So my younger two daughters, the 4-year-old and the recently-turned 9-year-old are HUGE animal lovers. I say "huge" because they love anything from a teeny crawling lady bug, to a killer whale and all sizes and kinds in between.
My 11-year-old likes animals, from a distance mainly, but certainly doesn't have a heart for them. In fact, she used to be deathly afraid of puppies, of which we have photos to prove. She's certainly gotten better over the years but still does not have the passion for the animal kingdom as her sisters do.
My 9-year-old, on the other hand, decided years ago she wanted to have a career working with animals. She use to think veterinarian but has now moved on to either a zookeeper or Sea World trainer. The 4-year-old doesn't know the meaning of a vet or a zookeeper, but she agrees that she wants to do the same thing when she grows up, as long as it's with animals. I won't be surprised if that's the career path they end up taking.
Their rooms overflow with stuffed animals, every creature holding a special place in each of the girls' hearts. It's ridiculous how many they accumulate. That's all they ever want when we hit the toy aisle. But they always want the wild kind -- not the cute bears or puppies, but a stingray or an ostrich or a shark.
After the stuffed animal total reaches 100, and I can no longer squeeze one more in the closet, I have to weed out the population. I wait til the girls are out of the house and then rifle through all the animals, looking for ones less played with. Then I pack them up in black garbage bags, wait until night-time and sneak them out to the back of a truck, praying I can get them donated before the girls catch on.
Well, their passion for animals went a little too far for Mama a few weeks ago. The girls were playing outside and I was cleaning the kitchen when my 4-year-old came calmly through the back door holding something in her hand. She held it out and said "Look, Mama, he's sick." "Poor little guy," she said. I turned and saw this purplish, transparent blob, about 3 inches long and 1 inch wide, lying in the palm of her hand.
Now, instead of sweetly walking over and assessing the situation, I instantly got the heebie jeebies and hollered out "What the heck is that?!! Ohhh gross!!!" The closer I got to inspect it, the more my face puckered in disgust. My little girl's eyes went from compassionate to fearful, so I had to calm myself down and handle the situation appropriately, before she flipped the unknown body on the kitchen floor.
Once I got closer, I quickly realized it was a premature baby bunny. My daughter was convinced it was still alive but I had to break it to her that he didn't make it. That news, of course, broke her heart and the tears came gushing. At this point, my 9-year-old came in the house too and joined in the mourning.
The girls ended up finding seven more dead baby bunnies in the trees, and so I dug a hole in the garden and we wrapped them all up in a fast food paper bag (since it would degrade) and buried them. We said a few prayers and my littlest cried all through hers, and we went on about our day.
If that wasn't enough wild animal drama for one day, it happened again that afternoon. My 9-year-old came in the kitchen after being outside riding her bike with yet another creature, wrapped in a big, green leaf. "Mom, it's a baby bat," she says matter of factly, "and he's hurt. We gotta help him."
"Are you kidding me?!" "Help a bat?" Was my reply. I've heard bats are packed with diseases and to never be around one, and now my kid is holding one and brought it IN my kitchen. Holy moly, how do I handle this one?!
Well, suggesting we bury him alive didn't go over well with my animal-loving daughter but if she would have left, I woulda buried him in a heartbeat. But, thankfully for her, Dad took over and found a little bug cage contraption to put him in until we could figure something out. My daughter spent the next 20 minutes googling what to feed bats. She asked if I could pick up some bat milk so she could feed him, but I'd probably have to drive to Kearney to get it. Oh ... okay ... no problem, honey, I'll add it to the grocery list.
Later that evening, Daddy and her gave the bat a dropper full of water, threw a little bug in the cage and called it a night. Both Dad and I went to bed assuming the bat would be flying in bat heaven by morning and we'd just have another garden funeral service. Wrong! There was note lying on the counter to me from Dad that read "Bat alive and well!" "Better call vet!" My daughter was SO excited that she had saved the bat's life and begged to keep him. She rattled off all kinds of ideas; get a bigger cage, some bat milk, a supply of flies, and so on.
I quickly called the vet, hoping to get the backup I needed to get rid of this soon-to-be pet. In fact, while the girls' listened in, I called both local vets and both said the same thing, "Get rid of the bat! Let nature take its course." I agree, thank you! Although the girls begged to keep him, they consented to letting him go. We took him to the park in his little bug cage, Dad got some gloves on, and after a little bit of screaming on the bat's end, Dad got him placed up in a tree. Bye Bye, baby bat!
I praised my younger girls for their compassion and care, and I encouraged them never to lose that, but I pleaded with them not to bring wild animals into the house, especially bats. Come get me first and we'll figure something out, because I don't really like my kitchen serving as a Wild Animal Rescue Center. What would it be next? Skunks and mountain lions?