Back in 2001, our rescue was called in on a horrible cruelty/neglect case in southern Indiana. I did not witness the scene, but was told that a breeding project was abandoned, such that 30-some rabbits were left in their cages without food, water, or other care. By the time the rescuers arrived, many were dead, and many of the dying rabbits had actually pulled all the fur from their bellies and legs, apparently eating the fur since they had no other food. Our veterinarian on scene was able to humanely euthanize some of the most-suffering rabbits, and we were able to get a couple of rabbits to safety. The “owner” showed up and demanded to know what law enforcement, vets, and animal rescue were doing with his rabbits–and so we couldn’t even help them all.
Grasshopper (more often known by SamSam) was one of the few rabbits who got out alive and was fostered by our rescue’s chapter manager, a close friend of mine. His recent bio on our website read partially:
Grasshopper is a fabulous gentle soul, who loves nothing more than to allow you to shower him with attention! We rescued him from a large cruelty, abuse and neglect case in Monroe County, Indiana. Grasshopper suffered greatly at the hands of a neglectful owner; he was seriously malnourished and on death’s door when we rescued him. A veterinarian nursed him back to a position where he could be placed into a foster home (October 2001).
In May 2003, we discovered that Grasshopper has substantial tooth issues as a result of the cruel, abusive, and neglectful conditions from his early life. He currently only has one actively growing tooth in his mouth and his gums have grown over his remaining teeth. Grasshopper has been receiving continuous veterinary care to help him overcome his problems while keeping him pain-free and comfortable.
At this point, Grasshopper is completely dependent upon his foster family to meet his daily needs. Grasshopper is such a fabulous, loving rabbit, we don’t consider this an inconvience, we consider it our gift to him. Grasshopper receives daily pain medication. To ensure that Grasshopper will never go hungry again, we currently prepare 2 different varieties of semi-soft food 4 times daily.
In spite of what Grasshopper has been through, he has a positive outlook on people, seeking attention. He will lie for hours while you stroke his face, head, ears, and body.
Update November 2006: The stress impact from his pre-rescue time has left Grasshopper vulnerable to serious complications over the past few weeks. Grasshopper could use as much heartfelt loving support as you can send his way. He is a very sweet soul in a tired little form.
It is truly a miracle that Grasshopper is still with us today. His spirit is an inspiration to all Indiana HRS volunteers.
SamSam suffered from head tilt in the last several weeks, where his head was literally turned ninety degrees to the side at all times, and his equilibrium was so affected he would spin and roll if anyone tried to move him. My friend and the vet were able to stabilize him with medication, while he was also on several others to treat his many illnesses. Dawn provided intensive care in the form of nebulization, injections, special food prep, and simply accommodating his living area so he could navigate while ill and off balance. Quality of life eventually declined, and SamSam was helped to the Rainbow Bridge a few days ago at almost nine years old.
SamSam endured probably a record number of vet visits, with many tooth trims and surgeries over the years, and required an extraordinary amount of daily care at home. A number of the rescue’s volunteers helped Dawn and her family with his care, but what amazes me is the amount of time and love and personal funds she put in to keep SamSam not only alive but happy despite his disabilities. Rabbit rescue may often be about moving as many homeless rabbits to new homes as possible and all the hard work that entails, but there is this other part of caring for a truly helpless being who suffered under a terrible person’s “care” that speaks to your soul in a way all the healthy, cute, easily-placed rabbits does not. It’s not that they are worth any less, but that each is worth so much that it is reasonable to put your all into helping that creature who many would say should just be euthanized.
I hope I have the strength to help an ill animal that way if I’m ever in that situation. I am not good at comforting people and don’t really know what to say to make it any easier for Dawn. In the end many rabbits have been helped by that one SamSam’s existence: when I heard of the neglect situation in 2001, that was the event which spurred me to begin fostering for our rescue, and five years later an awful lot of homeless rabbits have passed through my door on their way to new homes. I hope my small tribute to SamSam, which is really what my rescue involvement is, resonates somewhere in the heavens or afterlife or whatever is out there.