Had it taken even one more day for little Ping to be discovered, it certainly would have been too late.
Instead, the tiny rabbit, found among tall grass in Chicago’s Ping Tom Park, will be ready for adoption in a matter of weeks, thanks to the animal shelter that rescued him and the donors who chipped in more than $1,000 to cover the cost of his treatment.
The rabbit was just 3 or 4 weeks old when a group of volunteers and employees from the Red Door Animal Shelter found him in the park, located in the city's Chinatown neighborhood, after receiving a tip.
He was in terrible shape.
The rabbit, who has since been named Ping Tom, was severely dehydrated, overheated and covered in a sticky, dried-up “fly slime,” as well as more than 200 ticks and “a fountain of fleas.” Ten bot fly larvae had burrowed under his skin, and he required surgery at Chicago Exotics Animal Hospital.
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Ping was found in very rough shape, and immediately ready for a snack.
On a scale of 1 to 10, in terms of the worst condition she’s ever seen a rescued rabbit come to her shelter, Red Door President Marcia Coburn said the animal, whom she simply calls Ping, was definitely “a 10.”
In addition to getting the parasites removed, Ping required a bath -- almost always not recommended for rabbits, unless under the supervision of a veterinary professional -- to help remove the dry slime he was covered in. A final surgery took care of an abscess that occurred at the site of where one of the larvae was removed.
Ping cooperates while being washed in order to remove the slime he was covered with.
“He was so debilitated; we really wondered if he was going to be able to turn around, but we and the veterinarians both thought there was a good possibility -- and, knock wood, he has made it,” Coburn told The Huffington Post.
While Ping was among the worse-off rabbits Coburn says her shelter has taken in, it’s not that rare for a domesticated rabbit be found abandoned.
Red Door, one of Chicago’s few no-kill shelters that deals with rabbits, has captured 42 domesticated rabbits this year alone -- an increase from years past. Coburn attributes the number to the public's growing awareness of the differences between a wild rabbit, which can usually fend for itself, and a domesticated one accustomed to provided food and a predator-free life.
Still, Coburn is aware that some families who adopt domesticated rabbits like Ping do so without understanding the responsibility. A rabbit is more high maintenance than most cats, many dogs and almost all of the gerbils, mice and hamsters some people incorrectly associate them with, she said.
“Rabbits are not an easy pet -- certainly not a starter pet,” Coburn said, noting the creatures require a special diet, exercise and attention. “They are very misunderstood animals.”
Ping beginning to recover from his surgeries.
Coburn’s shelter is attempting educate the public about rabbits’ unique needs and characteristics, including -- most adorably -- that they “dance” when they’re happy. The first time Ping came out of an isolation cage, where he was recovering from surgery, and was brought into an exercise pen, Coburn says he literally “jumped for joy.”
“He picked up his feet, shook his head and soon he was doing 180-degree turns in the air,” she said. “When we saw that, we knew it’d all been worth it. It reaffirms everything we hope for and everything we try to do for animal.”
Today, Ping has a clean bill of health and, against all odds, should be ready for adoption in four to six weeks. Coburn thinks this little survivor will make one family very happy.
“Animals are not lost causes,” she said. “Sometimes we don’t get there in time, but when we do we want to give them the chance they deserve.”
Ping is well on the road to recovery.