ROGUE RIVER — "Bring back Amos."
That's the message on a cardboard sign hanging from a now-empty rabbit cage at Great Beginnings Preschool in Rogue River. Amos, a black pet rabbit adored and cared for by the school's 24 pupils, disappeared from his backyard cage sometime between Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning. The water bottle, feeder and a basket holding several books were also gone.
"I'm sure they took the basket to haul it all in," said Rhonda Schock, Great Beginnings director.
The cage had been latched but did not have a lock on it. It's the second such theft from the preschool in three months, but Schock and local law enforcement hope that Amos, and the first stolen rabbit, Stew, will be returned.
"We feel that people are good and that they made a mistake," Schock said.
In addition to the sign, the Rogue River Police Department has taken to social media, posting numerous photos and information about the thefts on its Twitter account, @rogueriverpd. The hashtags "freestew" and "freeamos" also have emerged.
"This kind of story has an emotional impact," said police Chief Ken Lewis. "We just need the information spread."
The first bunny theft happened back in March. That rabbit, a white flop-eared with gray spots, had been named Stewart — "Stew" for short — after the title character of the Stuart Little children's books. Schock said she notified police but declined to file an official report.
A Rogue River resident donated Amos, a mini black satin, about a month ago after hearing about the theft of Stewart. Schock said she designated a student helper to clean the animal's cage and feed and water it daily. Students grew vegetables for him, held him frequently, and played with him as he hopped around the yard.
"He was very sweet," Schock said.
She added the children were very upset by the theft at first. She has been able to use the incident as a teaching tool, a living example to the youngsters about how it feels when someone takes your property.
Calls for donations of new rabbits have come in, but Schock said she's declining for now.
"We want to give it a little bit of time," she said.
Lewis said the fact that accessories also were taken indicates the thieves took the rabbit with the intent of making it their own pet. The guilty parties could be charged with third-degree theft and criminal trespass, but they may be able to work something out if the animal is returned safely.
"We're hopeful," Lewis said. "The emotional value (is) pretty much priceless. One time, that's bad enough. But twice? That's a crime."