Bunnies and Dogs - Can it be done?

October 25th, 2012

So, you’re a lover of all fuzzy creatures, and you imagine your home filled with singing birds and animal friendship a la scenes from Disney’s Cinderella. But can that actually happen? Well, fellow bunny-lovers, I’m here to give you some tips on how a great co-species friendship can evolve, specifically between rabbits and dogs. Read on and see the photos for actual proof that such a thing does exist!

Hazel is my 2 lb, 3 year old, spayed female Netherland Dwarf. She was an “only child” before I adopted Nola, an adorable Dachshund mix, special-needs puppy in April 2012. Nola was headed to a rescue organization from the animal shelter because she was born deaf, and with some other congenital abnormalities that go along with the “double merle” gene. Being the sappy veterinary student that I am, and a lifetime dog lover, I decided to adopt her. However, I realized that I needed to go about things carefully in introducing her to my bunny Hazel, as I wanted it to be a safe and positive experience for both of them.

Nola

Nola

Hazel

Hazel

Nola doesn’t have an aggressive bone in her body, and Hazel is a very outgoing and social bun - it ended up making them a great match. When I first introduced them, Nola was only 5 pounds, and not too much bigger than Hazel. Hazel wasn’t afraid of Nola, so both of my girls just checked each other out, sniffing and following the other around. Hazel was somewhat miffed, and wasn’t as social for the first few weeks that Nola was at home, often hiding under the bed or leaving the room when she’d had enough exposure to puppy time. As time went on, Hazel grew bolder, and before you knew it, she was stealing dog food out of the dog dish at dinnertime, often while Nola was still eating! Of course, dog food isn’t a great choice for rabbits, and I had to shoo her away - but it was great that Hazel had no fear of Nola, and Nola didn’t have any issues with Hazel getting near her, her toys, or her food.

As time has passed, Nola and Hazel have only become more comfortable with each other. Hazel now sticks her head or entire body under Nola’s face, begging for groomies! Nola sometimes obliges, licking her face, nose, and back. Other times Nola isn’t in the licking mood, but Hazel sits patiently while Nola sniffs, sniffs, sniffs her. It’s adorable to watch. Recently Hazel thought Nola had been getting treats and she was feeling left out - so what did Hazel do? Got on her hind legs, put her front legs on Nola, and sniffed her face to see if she had anything yummy to share! Such a bossy little bun.

Playtime!

Playtime!

Couch-time and snuggling with mom!

Couch-time and snuggling with mom!

Waiting for treats

Waiting for treats

When Hazel has had enough, she can escape to her room, under the bed, or behind the furniture to get away from an annoying puppy. I always watch them closely to make sure that Nola isn’t being too rambunctious - there have been a few times where Nola has pawed Hazel, or tried to get her to engage with her toys; of course this is only in play, but it is important that your bun never gets hurt (or vice versa- bunny bites are bad!). I always discourage chasing or rough-housing of any kind from my puppy; it is absolutely not tolerated in my house. Also, Hazel makes the rules - if she has had enough interaction, I let her choose to go elsewhere, and do not let Nola continue to try to play or follow her. This has worked well, and as time has passed, the interactions between Nola and Hazel have become natural, friendly, and fun for both of them.

So here are some overall tips I would follow for INTRODUCING A PUPPY OR DOG TO YOUR BUNNY:

  1. ALWAYS make sure interactions are supervised, especially when first introducing your animals
  2. Put your puppy or dog on a leash when first doing an introduction
  3. It may be a good idea (if your dog is not well-trained) to take an obedience class first to get the basics of come, sit, down, stay, etc. It will make things safer in the long run.
  4. Put your bunny in an x-pen, and with your dog/puppy on leash, let him/ her approach the pen. Watch carefully for a fear response in your rabbit, or over-excitement in your dog. End the session if you feel things aren’t calm or positive.
  5. Once your dog can behave calmly around your bunny in his/her pen, let your bunny out of the pen. KEEP YOUR DOG ON LEASH, AND MAKE him/her SIT QUIETLY AND CALMLY. Let the bunny approach. Again, watch your dog for hyper-excitability or aggression, and quickly end the session. Reward your dog for good behavior around the bunny, and vice versa. You want both the dog and the rabbit to enjoy the interaction.
  6. Repeat these interactions in different rooms of the house, or where your bunny might roam naturally. Keep your dog on leash during these times, and always let your bun approach. Keep the situation calm and quiet, and give plenty of rewards for good behavior!
  7. Once you feel comfortable with your dog’s behavior around you bun (which could take MONTHS), you may want to see how the interaction goes off leash. That is up to you, and only you will know when the time is right. It is always risky to take this step, so make sure the environment is stable, quiet, and safe. Supervise at all times.
  8. Recognize that your dog may never accept a rabbit; some dogs have a high prey drive, or are naturally aggressive toward small animals. However, I would not say that one breed, age, or sex is more predisposed than another. I think that a dog-bunny relationship is entirely on an individual basis, and each animal is different. Some people say that introducing a puppy to a rabbit is a bad idea; however, it worked for me because I had the right combination of personalities. It is up to you to decide and do what is best for your animals.
  9. Hopefully your dog and bunny will accept each other, and enjoy each other’s company. This will take time, but if both are willing and the interaction is safe, it can be very rewarding! Don’t push, and take your time - safety is of the essence!
  10. If your dog becomes too rambunctious, wants to chase, or play too rough with your bunny, stop the interaction immediately and separate the animals. Let your dog know that this is unacceptable.You may also want to make sure your dog’s and bunny’s nails are trimmed to avoid any scratching injuries, purposeful or accidental.
  11. Let your bunny make the rules - if your bunny is outgoing or territorial, it will let the dog know when enough is enough. Your dog needs to learn that. But don’t let things get out of hand, and keep things safe for everyone!
  12. NEVER leave your dog and rabbit out home alone together - before I run to the store and when I go to school, I put Nola in the kitchen, separated from the rest of the house by an xpen. Hazel can still visit through the bars, but it’s good to know that everyone is safe and happy while I’m away.

I can’t stress enough that safety is of the highest importance when introducing a dog and a rabbit. But if done properly, bunnies and dogs can get along well! I know of many people who have rabbits and dogs that live together in the same home that do excellently. I love having a dog-bunny friendship in my house, and it makes life a little less stressful when my animals don’t have to always be separated. So good luck to you, everyone! And keep us posted on your journey to a dog-bunny bond!

Anastasia and Freddie - Happy at Last

September 18th, 2012

Here is a little update on Glen and Ava, who we’ve now renamed Anastasia and Freddie.

gayle-with-bunnies-sept-2012

It’s been four months since the arrival of these two wild hearts, and the process of falling in love goes on. Gayle, the bunny mommy, has developed a very special relationship with Freddie and Anastasia. They perk up and bound towards her when she enters the room, and she returns the favor. Even the shy Anastasia will come up for a nose bump. Feeding time at our house is no affair of dropping greens into a bin. It’s more like an intimate dinner with friends. Bon appétit and hugs all round.

GI Stasis in Rabbits - A Bunny Slave’s Guide

August 30th, 2012

 
GI stasis is a health emergency that all rabbit owners should know about. So what exactly IS GI stasis, and how do we prevent it in our rabbits? And how is GI stasis treated if your rabbit develops IT? Well, fellow bunny lovers, here’s GOOD INFORMATION for you to know!
 
What is GI stasis?
GI stasis is a condition that in which gut motility (peristalsis) decreases or stops all together.
 
What causes GI stasis?
A number of things can cause GI stasis. Stress, pain, dehydration, intestinal blockage, or improper diet can cause the condition.
 
How can you prevent GI stasis?
Make sure your rabbit is receiving a proper diet that is high in fiber. This means a small amount of timothy hay-based pellets for adult rabbits (dependent on weight), fresh, bunny-safe vegetables (red or green leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, kale, spinach, cilantro, parsley, etc.) and LOTS of hay. Hay should make up the majority of a rabbit’s diet, so make sure that your rabbit is getting his or her fill! There are plenty of types of hay that bunnies can eat, so if your rabbit doesn’t like one variety, try another!  Some options to try are timothy, orchard grass, oat, or botanical hays. Alfalfa hay isn’t a healthy option for adult rabbits, so make sure you’re reading the label on your hay bag! Also, keep the number of treats that you feed to a minimum, and only use healthy options, like small pieces of fresh or dried fruit, or treats specifically formulated for rabbits. That means NO yogurt treats, or excessive amounts of sugary foods - keep those bananas and craisins to a minimum. WE know it’s easy to spoil your bun, but make sure it’s only in moderation!
Bunnies need exercise! Not only is this great for your rabbit’s health, but it’ll help keep his gut motility going strong. Rabbits should be housed in a 4′x4′ pen, MINIMUM, and should receive at least 4 hours of exercise outside of their enclosure daily.

Groom your rabbit frequently, especially during molting or if you have a longhaired breed. Cutting down on excess hair (which rabbits groom off and will ingest) will reduce the chance of buildup within the intestinal tract. Hair in the intestinal tract is normal in rabbits, and is usually only a problem if the rabbit becomes dehydrated or already has stasis, as the hair, food, and feces in the gut becomes a hardened mass that is difficult to pass. But grooming is always a good idea - better safe than sorry!
Keep fresh water available at all times so that your rabbit doesn’t become dehydrated. If you feel your rabbit isn’t drinking enough water, maybe change the container (from a bottle to a dish, or vice versa).

What are the symptoms of GI stasis?

  • Lethargy or a lack of normal activity
  • Teeth chattering or grinding - an indicator of pain
  • Malformed feces - smaller pellets
  • No feces for a period of 8-12 hours
  • Anorexia - not eating for a period of 8-12 hours, even when offered treats or favorite foods
  • Hunched or rounded posture

How is GI stasis treated?
If you are EVER worried that your rabbit may have stasis, even in the slightest, take him or her to a qualified exotics or bunny-savvy veterinarian IMMEDIATELY. Stasis can rapidly turn fatal, and it is truly an emergency. Your veterinarian will perform a physical examination, and will often do abdominal radiographs (xrays) in order to determine if there is an obstruction and/or gas present in the intestinal tract. Your rabbit will be placed on IV fluids to increase hydration, motility drugs, and pain medications. Your veterinarian may also draw blood for a CBC/Chemistry panel to determine if any systemic abnormalities are causing the problem. Your bun may have to be hospitalized, and even be syringe fed to receive critical nutrition (often Critical Care/pumpkin mix) and initiate gut movement. Abdominal massage may also be helpful in relieving discomfort and promoting motility.
 
So that’s the rundown of GI stasis, friends! Keep a close eye on your bun, and make sure you’re being the best bunny slave you can be by providing the proper nutrition, exercise, grooming, and attention!

To Smokey, With Love: A Rescue Story

July 16th, 2012
I’d like you all to meet “Evans Rabbit.” At the Veterinary Teaching Hospital where I work, all stray or wild animals are named by the last name of the person who found them, then their species. The animal will quickly be assigned a nickname by the care staff, but in this special lady’s case, she didn’t have enough time. For the sake of this post, I’ll call her Smokey, inspired by her lovely coloring and fluffy Angora coat.
I thought I would write a SaveABunny blog post to not only commemorate Smokey’s life, but also to draw attention to the abhorrent animal cruelty that led to her being placed into our care.
Smokey was brought in to the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital (WSU VTH) after hours by a Good Samaritan. A young girl had found her tied to a tree at an elementary school, and took her to a local pet store. The Good Samaritan, who also works at the pet store, brought Smokey to us after they realized that she was severely injured and heat-stressed. I was working at the receptionist’s desk that evening, and I was the one who took Smokey in. I opened the box the Good Samaritan handed me - inside was a black and grey Angora cross, her lovely coat matted and dirty, her eyes crusted, and breathing hard.
Smokey was taken back to the Exotics ward for medical treatment and monitoring. The next day we took radiographs of Smokey’s body to determine how badly she was injured. Smokey’s right leg was badly broken at the hock, and needed to be amputated. The toenails on two of her paws were worn down to the quick and bleeding. There was bruising all over back, and feces caked to her bottom and rear legs. Her her was so badly matted that we had to shave her down to the skin.
2012-07-10_12-28-19_288
The amputation surgery couldn’t be completed until the following Monday, so the broken leg remained bandaged, and Smokey was on constant pain medication. She began eating hay and fresh vegetables on her own, along with the pumpkin/Critical Care mixture that she was syringe-fed. She also began defecating and urinating, a fantastic sign for anyone who has cared for an ill bunny. I often volunteer in the Exotics ward, and I took Smokey out of her cage daily to sit next to her on her fleece, cushioned dog bed on the floor. I groomed her, cleaned her eyes, and gave her the pets, massages, and love that she had most likely never received before. I was ecstatic when she would tooth purr, or shove her small black head under my hand to demand more rubs.
2012-07-11_14-03-27_937
Smokey seemed to grow stronger daily; she continued eating, drinking, and going to the bathroom. We were counting down the days until her amputation surgery, which would have taken away her painful, hindering leg and given her more mobility. And I was personally counting down the days to when Smokey would be healthy enough that I could introduce her to my own rabbit, and hopefully bond the two. Since Hazel, my Netherland Dwarf, is such an affectionate bun who is always asking for and giving groomings, I thought that she could give Smokey some extra TLC and help her heal; they seemed to be a great fit.
2012-07-11_14-03-54_157
I left Smokey last night after spending an hour with her on the floor, tucking her back into her hay-padded cage with fresh veggies in front of her and a kiss on the top of the head. I was shocked when, this morning, I received a text message from the veterinary technician in Exotics saying that Smokey had unexpectedly passed away during the night, and was found this morning in her cage by the volunteers. As I write this, I am still stunned, and deeply saddened. It eases my pain knowing that such a sweet little bun was rescued from an inhumane, torturous death, and was receiving the best treatment possible surrounded by those that truly cared for her. Although it hurts me that Smokey won’t be joining my family, it brings me joy knowing that I was there to give her the love and attention she deserved.
Rest peacefully, Smokey. You were loved.
Emily, Veterinary Student and Bunny Blogger

Hot Bunnies! How to keep you Rabbit Cool in the Summer

July 12th, 2012

Now that summer has officially begun, I thought I’d write a post about how to keep your precious bunnies cool in this hot weather.
 
For your bunny to be safest and live longest, domestic rabbits should be kept indoors, period. They are highly susceptible to heat extremes and stress, which can rapidly cause death. Keeping your rabbit in your home is also the best way for them to relax and bond with your family. You’ll also be able to tell quickly if there are any other health issues you might miss if your bun lives outdoors.  So what are some ways to keep your home cool and comfortable for your fur-baby?

  • Make sure your home is an acceptable temperature for your rabbit. If it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for someone with a fur coat on! Use your air conditioner or fans to keep your home cool.
  • Your rabbit’s pen needs to be out of direct sunlight, so be sure to determine how much sunlight is streaming through the windows in the rabbit’s main area.
  • Place a fan directly near your rabbit’s area or in his or her room. Make sure the cord is in a bunny-proofed position! You can even place damp towels on the side of your rabbit’s pen and let the fan blow through them; this will create cooler air.
  • Frozen water bottles are a cheap and easy addition to your rabbit’s room. Wrap them in towels and place them in prime lounging territory - some buns love lying next to them to keep cool.
  • Bowls or tubs of ice can provide some relief from the heat, as well as another way for your rabbit to stay hydrated.
  • Ceramic tiles or small slabs of marble are great for making a cool spot for you bun to lie on.
  • Always keep your rabbit well-groomed to remove excess hair. If you have a long-haired rabbit, getting them a shorter “summer cut” may be a good option to help keep them cooler.
  • Rabbits should always have plenty of fresh, bun-safe veggies. Rinse them well with cool water before giving them to your bunny; this will help keep them hydrated.
  • If your rabbit will tolerate it, you can mist his or her ears with a spray bottle. A lot of heat dissipates through the ears, and misting them will help cool the blood.

Signs of Heat Stroke or Stress in Rabbits

  • Increased respiration rate (fast breathing)
  • Breathing with an open mouth
  • Increased heart rate
  • Warm or hot ears; redness of the ears
  • Drooling or moisture around the muzzle area
  • Lethargy
  • Refusal to drink water for extended periods of time
  • Convulsions
  • Confused behavior

What should you do if you think your rabbit has heat stroke?

  • Take your rabbit to a qualified veterinarian IMMEDIATELY. Rabbits are highly sensitive to heat stroke, and they require immediate attention.
  • Mist your rabbit’s ears with cool water, and wrap their body in a cool, damp towel. DO NOT SUBMERSE YOUR RABBIT IN COLD WATER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.
  • On the way to the veterinarian, make sure your car air conditioner is on and the car is as cool as possible.

Remember, though, that summer time can also be a fun time for your bunny, because trips outdoors are possible! If you would like to give your rabbit time to play outdoors, make sure they are in a secure space (i.e. exercise pen) that is safe from predators, toxic plants, and stressful noises. Make sure the top of the pen is covered to protect him/her from predators, and keep the pen in the shade. Supervise your bun at all times when he or she is outdoors, and always provide fresh water. It’s ok to let your rabbit munch on grass and dandelions when in your yard, but they need to be pesticide and poison-free.
 
Have a happy, and safe, bunny-filled summer!

- Emily, Veterinary Student and Bunny Blogger

Twilight of the Bunnies

July 7th, 2012

The following is a guest post from Christopher St. John, foster dad to Anastasia and Freddie Mercury. We welcome guest posts from SaveABunny supporters and love to hear from you!

In my work as an advertising creative director, I often take part in anxiety festivals that last from morning til night. So it’s always wonderful to come home to my two bunnies, and sit with them for a few minutes in the gathering dusk, with a big plate of Italian parsley, pea pods and dill next to me.

Feeding the Buns

Feeding the Buns

Rabbits are crepuscular, which means they are most active around dawn and dusk. I usually miss the dawn frolics, alas, but the twilight friskiness is something I look forward to all day. As soon as I arrive with the greens, I can see Anastasia perk up. Apparently, she can hear the sound of broccoli slices being carried down the hallway.

I sit down, and she bounds towards me, because I’m the candyman: Purveyor of fresh cilantro and, on special days, the watercress from Whole Foods. She lays into the leafage with a will, and even with my impaired hearing, I can hear her crunching. Freddie comes out a bit later. He doesn’t rush, but lollops over with a kind of careful insouciance. (A curious thing about words is that only when writing about rabbits do you have occasion to use the word “lollops.”)

A chin bump from Anastasia

A chin bump from Anastasia

The silence is marvelous. In my work, I’m beavering about all day, figuring out ways to convince Americans that they don’t have enough, and that they need more. Even while unemployment stays stubbornly high, and American jobs drift away to other lands. This kind of work is done by hyper-verbal people with fervid imaginations, and the high-speed yak can go on for hours without stopping. Of course, I’m the yakker in chief. Often, by the end of the day, I sick of listening to myself most of all.

The buns are silent. Whether feeling fearful or frolicsome, they are almost soundless. A happy rabbit is something you see, but you will listen in vain for a rabbit to cry “Yowza!” at the end of a great piece of endive. And with the studied dignity and stoicism of a prey animal, they would never tell you if they are hurt. A lion with a thorn in its paw may lay by the side of the road making a great play for sympathy while keeping an eye out for Androcles, but no rabbit would ever do such a thing. Crying is an indulgence for predators and traders at JP Morgan Chase. It is hard to be bold if you are a prey animal, but every day, they are brave.

The buns look at video of themselves on my iphone

The buns look at video of themselves on my iphone

Our rabbits look wild. Anastasia is a mottled brown, and Freddie a dappled grey. When you see them, you don’t think “hutch,” or “eight-year-old girl.” You think of them bounding away over the downs with Hazel and Fiver, looking for the perfect spot to found a new warren. * They don’t rush up to you, like a puppy, or expect to served by you, like a lordly feline. They are elusive. They keep their own counsel. When we first brought these creatures home, they ran from us. That they will guilelessly approach me now feels like a gift.

The dusk draws down towards night. My day of unique selling propositions and “More!” fades. The moment lingers and hangs. The shadows lengthen. The corners of the room disappear, and the quiet makes me sleepy.

Freddie and Anastasia tussle over a piece of parsley. “Hush, babies,” I tell them. “There’s enough for everyone.” And for a moment, in this tiny corner of America, there is.

Bunny Hospital - Nightly eardrops for Freddie

Bunny Hospital - Nightly eardrops for Freddie


* As I’m sure many readers already know, these are characters in the classic heroic fantasy novel, Watership Down, which chronicles the lives of a group of rabbits as they search for a new home. This is Penguin Books’ best-selling novel of all time.

A Tribute to Java (aka Trinity)

June 28th, 2012

Java Bean was a beautiful, feisty, and strong black satin bun. She came to her forever home feeling a little sad and depressed after losing her previous home, but she quickly warmed up and showed her true personality - curious, bold, and unconditionally loving.

Sweetheart

In some ways, Java was a bunny of extremes. Java loved to snuggle, but she was not a snuggle bunny. When she wanted attention, she’d run to her people at full speed and demand to be pet until she had enough. Then with a flick of the ears, she’d be off to explore or stretch out in one of her favorite places. Java knew that she was the boss of the house and made sure everyone else knew it, too.

Speed Racer

Her cuddliness and affection for everyone that met her melted the hearts of friends and family. Her determination to chew up remote controls and shred important papers drove her human family berzerk. When she was caught being “naughty”, she’d stomp, run back to her cage, and then stick her head out for treats. And no matter how badly she destroyed something, she always knew her family would succumb to her beautiful black eyes.

Queen of the Castle

One constant, however, is that she cared for and looked after her family. In addition to being the boss of the house, she considered herself the protector of everyone who lived there. When car tires screeched, thunder boomed, or a dish clanged in the sink, Java would straighten up and stomp to alert the rest of the family that something wasn’t right. She’d stretch out in front her human family and keep watch – ears periscoping if she heard a suspicious sound. Then after a few loving strokes of her forehead, she’d relax again and snuggle up to her people until she’d had enough.

Licky

The amount of joy and happiness she brought to the hearts of the people who met her is indescribable. She wasn’t around nearly as long as her human family would have wanted, but her life was full of love and bunny adventures. Some of her favorite activities included munching carrot tops, shredding phone books, running the bunny 500, nibbling on a banana slice (her favorite special occasion treat!), and rolling her pellet canister around and around until a pellet popped out. She is missed very much and loved so deeply. As sad as her people are, they know that Java is taking good care of all the bunnies who passed before her – keeping watch and protecting those she loves.

Birthday Bowl

Sara and Yan
(Java’s people)

Meet Emily, the new Bunny Blogger, and her bun, Hazel!

April 9th, 2012

Hi! I’m Emily Krieger, and I’m the newest addition to the SaveABunny volunteer family. I’ll be writing blogs, Tweets, newsletter articles, and adoption and bunny stories for SaveABunny. So what better way to introduce myself than to write my own bunny story?

I, like so many others, got a rabbit on a whim. I’m a veterinary student, and not having any animals in my apartment just wouldn’t do! After reading up on many different species, I decided that a rabbit was the best choice for me. So I scoured Craigslist and found a rabbit in a nearby city; “Wendy” was a 2 year old intact female Netherland Dwarf from a small rabbitry. She was a breeder rabbit that the owner was selling due to lack of space.

So Tiny!

I drove that night to pick her up with a friend, and we met the owner at a pet store so I could also buy the supplies I needed. I had done some research, but didn’t know as much as I should have before acquiring a house rabbit. So what did I buy? A 4’x2’ pet store cage, a generic brand of rabbit pellet with nuts and seeds mixed in, a litterbox, and alfalfa hay. Looking back I realize the mistakes I made, but at the time I wasn’t completely educated about proper rabbit health or care.

“Wendy,” on the other hand, was adorable. I loved the black otter coloring, teensy ears, and round little body weighing all of 2 pounds. So I paid my $50, loaded her into the car, and away we went!

Snuggles

The next month was a crash course in rabbit behavior and care. “Wendy” had become Hazel, and was quite the hormonal little lady! Not being spayed, Hazel sprayed urine all over the living room when she was out for playtime, circled me constantly, and honked. She seemed to care less about the litterbox, and obsessively chewed the carpet around the blockade that kept her in the living room when she was out. I made an appointment with the Exotics veterinarian immediately, and she was successfully spayed 3 weeks later. Whew! What a difference that made; Hazel began using her litterbox almost instantaneously, and stopped acting like a hormonal nut! We were also better able to bond, and she quickly became very friendly, people-oriented, and affectionate. The honking, though, has never stopped; it’s just something she does when she’s excited!

SQUEEE

In the meantime, I had discovered a variety of reliable house rabbit websites, and I became a well-informed, educated rabbit owner. I quickly bought Hazel an x-pen to expand her living space when she couldn’t be roaming the living room. I switched her from alfalfa to orchard grass hay. I tossed the generic, unhealthy pellets and bought only Oxbow timothy pellets and treats.

MORE SQUEE

Now confident in my ability as a house rabbit owner, aka “bunny slave”, I explored the option of allowing Hazel to be free range within my apartment. She was still chewing the carpet in the living room and trying to escape over the barrier I’d placed in there to keep her from the rest of the apartment; I wondered if allowing her to have more space would solve the problem. So I bunny-proofed my home, then allowed her free range throughout the apartment. And what a difference it made! She loved having so much space to run and binky in. She all but stopped ripping up the carpet, too.

So what is Hazel like now? She is a happy, energetic, extremely friendly little bun with major attitude! She sits next to me on the couch while I do my homework, often for hours at a time. She follows me around the house and licks my feet, hands, and face. When I go to bed, I call her to follow, and she hops up on the ottoman she uses for a bed, begging for her nightly papaya treats. She isn’t perfect; there’s sometimes an accident, or she’ll chew my phone cord when it falls below the bed. But she’s my constant companion, and I can’t describe the joy and comfort she brings me on a daily basis. I love her dearly, and she could never be replaced.

Hello, Hazel

Fostering Fiddy, aka Fiddy Cent

November 27th, 2011

I began to foster Fiddy in early June, just a few days after my previous foster bunny, Malcolm, was adopted by a lovely woman and left to live the good life in San Jose. I was happy he found his forever home, but a little teary and depressed at his departure. Malcolm, you see, was an extra special bunny who charmingly dribbled bright green parsley juice all over his white chin and chest while eating his evening salad and had the most adorable turned-out front paws, like a furry ballet dancer. In short, Fiddy had some pretty big paws to fill.

I stopped by SaveABunny to pick up a new foster, and chose Fiddy, who, Marcy explained, had been turned into a shelter after biting a little boy. Labeled “aggressive” and “a biter,” he was taken in by SaveABunny.

I brought him home and he settled into his new space, a 4 x 6’ pen with all the usual accoutrements – blanket-lined floor, litter box, hay rack, water bottle, several cardboard boxes to hide in, and some plastic toys — then let him be for several hours, but chatting him whenever I walked by. This is my usual routine for fosters, to allow them time and space to become adjusted to their new situation and explore their living quarters in private. Besides, since he was an aggressive biter, I was so not looking forward to our first human-to-bunny encounter!

Later in the evening I dressed carefully for our first “formal” introduction – heavy fleece pants, thick wool socks and long-sleeved sweatshirt to protect every square inch of flesh that I possibly could. I considered fleece gloves, but figure that was overkill, since I would probably be too busy limping around with bunny teeth clamped to my ankle to worry about my hands.

I gingerly stepped into Fiddy’s pen and instantly he charged out from under his cardboard box heading straight for my leg. I braced for an attack. But…nothing. I looked down and there he was, sitting next to my ankle, and it sure looked like he was doing a little bow, which, in bunny language is a request for attention. “Ha,” I thought, “This isn’t my first time at the bunny rodeo, I ain’t falling for that trick,” and walk a few steps away. He followed and bowed. This is not going like how I expected.

I decided to carefully sit down, with my unprotected hands in the air, like a victim of a bunny hold-up. Fiddy hopped over and calmly sat next to my right knee, gave it a quick double nose bump, and looked at me expectantly.

Ever so slowly I lowered my hand and gave his head a tiny little rub, ready to snatch it back the instant he turns his head to bite. But he didn’t. He stretched out and closed his eyes, drifting off to bunny paradise. I thought, “Did I take the correct bunny? This Fiddy, right? The aggressive bunny?”

So then I really pushed my luck. I picked him up and put him on my lap. Hey, sometimes I like to live dangerously. To my surprise he stayed put, a limp and dreamy bundle of black fur, his tiny chin resting on my knee while I stroke his head, clearly reveling in all the attention and affection, absorbing it, and really taking it all in.

After about 20 minutes I needed to stretch so I gently pick him up and placed him on the ground and began to uncross my legs. He instantly jumped up and, running at full speed, leapt straight into my lap. As I sat there in astonishment (everyone knows that bunnies hate sitting on laps), he leaned over, kissed my leg and looked at me as if to say “More head rubs, pleeeeze?” I gave him a little pet and put him on the ground. Again, he ran and jumped right into my lap. After several tries, I finally manged to leave, with Fiddy throwing himself against the pen, begging for attention.

And so ended my first encounter with Fiddy the Aggressive Bunny.

Within the first day or so I learned that Fiddy does indeed use his teeth, but not aggressively. It is simply his way to explore. While most bunnies approach new objects warily, sniffing first, then licking, using their lips, then perhaps taking an exploratory little nibble, Fiddy is reckless in this regard, running full force up to anything that comes into his environment (toy, food bowl, finger) and having at it. It is not an expression of anger, but an overabundance of enthusiasm and eagerness for novelty.

Yes, his teeth have met my hand several times, until he recognized my smell, and now when I reach my hand into his pen, he charges up, stops on a dime, and lowers his head for a rub. He is learning to slow it down, especially after bumping his nose on my vacuum a bunch of times.

Perhaps this behavior will extinguish itself as he matures, but until such a time, it is ridiculously easy to compensate and compromise. Hold the food bowl on the far side when setting it down. Say something before stepping in his pen so he knows it’s just my foot and not a new toy. Don’t have banana smeared on my fingers before giving him a pet.

In return, Fiddy is the most affectionate and loving bunny I have every had the privilege of fostering. He flings his whole body into full relaxation mode when in my lap (I call them “Fiddy Flops”). He kisses my knees. Plus, on special occasions, he grooms my entire face – licking my forehead, carefully smoothing eyebrows, gently cleaning the corners of each eye, diligently covering ever inch of cheek and nose, and brushing away any crumbs I may have left on my chin. That is one of the highest honors a bunny can bestow on you. Besides, it feels so darn good!

iGive: One Million Buttons For Change

October 31st, 2011
This guy is already in costume!

This guy is already in costume!

Whew!  It’s been a while since this blog has seen any updates!  Running a volunteer organization, it’s like herding cats.  Or cranky bunnies.  You know how it is.  The holiday season is coming up (hello, happy halloween!  any good rabbit jack o’lanterns or costumes?)  Which brings me to this iGive promotion for the next few weeks: if you haven’t used iGive before, and you download this iGive button and use it for a few months (3), and SaveABunny will get $5!  Or even $10 if you pick us as your cause!  I downloaded it for Safari on my Mac, and it’s actually a very unobtrusive button, with only the little seed-pod (or upside-down umbrella?) iGive logo, which is actually kind of cute.

See you at Doc’s Clock!