Anyone who has followed us for a while knows what my most prized animal on the farm is – our farm dog named Tundra. I often rave about him, but it is so well deserved I just can’t help myself. I have mentioned before in a story about some barn chaos that it wasn’t the first time he has protected our rabbits. I’d like to share a story with you about another time he saved a baby bunny.
Back in late 2012 we had a litter of baby bunnies that were between 2-3 weeks old. So they weighed about 1-1.5 lbs. Here is a picture of the size of rabbit we are talking about:
We had done morning chores and my husband had gone off to work. I had a very busy morning as I was trying to finish house chores and homeschool and be ready to leave the house the second my husband got home from work at lunch time. I had an appointment in a town an hour away and it was going to be close timing to get there in time based on when my husband could get home. As is often the case when I am in a hurry around the house, things kept going wrong…a sweet little helper accidentally spilled 1/2 gallon of milk all over the floor, the dog vomited in the middle of the livingroom, the bathroom sink began leaking and filling up the cabinet underneath with water….you name it and it happened that morning.
Throughout the morning I heard the barn dog barking a few times, I was in such a rush that I would look out the window to check on him, and then I would go back to what I was doing. Every time I looked he was out in the barnyard, standing in a different place each time, and he didn’t seem to be barking at anything in particular. But it kept happening and I started to think that I better actually go out there and check on him. Despite my best efforts, we kept having things happen in the house and the tyranny of the urgent kept me from going out.
Then it was time to go and my husband arrived and in a rush I told him on my way out the door that the dog kept barking but I didn’t see anything worth barking at. He said he would check on it and sent me on my way. Because we live in the mountains, cell service is patchy. The place I was going was through the mountains so I didn’t have cell service for most of the hour drive. I used that time to decompress from the morning happenings and still my soul. When I got to where I had cell service I saw that my husband had called so I called him back and heard a very interesting story.
After I left he went inside to check on the kids and tell them he would be going out to the barn. Then he headed out there. He could see the dog in the barnyard and he was laying down, facing away from the house, but turning his head and barking towards the house. This was a very strange position as he normally faces whatever he is barking at with his whole body and he really never barks laying down. As my husband approached him his tail started wagging and he got more and more anxious and the barking turned to whining, but he stayed laying down. It was very strange. My husband got within a couple of feet of him and said “What’s going on Tundra?” Tundra stood up and looked right down at the ground under his belly as if pointing with his nose saying “THIS is what is up!”
There, under his belly on the ground, was one of our black baby bunnies. It was perfectly fine and healthy, alive and well. It immediately took off, darting across the barnyard. The dog went after it quickly, barking as he went, and when he got to it he gently laid down on it again, keeping it from moving. He turned and looked at my husband in desperation as if he was saying “Get over here and help me! Catch this thing! I’ve been chasing it around and laying on it all morning and NO ONE came to help me! Come and get it!!!” My husband walked over and when the dog was satisfied that my husband was close enough to do something he stood up again and my husband grabbed the baby before it could dart away.
Hubby went into the barn and found that the momma, plus this baby, had both gotten out of the cage and the rest of the babies were still inside the cage. The latch on that cage was not in the greatest condition and we don’t know exactly how they got out, but they did. Momma was up on a few bales in the hay pile, munching away without a care in the world.
It is kind of amazing to us that the baby even survived the fall from the cage, it was about a 5 1/2 foot fall. But it did and then it somehow got out into the barnyard and could have easily been taken by a hawk, or hopped out of the barnyard and been lost in the big world, or been eaten by a predator or frozen to death. Or one of the barn cats would have been happy to find it and eat it. No matter what, it would not have survived. But the heroic dog had kept it inside the yard AND had kept it warm and safe all morning by laying on it. I think he got tired of chasing it and didn’t know how to keep it still and so he just layed on it to keep it still so he wouldn’t have to herd it around. His laying on it, in and of itself, probably saved its life because it was so cold out that day.
I felt SO bad for not going out sooner. As best as we can guess he was dealing with the baby bunny for at least 2 hours. You can bet I learned my lesson and I listen to the barn dog EVERY time that he tells me something is going on. And I gave him a very special dinner treat that night for being such an amazing dog.
I think there is a lot you can train a dog to do (I used to work as a dog obedience trainer), but some things you are just lucky to have built-in. A truly good farm dog is a mix of both good training and amazing instincts. It knows what is important to you, the human, and works to protect and care for whatever that is. Our farm dog would kill a wild baby bunny that he found, but he just knows that the bunnies in the barn are something that are important to us, his owners, and therefore he protects them.
We love that amazing dog!