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Pet Product News Editorial Blog:

July 12, 2011

Disappearing Act

By Elizabeth Creith

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"Elizabeth, would you bring Garm over here?"

David was standing by the dog-food shelves, and I knew exactly what had happened. One of our volunteers had dropped a hamster or a rat, and it had skittered under the shelves. The gap between the bottom shelf and the floor was just too small for any of us to get an arm under, so retrieving a critter meant moving dog food and lifting the shelf.

With 12 feet of dog food shelving, it was useful to have a detection system to know exactly which section to lift. Garm, our big, black mutt, was the detection system.

When we opened the pet store, I'd never expected critters to escape as often as they did. In 15 years of keeping everything from rabbits to reptiles, the number of escapes we'd had could be counted on the fingers of one hand. But with volunteers, mostly in the 10-to-12-year-old range, and employees in training, it was bound to happen. It was reassuring to know that Garm would work his magic when we needed it.

Garm looked a bit like a Newf and had a gentle and easygoing temperament. He could be trusted to take himself out the back door for a quick pee and come straight in again. He was tolerant of children. And he never stared with intent at the rabbits, or even particularly paid attention to any of the little caged snacks—um, critters—in the store. But if one got out, we could count on his nose to show us where it was. Then we'd block off that section of shelving and catch the escapee. He never went after the hamster or whatever. He left the catching to us. We put it down to good training, good temper and good food.

Then came the morning of the Great Rabbit Escape.

We had six baby bunnies; they must have managed to get the lid off their cage just before we arrived. As we entered, two white tails flashed up the store. While I secured the four who hadn't yet realized they were free, David went after the runners. He came back with one.

"I can't find the other," he said. "I think he's squeezed under the shelves."
"That's a tight fit."

He shrugged. "If they can get their head through it, the rest will follow. Where's Garm?"
He was sniffing around the grass by the parking lot, and came when we called.

"Find the rabbit," we said, pointing at the dog food shelves. Obligingly he nosed along them, but without that stop-and-stare that told us he'd found our quarry. We took him all around the store, but in vain.

"Sorry, no rabbit here," he said, with waving tail.

"Maybe he got into Julie's place?" I said. Julie was the hairdresser in the next unit. I went next door to check. No, no rabbit there. There was a concrete wall between us and our other-side neighbour, and the front door was closed. Whatever hole that bunny had found, he'd disappeared into it and pulled it in after him.

And that's how it was until eleven o'clock, when David came up the store with the mop.
"Found the rabbit," he said.

"Is it okay?" I asked.

He shook his head. "Garm barfed it up. I guess he got it while I was catching the other. He'd probably just finished eating it when we called him in."

"Garm? Ate the bunny?" Well, dogs are predators, after all. I admit, though, to being a little surprised that he'd done it.

But I bet I wasn't as surprised as the bunny.

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