A lifetime of caring for animals brings out rock star qualities

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I'm a bit excited about the second annual Lowcountry VegFest, to be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 21 at Shelter Cove Community Park.

The event is a celebration of the plant-based way of eating and living, with a goal of showcasing the benefits of a vegan lifestyle for humans, animals and the planet.

But this is the exciting part: My mother-in-law is coming to visit and attend the event with us. She hasn't been able to visit since we got married here in 1990.

I am not one of those who has issues with the in-laws. In fact, I think my mother-in-law is rather cool. She is kind, generous, funny and wicked smart.

And she is kind of a rock star.

Her name is Caroline Gilbert, and she is the founder and sole caretaker of the Rabbit Sanctuary Inc., located on her 30-acre farm in Simpsonville. I've written a bit about her before.

This year, we are celebrating her 50 years of rescuing rabbits and providing them a home for life at the sanctuary.

Did you catch that number? Caroline founded the sanctuary 50 years ago, in 1967.

It all started when my husband Amos brought home a pet rabbit and asked if he could keep it. Caroline said "Absolutely not!" - so of course Amos sneaked the rabbit up to his room and tried to keep it hidden.

It wasn't that Caroline didn't like animals. Quite the contrary. I'm told there had been dogs, hamsters, gerbils - even a goat and a possum - living in the house at one time or another.

Caroline eventually discovered Amos's secret bunny and ended up taking care of it. Eventually people started bringing other rescued, sick and discarded rabbits to her for safe keeping.

Ever since then, she has dedicated her land, her home - her life! - to saving thousands of rabbits and giving them safe harbor in predator-proof habitats that she designed. Caroline has been a pioneer in rabbit health care, even teaching new vets in town about particular rabbit needs.

But don't mistake her for any kind of fluffy wallflower who pets bunnies all day!

This woman hauls 50-pound bales of hay in wheelbarrows, carries feed pellets in gallon jugs, and drags a garden hose some 75 feet uphill to care for her rabbits.Twice a day, every day, Caroline feeds and waters some 50 to 60 rabbits, speaks to each one by name, checks for issues, gives medicine to those in the infirmary and cleans up soiled mats.

Every third Sunday, a group of volunteers comes over to help clean the habitats and do other bunny chores. Caroline makes lunch for all of them.

Did I mention that she's 80 years old?

I told you she's a rock star!

So, back to the event. Caroline is coming here because the Rabbit Sanctuary, a nonprofit organization, is branching out a little and will be a first-time exhibitor at VegFest. She will be in our booth where we will sharing rabbit info and offering a couple of raffle prizes. (One of them is an Amos Hummell painting!)

In the style of favorite Lowcountry festivals, Cranford Hollow will provide musical entertainment; food, wine and beer will be available for sale.

If you're around, stop by our booth and say hello, buy a raffle ticket, have a beer, listen to some tunes.

And I'd love for you to meet my rock star mother in law.

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