Last updated: May 31. 2013 10:52PM - 248 Views
Michael Howlett
Staff Writer

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Rodney was barely moving when Patty and Kenny Ashley saw him in the dumpster behind their business, The Time Factory on Main Street in Hillsville. But, now, thanks to their love and kindness, Rodney appears to have made a full recovery.

Although the Ashleys have a sign “Beware of Attack Cat” hanging in their shop, Rodney is not the animal referred to by the sign. Rodney, you see, is a groundhog.

“We saw him in the dumpster rubbing his face. I think he might have been hit by a car, but I don’t know how he ended up in the dumpster,” said Kenny Ashley, who decided to attempt to rescue the injured Rodney.

“I just lifted him into a small cage we had. He didn’t fight, I could tell he was beat up enough, that he wasn’t ready to resist.”

Rodney was then transferred to a larger cage and kept in the store so the Ashleys could keep close watch on his recovery.

“I guess it was the best part of a week before he got to the point that we thought he was going to make it,” said Kenny.

During his four weeks with the Ashleys, Rodney has become somewhat of a celebrity. A lot of people have visited Rodney, who gladly accepts being petted. Although he likes to eat cabbage, celery, grapes and broccoli, his food of choice is by far carrots.

“From the first time we gave him carrots, he has loved them,” said Kenny. “People ask, ‘He lets you pet him?’ I tell them that if Rodney gets a carrot in his hands, he doesn’t care what you do.”

Recently, the Ashleys began to allow Rodney to roam around behind the counter during the day, then putting him back in his cage at night.

“When we let him loose, he wasn’t scared. He just roamed around checking everything out. It’s like he knows we are helping him,” said Kenny.

However, Rodney liked those doses of freedom so well that one morning when Kenny opened the store, Rodney had made his escape.

The Ashleys finally found Rodney at the very back of the building in the last stall of a bathroom. Kenny then placed a litter box in the stall and spread some newspapers around the box. When he returned a short time later, Rodney had gathered up the papers, crunched it up and built himself a den around the litter box.

“He went back there and made that spot his. He did that in a matter of minutes, gathering all that paper and scrunching it up,” noted Kenny. “I think that’s the thing some people don’t realize, he’s really smart.”

When the Ashleys began taking care of Rodney, they were expecting to nurse him back to health and release back into the wild before winter arrived. However, they are not so sure now.

“I think he is probably completely well, other than being blind in his left eye, but I don’t know if he has enough time to dig himself a hole for the winter,” said Kenny. “He may be out of time.”

No problem, said Kenny, Rodney is welcome to stay.

“We have found so much information about people who have groundhogs as pets. The more we know about him, the more we know it would be okay.”

As for Rodney, he seems to have made himself at home. After all, he has a secluded area to sleep in, heat to keep him warm, and all the carrots he can eat.

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