that I had finally caught the Rabbit.  In that second of exultation Morleigh (who I had forgotten in all the excitement and who was standing next to me) snatched the Rabbit from my hand and leapt away, shaking the Rabbit violently.  I shouted at her to stop, which she did (she is a very good dog) and she dropped the now stunned Rabbit on the ground.  I rushed over, the Rabbit seemed to be dead, yet on examination it was just feigning.  I picked it up and examined it.  I could see no blood, yet it was very floppy… like it had feinted.  I placed it back in the hutch and after a few minutes it moved around it’s home.  It was not moving properly, it was having trouble breathing and it was obviously in shock as it’s heart was beating like crazy.  I could see that it would not last the night.  It was then that I decided that I would have to put the animal down.  I could not, as a caring owner, allow it to suffer.  As a Prepper I could not allow the animal to die on that hot evening and for the meat and pelt to go to waste.

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This was the gap through which the Rabbit escaped… very similar to that scene in The Shawshank Redemption.

I told Morleigh that she was a good dog, and she was happy.  I think she thought she was in trouble, which she wasn’t.  It was my fault as I held the Rabbit up in the air… she must have thought I wanted to play with her.  I went inside, prepared the equipment I needed… knives, a hatchet, plastic bags and a bowl for the meat.  I placed an oil lantern near my butchering table (as I have no light there… something I will have to correct in the future) and I was finally ready.  I usually don’t butcher in the night as it is harder to see… as I mentioned, I have no light where my table is located.  I collected the rabbit and it was very limp, yet still alive.  I quickly dispatched it and then proceeded to skin/butcher the animal.  I could see where my dog had injured the rabbit when I was processing the meat, I suspect sever internal damage and broken ribs, yet I consoled myself that it did not suffer for long.  I blame myself for thinking that my dog could help me catch the Rabbit, and for not paying attention once I had caught her.

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The Rabbit is the black coloured one on the left.

This was a Rabbit that I had intended to butcher many months ago, yet I couldn’t bring myself to do it as it seemed so cute and tame.  I had decided to turn it into one of my breeding stock.  With this incident I feel I did the right thing for the animal in the end, yet I will now have to inspect all my hutches to ensure the Rabbits don’t escape.  Have I learned anything from this?  Definitely, I have learned the following lessons:

  • Get a portable light so I can position it where needed.
  • Pay more attention to where my dog is if I am handling Rabbits.
  • Inspect the hutches for weaknesses.
  • If a Rabbit escapes and I can’t catch it, it may be more humane to shoot it.
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