In the middle of the hedgehog disaster explained last month another pet came to live at the lighthouse. Shetland has hundreds maybe even thousands of rabbits. Most of them are the usually brown and grey types that are found all over the world. We also have a number of black rabbits, which everyone tries to protect and will not shoot, like they sometimes have to do with the troublesome brown ones. The most unusual and scarcest rabbit on Shetland and as far as I am concerned the most beautiful is the orange rabbit. My husband Dean kept saying I was hallucinating when I talked about orange rabbits. They are a dusty orange color when born but as they get older they get a deeper shade of orange.
Our caretaker Tom had a large orange rabbit living near his croft house and one of my joys was to watch it scamper around the hills. It was so easy to see with its bright coloring that I worried about a predator spotting it. One night Tom and I were out checking hatching seabirds nests when we noticed his orange rabbit lying beside the road. Jumping out to check we found he was still alive but did not seem to be able to move his back legs. We assumed by where he lay that a mechanical predator, the automobile, had injured it. I begged Tom to let me try to nurse it back to health. Reluctantly Tom helped me bring it to the lighthouse, put it in the hedgehog cage lined with newspaper and grass, and placed the cage in what used to be the lighthouse’s generator house.
Leslie, the light’s attendant keeper, was at the lighthouse doing maintenance on the beacon when we arrived with the rabbit. We had him do a thorough examination of what I had started calling the “orange bun-bun.” Now, Leslie knows all about the mechanical things that make lighthouses work but I was not sure about his veterinary skills. But being out in the middle of nowhere he was the best “expert” we could find at the time. Leslie discovered no blood or sign of external injury so his diagnosis was that he probably had internal injuries of some kind maybe to the spine since his back legs lay so still.
Tom and Leslie both tried to discourage me from taking on nursing this injured rabbit especially in light of the death not too many days before of one of the hedgehogs. It was such a beautiful rabbit I wanted it to live. Disregarding their warnings I began nurse to the orange bun-bun. Every morning especially at first when I went out to feed it I was sure I would find him dead. The first few days I had to put the grass and water right in front of the rabbit as it could not move around the cage. On the third day when I went out to feed the bun-bun I noticed it had moved from one end of the cage to the other. We were making progress. As the days passed the rabbit became more and more active in the cage.
It also became more and more particular about what it ate. The bun-bun did not like the grass that I picked from the lighthouse. The lighthouse grass is not a beautiful green lawn but brown and prickly. It has to be tough to survive in such a harsh environment. Having never tasted it I would guess it is leathery and not as sweet as what the rabbit was use to. I had Tom bring a bag of sweet grass from his croft for the rabbit every time he checked on me. The orange bun-bun liked Tom’s grass just fine until I made the mistake of buying it Rabbit Treat from the vet. From then on it would eat Tom’s grass only mixed with the Treat. This was definitely a gourmet orange rabbit and no dumb bun-bun.
I was in high spirits I finally had a pet that was thriving and that I would be able to turn back to the wild when I had to leave the lighthouse for travelling. Maybe even after I turned him out he would come back the lighthouse for his Rabbit Treat. Every morning I rushed out to the generator house to say good morning to my orange bun-bun. As soon as the door opened and the rabbit saw me, it hopped over to the side of cage to greet me or probably closer to the truth it wanted to be fed.
After I had the orange bun-bun about six weeks we found another hedgehog so I needed the cage. I decided to construct a fenced area in a corner of the yard for the rabbit until Tom could build a big sturdy wooden cage for him. Fence built we turned him out into the yard. It took only a few seconds for it to find a way under the fence and it started running across the hills. I stood with tears in my eyes as I watched my orange bun-bun until it was out of sight as it returned to the wild. To this day I am not sure whether they were tears of sadness because I had lost my pet or joy as he was healthy and could once again live in the hills. I was ecstatic when Leslie told me later he had seen an orange rabbit about the right size down by his croft many times.
So ends Chapter Two of the lighthouse pet saga and I still do not have a lighthouse pet. As you know from last month the hedgehog I got and put in the orange bun-bun’s cage died. Good news is coming, as you will see next month when I finally found some perfect animal companions.
This story appeared in the
March 2003 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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