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.
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.
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).
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!
5 thoughts on “The Great Bunny Soap Opera”
Gadzooks! What a story! What a daughter! What a mother!
What about the bot bug infecting the other bunnies? Where does it come from?
Curiouser and Curiouser. . .
The internet tells me that bot flies are attracted to bunnies, but can infect cats and dogs, and that average vets will remove five or six warbles total during late summer. In some ways, it was just bad luck that it was our bunny. All of our other bunnies are fine! I promise I will never forget that thing poking it’s head through the “breathing hole.”
Great story! Very creative. Glad it had a happy ending. Keep writing!