I know I’ve been quiet…it wasn’t that I didn’t want to, it’s just that we went back home to SA for 3 weeks and it was a little difficult to give news about Thumps when I wasn’t there to gather any.
To tell you the truth, I was a bit in a bad way about leaving him and the Dear One had a hard time reassuring me that all would be well. But Thumps was at a fragile age, he was getting to ‘fit’ in so well, Ted seemed to be getting along with him at last and was offering the odd lick or two (I tried to convince myself that this a tentative display of acceptance and friendship rather than a small ‘taste’ for future reference) and all seemed to be going well. But I also knew that hares don’t have the best of long term memories and I was worried he would forget all the work we had put into him and worse of all, forget us. But….I couldn’t very well send apologies to my niece that I couldn’t attend the special occasion of her wedding because I had to keep bonding with a 4 week old hare….
Anyway, to cut a long story really short, we arrived back at home in France, Tass and Ted were delighted to see us, everything looked beautiful, the fresh green leaves of Spring were amazing and Thumps was completely wild. Due to circumstances, he had to be left in his cage day and night and had received very little, if any, physical human contact. But he was healthy, still drank loads of milk through the cage wire and had grown in leaps and bounds! His baby face had disappeared completely, his feet had grown to fit at least a size 5 shoe and he was in the middle of his Spring molt.
In the late afternoon when everything had settled down, I tried to catch him and hold him. He bit me, gave a kick that I never thought possible and flew out of my arms like a mad thing. So we started again….
We left him to do his usual circuit of the cottage to orientate himself and try to remember. A bit of research thanks to Google told me that even though they have bad long term memories, familiar sights and smells bring it all back and with a bit of perseverance, they will remember things. I watched him and to be honest, I wanted to cry. As I said earlier, it seems such an honour to have this fragile and now very regal looking wild animal in our care and I was torn between keeping him and trying to revert him back to what he was or, seeing as he was so unused to people, letting him go into the wild where he truly belongs.
Two things made me more at ease with the decision to persevere. The owner of the chateau was here with his dogs – two whippets and when one managed to get in and come and sniff the cage where Thumps was, Thumper didn’t flinch. He completely ignored the dog, made no attempt to hide in his little house, just carried on eating even when the dog, who is a hunter and definitely would have killed him if he had got to him, scratched on the wire. In the wild, with foxes and dogs scurrying around the fields, Thumps wouldn’t stand a chance.
The other thing was the vet. When the owner mentioned my dilemma to her, she said he would live a longer, happier and healthier life where he was and she didn’t see any reason to let him back into the wild.
For the next two days, we brought him inside to have the run of the cottage in the evenings and put him in his cage during the day to sit and doze in his sandpit and nibble the odd bit of grass. On our first evening home, he recognised his furry white blanket and hopped onto the couch and then tentatively on to my lap to be fed his bottle of milk. But he wouldn’t let me touch him. I sneaked a kiss on the top of his head while he was busy drinking and he stopped drinking for a minute and stared at me with his big gold eyes. The next morning I came downstairs in my dressing gown and to my joy, I watched a light come on in his little brain. He put his front paws on my arm and sniffed the dressing gown licking it with great gusto. Then he followed me around until he could climb on my lap for another feed.
By this time, Ted was back in line and showing a bit more respect and the owner and his dogs had left so I opened the back door and let Thumps out into the garden where he once more did his exploratory circuit and then tucked into the bed of mixed lettuces which had been able to at last grow in his absence. I left him there for the afternoon and then showed him his carrier house, tapped the door and offered him some milk. He went willingly into the carrier and allowed me to give him a few more kisses while he drank. After a shower and back in my gown, I went watch a bit of TV before putting him to bed with a piece of apple. To my delight, he jumped on my lap, rolled around on my gown, snuggled in and allowed me cover him with kisses and tickles.
Thumps was back!
I have to keep in mind that he is older. And even though he still has a lot more growing to do( he is 1.5 kgs now – still has another 5 or 6 to go), his needs are not those of a baby anymore and he is more independent. I can live with that. He stays out in the garden all day dozing in the sun, at dusk he becomes more active and browses on the grass (or my lettuces) and darts around or ‘binkies’ – pirouetting and leaping across the lawn. Sometimes he comes in through the back door to lie on his bed under the stairs. At around six in the evening, he comes inside in search of milk and settles down in the spare dog bed we have or in his own bed. Every now and then, he hops onto my lap and scratches for attention and then absorbs all the love, tickles and kisses he can before wandering off again.
He had a tick on his head which seemed to be bothering him. I put some essential oil on it to kill it and make it easier to get off and then later in the day, when he was calm and sleepy, I pulled it off. I got some licks and head rubs as a thank you. It’s silly, but those moments are very touching, more so than a domestic cat or dog. As a I mentioned earlier – it is truly an honour. He is a handsome, silent, regal and fragile creature and he is teaching me so much.