Spring has arrived in East Texas. Signs of it are everywhere I look. Flowers. Butterflies. A thousand shades of green. Greta. And of course, this little guy. He/she is not quite a week old. Baby bunnies are like kittens. It’s nearly impossible to tell their gender with accuracy for at least a month. He entered the world Tuesday April 4 after dark. I guess it really began a few weeks ago. I became suspicious when I caught our dog Jack intensely focused on one particular spot of the back porch. Days later I watched as he chased something from the yard into that very spot. Both bodies were moving far too fast to decide what our new friend might be but I have had rabbits in the yard before so it was a guess in the right direction. A few more days later I was returning from an evening walk. As usual I stood at the open gate waiting for the dogs to trickle in one by one rather like a kindergarten teacher accounting for every little one coming in from the playground, hot and messy and tired. Jack lingered at the edge of the woods before he began to run around in odd circles seemingly alone in the tall grass. Soon he was headed straight for me and the open gate. Good boy Jack! Wait… Before him as fast as lightning a wild bunny came rip-roaring through the gate nearly running over the top of my foot. It sailed past me and straight to its safe spot…you guessed it…under the porch. So, definitely a bunny under there. That’s when I began to worry and hope beyond hope that it was Not an expectant female. For the life of me I can’t imagine why she would want to nest in a yard with four large dogs. Nevertheless, she Was expectant and Did nest inside the fence! How do I know? Well, Tuesday night Jack brought this little guy into the house, brand new. Now, Jack isn’t bad. He’s a wonderful dog who simply has a great nose and wants to play. With everything. To his mind he had found a fabulous new toy. Although the mother had been seen diving under the porch more than once, locating a nest wouldn’t be nearly that easy especially in the dark. Mother rabbits are not very attentive to their young. They only visit the nest twice a day to feed the babies but otherwise steer clear of it so as not to attract potential predators like Jack. All those times she lead Jack to the porch was probably a mother’s way of keeping his attention on her and away from where she would give birth and keep her babies. The bunny seemed newborn and fragile but otherwise unharmed. First I made certain that Jack wouldn’t be able to get out for the rest of the night. Next I lined a small deep basket with a towel and some fleece that I bundled around him for warmth. Then waited for morning. He made it through the night. Check! I walked a slow path around the yard searching for signs of the nest or more babies. I found both. Rabbits nest on the ground almost in plain sight. It’s bizarre how trusting they are and how we don’t stumble upon their nests more often. A mother pulls back some leaf litter adds some of her own fur for warmth and softness, places the babies in and covers them lightly. Then she leaves. That’s it. And like I already said, she only checks on the nest twice a day. It would be futile to put a helpless baby bunny back into a place Jack already knew about. So, there I was with a new baby to care for. I did find another one. He had been removed from the nest and left elsewhere in the yard uncovered and exposed to the chill of the night. I provided him with the love and warmth that I could. He refused to eat and the night’s exposure was too much. He didn’t survive the day. So much sadness right at the beginning. But this one had a strength about him to keep on. He accepted me as a surrogate mother. He sucked down his special formula fidgety but adapting to an eye dropper instead of a mother’s nipple. Hunger won out over the oddity of it I suppose. He relieved himself Really Well! That’s so important with a baby like him. If plenty comes out then you can rest knowing that plenty is getting in. So many fun things to think about! In less than a week he’s become a sizable part of my thoughts and of my days. Even now as I write his basket is nearby so that I can peer in pull back the fleece and assure my fretful heart that all is still well. He knows the sound of me, the scent of me and perks up his tiny ears and wiggles his tiny nose when I come near. When Jack brought him in on Tuesday night I was afraid. I went through this last spring. It was touch and go for days on end. That little one didn’t make it. I failed. I failed period. I failed him. I cried…for him, for what might have been, for the loss of a tiny life that I came to love. I know that wild bunnies are very hard to raise and it probably had nothing to do with anything that I did or didn’t do. But knowing a thing and believing it in your heart are two different things. So, when this baby found his way into my life and my days I was afraid. The truth is I still am. He’s far from out of the woods yet. I keep on. I hope. I open my heart and offer him the love that I have doing the best I can to help him live. I wonder if his own mother is feeling lost and lonesome. There is already talk of a small piece of fencing that might allow her to enter but keep out Jack if she should choose to nest again in this new favorite spot. The baby’s sweet days have a simple structure. Eat and be loved. On my end there’s more to it than that. Prepare formula. Clean and sanitize all of his eating and formula supplies. Feed him slowly at his own pace. Clean him. Clean his supplies. check. check. check. We humans love to score and to tally. We love to make lists and cross things off when accomplished. He ate. He urinated. He slept. check. check. check. Success! Life isn’t a giant score card. My life isn’t and neither is his. One cannot tally everything and why would you even want to. Success cannot be measured in check marks. I love the way he reaches for the sound of my voice. I love the way he licks his lips. I love the way he drinks his milk when he’s hungry. I love the way he nuzzles against the warmth of me when his tummy is full and he’s ready to fall back asleep. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I don’t know if he will make it. Although everything that I don’t know makes me afraid, I will keep on. Choosing to love him and care for him. And if another tiny life should find its way to me in a week or in a year, I will do all of this again in spite of the fear. Life isn’t about check marks or crossing things off a list. Life is about how much love you give. Life is in the nuzzles.