When Cathie Dunn glances out the window as she goes about her job as a server at Jeni’s Main Street Grill in Southold she sees mostly ordinary things: people walking by, cars passing.
The last thing she ever thought she’d see was a lop-eared rabbit.
“It was June 1 and I was walking out of Jeni’s when I saw her,” said Dunn. “She just sat there looking at me, so I ran inside and got a carrot.”
After tossing some food to the rabbit, Dunn, who lives in Cutchogue, got in her car and went home. The next day when she arrived for work the rabbit was sitting under a tree behind the restaurant, so Dunn fed her again. The rabbit showed up the next day. And the next. Nearly every day for three months the rabbit was there waiting. Dunn, not knowing it was a female, named her Harry O. after her grandfather.
Harry had obviously been someone’s pet; after only a week of tossing food to her Harry was eating out of Dunn’s hand.
“I tried to find out if she belonged to anyone,” said Dunn. “I asked around but no one was missing a lop-eared bunny.”
So Dunn unofficially adopted Harry and continued to feed her. She worried about Harry if she wasn’t there waiting in the morning, but Harry showed up most days.
“She would come out and eat in the morning and then be gone for the day,” said Dunn. “She would go under the ramp at the historical society or wander around behind the Southold Library. I put a bottle of water out for her; it was so hot and I worried she’d get dehydrated.”
One night in August Dunn found Harry sitting on the railroad tracks and it was then she knew she had to do something.
“I knew I had to catch her. If I didn’t catch her she probably wouldn’t survive. Between the train tracks and the traffic on the road, I was so worried about her. So I had some kids — customers from the Grill — come down to help me try but we just couldn’t catch her.”
Eventually Dunn enlisted the help of local dog agility trainer and fellow animal lover, Jill Blum of Peconic who, along with two friends, was able to catch Harry.
“I put her in my car and took her straight to the vet,” said Dunn. “And that’s when I found out he was a she.”
Harry was underweight but otherwise in good health and Dunn was able to leave her at the North Fork Animal Welfare League in Peconic while she figured out what to do with her. Eventually she brought Harry to a man in New Suffolk who cares for rabbits, but that didn’t last very long.
“Just thinking of her being there — I couldn’t sleep,” said Dunn. “I went to see her and she was so scared so I took her home.”
Throughout her life Dunn, who grew up in Port Jefferson, liked to write poems. It was only natural that she would write about Harry, who had become such an important part of her life. So she sat down one day and wrote about Harry O. and put together a small book complete with photos and stickers.
“I thought I’d give it to the children’s library,” said Dunn. “I’d brought Harry to visit a class of 10-year-olds in Setauket and read them the book and they just loved it. They all told me I should publish it.”
Presently Dunn is seeking an illustrator for the book and has yet to decide if she will seek out a publisher or just publish it herself.
“If I do sell it I will donate some of the proceeds to the animal shelter,” said Dunn. “All my life I’ve loved animals. My grandfather Harry O’Brien — Harry’s namesake — instilled such a love of animals in me. We’d feed the birds and chipmunks. Animals depend on you. You can’t just get rid of them if you don’t want them anymore.”