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RES-Q Tyler Stop

By June McCrary Jacobs

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CHAPTER ONE
The Discovery
July, 1968
Sonoma County, California

"DAAA-AAD! Come quick!" Weston's voice, loud even for an eleven-year-old, boomed across the empty hall. He and his little sister, Wendy, were sweeping up the section where the rabbits were kept at the Fur and Feathers Hall at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa. The family was volunteering for after-hours clean-up duties.
Their father, Glen Gregg, dropped the broom handle and rushed toward Weston's voice. He found them in the far corner of the hall peering into several wire cages.
"Look what we found," Wendy said, voiced rimmed with worry. She turned toward her father with wide eyes. "Dad, these rabbits look really scared. They're shaking. Are they going to be okay?"
"I think they look sick, don't you? They're not healthy and happy-looking like our Ruby," Weston said.
"Let's have a look," Dad replied.
Dad had loved animals since he was young boy which was one reason why he was a high school biology teacher. After looking in each cage, he decided the six rabbits were overheated. The animals were heading toward heatstroke. His family had learned the hard way about heatstroke in rabbits one summer when he was a young teen in 4-H. His hometown experienced a 'once-in-a-century' heat wave that took its toll on many of his family's pets and livestock.
Weston knew Dad was being quiet because it was bad news. Once his dad put his hands on his hips, Weston knew for sure Dad was angry. His father didn't want to upset Wendy and Weston about these rabbits, so he didn't answer right away. Dad was trying to be calm in front of them.
"Dad?" Wendy tugged on her dad's hand.
"What's wrong with them?" Weston asked.
Glen Gregg observed the rabbits closely. All were panting and salivating heavily. The bunnies looked tired and confused. Worst of all, their ears had reddened. All were symptoms of overheating.
"I'm a little bit angry someone left their rabbits at the fair too long. The deadline for animal pick-up was four o'clock yesterday."
"I know," said Weston. "That means they probably haven't had food or water for almost twenty-four hours."
"It's got to be over a hundred degrees in here right now. Tyler Stop has been hotter than normal for fair week, and yesterday afternoon it was ninety degrees in the shade."
"Yeah, plus the fans in here were unplugged when they closed the fair yesterday."
"When they close the doors at night, no air moves in here at all," Wendy said.
"You're both right. I need you to go find Mrs. Fletcher. She'll know how to reach the owners."
While his children were busy searching for Mrs. Fletcher, Dad ran to his truck to gather several covered Tupperware glasses of ice water from the family's ice chest. He grabbed a spray bottle filled with fresh water they kept in the cooler to mist their faces when it got really hot. His wife, Christy, made sure the family always carried water, snacks, and the first aid kit whenever they travelled away from home.
When he returned to their cages, the rabbits turned their eyes to look at him.
"You guys look like you've lost your best friend. Let's cool you down."
He spoke quietly as he filled the rabbits' water dispensers with the cold water and guided their mouths toward the spigots. They were soon drinking on their own. Dad began misting the rabbits' red ears with the spray bottle. Rabbits use their ears to control their body temperature, so some water mist on their ears would help cool them down. He turned on the large floor fan that was stored in the nearby corner. The fan didn't cool the air, but having the air moving might help the rabbits survive.
Dad's attention was torn from the rabbits when he heard Mrs. Fletcher's fearful voice.
"I don't know how this could have happened! Why weren't these bunnies picked up yesterday? Oh, my goodness, I hope they'll be all right. I'll never forgive myself if—"
"Let's give them some time to cool down. They've got cold water now, and I misted their ears and turned on the fan."
He put his hands on Weston's and Wendy's shoulders.
"Maybe if you two talk to them softly, they'll relax."
"Whatever you say, Dad, we just want them to be okay. I'm worried they won't make it," said Weston.
"Oh, no!" cried Wendy. Her face turned red and tears filled her eyes.
Turning to his sister, Weston told Wendy, "Try not to worry. We'll do our best to help the bunnies make it. You talk to those three. I'll cover these three."
"Okay."
The sound of Wendy telling the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears filled the corner of the hall. Weston talked to his rabbits about rocks and minerals, two of his favorite subjects.
While the children were busy, Glen motioned to Mrs. Fletcher that he wanted to speak with her privately. They walked toward the center of the hall out of earshot of the Gregg children.
"We need to get a vet over here as soon as possible to check out the rabbits. They were very stressed when the kids discovered them. The whole group was severely overheated. I think they're moving toward heatstroke."
"The new vet in town, Dr. Lake, offered to oversee animal care at the fair this year. I didn't have to contact him during the fair, but I agree we do need him for this. Let me give him a call."
Mrs. Fletcher hurried away to the fair office to use the telephone.

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