“Everything that is real was first imagined”            The Velveteen Rabbit

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The rabbit has deep symbolic meanings. They represent fertility and family abundance, Mother Earth and springtime rebirth, new life, new beginnings, creation and growth. A celebration of life. This circle can lead us to further ponder the longevity of generation upon generation and our own personal ancestry, should we have the time to let our minds wander past the adorable wiggly noses, tall splendid ears and tiny cotton ball tail curled around their fluffy bottoms. In true Mother Nature style the double edge sword of that luxurious soft fur and delicate whiskers hides beastly strong teeth and powerful hind feet that wield long, sharp nails ready to take action.

The middle of August Bakers Acres saw an intense influx of animals fleeing the Southside as fire consumed the community. Among them were 19 rabbits. 2 moms, 2 dads, 3 teenagers and a pile of babies. At first we crammed them all into our small rooster house to await the containment of the fire that we assumed would only take a few days. As the hours turned to days, and the days to weeks…the babies grew. We cleaned out our 2 personal permanent bunny houses and moved the group into my garden, separating males from females. Still the babies grew.

Our neighbor Rick and Judy Medley offered their volunteer services to help control our abundant bunnies. Judy designed the first rabbit hutch with 2 stories and Rick used materials taken from their old greenhouse. The thought that they put into this little house with large doors, heavy wire for bunnies tender baby feet, slight slopes for ramps and safe, dry sleeping areas with adorable horse shoe shaped doors is impressive and appreciated. As the bunnies quickly outgrew their overcrowded houses they would chase each other round and round in a flurry of fur and nails. Rick continued to build. Each house that arrived had new additions and changes to better suit my precious rabbit fosters. Rick personally delivered each one stopping to pet the foster dogs who so lovingly greeted him. Judy checked on his progress daily and stopped by the kennel to drop off munchies for the bunnies when she could. Rick and Judy have added a total of 4 rabbit hutches to our collection and because of it, the bunnies are thriving!

Still the babies continue to grow. The teenagers have become adults and have started nesting and  growling at each other, the boys have started pushing their weight around and biting the others fluffy bunny tail.

Sunday was yet another moving day for the group. The 3 female teenagers and the 2 original mothers got moved into the old chicken coop which is a larger house and outside pen. The babies have been moved in pairs into Rick’s special designed houses. As the winter approaches the baby bunnies will be spared their original purpose of becoming dinner as RainCoast Dog Rescue Society helps us spay and neuter as many of the 13 quickly growing babies as we can, so we can rehome them as pets. (250-692-6481 to get your name on the list to adopt these bunnies).  https://www.raincoastdogrescue.com/

I’m so proud of my family. They did not ask for this extra farm work, but they have stepped up and they shine like my own personal north stars! These lessons of giving, hard work, selflessness and gratitude are undeniably beyond my own capabilities and I am grateful for the opportunity to use this horrific situation to demonstrate their kind hearts and keen minds, not only to themselves…but to the world who is watching. Their confidence is contagious.

As the world also watches, some of our heroic Southsiders can head home to their own beds, but we quickly forget the devastation these people will face in the coming month before our long winter sets in. I’m reminded continually of their challenges as I go about my own. As my winter planning falls 2 months behind, I am anxious to get my “to do” list started. The heavy frost this morning only doubles that anxiety. Cleaning chimney’s, servicing fire places, heaters and thermometers,  insulating windows, keeping out unwelcome critters trying to stay warm, sealing and covering tin roofs, stocking pellets, organising emergency lighting and heating, winter shelters, feed storages, heat tape on pipes, protecting trees, door and window seals, claiming space to plow snow, winter hoses, preparing winter water troughs, repairing buildings, fences and barricades for winter protection, plans to divert the spring run off to keep the kennel dry next year…the list is endless. My list is for our little family of animals, and this business. It is unimaginable what the list for the evacuees are…they are back at  work, the children are back at school and their “to do” lists will also include building wood and hay storage, filling that storage with fire wood and food for their livestock, rebuilding fences that took years to build, leveling huge mounds of dirt so they have someplace to plow snow, recouping their homes from the rats that have taken over, rebuilding well houses and water pumps…with little over a month before snow comes, how can they possibly ever be ready for winter?  And still they are simply grateful for their own beds.

The Binta Lake (south of Burns Lake) fire in 2010, saw 40,000 hectares burn in the largest single fire in the province that year. I dealt with distraught people desperately seeking refuge for their cats during this evacuation at our tiny shelter behind the vet clinic where I worked. We had to turn them away as there was simply no room. I started this business in 2012 and the first thing I did was renovate a small structure on the property to house cats and I designed it to match the shelter I so loved. During the China Nose fire in 2014 I took in as many cats as I could from evacuees at no charge. Thankfully it only lasted a few days before people were allowed to go home. This is the second evacuation order due to wild fires where Bakers Acres has volunteered since opening 5 years ago. Evacuations due to fire are not new. How we handle those fires is not new. Evacuation registration is not new, even the forms have not changed in years. Action to save Tweedsmuir park from the pine beetle started in 1995. By 1997 it was out of control and the government simply waited for it to burn. The explanations of cost-efficiency, legislation, management, remote location, and rarity of challenges are not new. In fact they are getting really old. Things need to change. Instead of sitting at our desks and compiling phone numbers for emergency planning, get out to volunteers and see how things are not working, talk about solutions, then do it! Stop talking, stop writing, stop promising, stop excusing. Put on your muddy black rubber boots and do! Do something. Do anything. I was told early on, in this never-ending evacuation, by the RDBN that there was no funding for pets. Paulchen, our chunky monkey diabetic kitty, got picked up after a month’s stay and his “Mom” handed me a form that she got from the evacuation center in Smithers. A form that I can submit to the government for $50 to reimburse me for kenneling costs. Why was I unaware of this? Why are the people I’m helping unaware of this? Government un-preparedness? Government cost savings? Government ignorance?

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Joey and Paulchen

As I wait with bated breath for someone to come and ask how we can be better prepared for the next evacuation, I imagine that talk turning to action. Action to update registration, action to be fully transparent with concrete plans, action to renovate and prepare physical housing and help volunteers. Action to protect small business from the financial loss a disaster like this takes, action to support, action to be prepared. Simple action.

I imagine a scene where the sun creeps quickly down the hillside turning the shadowed grey trees to bright reds, yellows and oranges in celebration of fall. The brown abundant pine cones at the end of healthy green spruce boughs waiting for a cheeky squirrel to pluck them away and hide them as he chatters and squeaks at anyone daring to stop his harvest. The hardy white frost on the green grass melts with the warmth of the sun and the little bay pony stands huddled beside the stout white sheep for comfort and warmth as they impatiently wait for the sun to reach their backsides. I close my eyes and imagine this for all those people who are instead watching the sun peek through black, dead trees and creeping over huge brown mounds of sod that now cover their winter’s firewood in what’s left of their demolished wood sheds. Farmers whose sheep and goats are gone, replaced by black fields, limbless trees fallen in dangerous criss cross patterns, grey ash and broken/burned fences in a scene from a war lost. I imagine, for them.