With the exception of the last few years, I’ve always had pets. Mostly cats and dogs but having a son with allergies whose eyes swell like E.T. in the presence of cats, we’ve been without pets, save for Slimy the snail and a praying mantis named Priscilla who lived for a few months, dining happily on pet-store purchased crickets, in a converted aquarium.
We remained mammal-free until a chance encounter at a pipeline protest a few weeks back led me onto a path of commitment to babysit friends’ pet rabbit whilst they took a trip to Europe to visit family. He wasn’t a complete stranger to us. The rabbit, I mean. My youngest had previously met Buddy on a visit to their home and had fallen instantly in love.
“I promise I’ll help take care of him,” he implored. Knowing what a well-behaved gentleman he was (the rabbit, I mean) I agreed and on the eve prior to their departure, Buddy arrived in a large cage with enough food and accessories to carry him through for the next two weeks.
For those who, like me, have never owned a rabbit, it’s been a learning experience. Buddy is litterbox trained, affectionate, and softer than you can possibly imagine – a cat feels like sandpaper next to a rabbit. And while he basically sat looking stunned for the first 24-hours, he slowly came out from under his blanket-covered footstool and started exploring our mostly rabbit-proofed main floor, stealing my heart in the process.
“What’s this? Where’s the romaine?” asked my husband of the mixed baby greens I’d purchased at Costco. “Buddy likes these better,” I said as he rolled his eyes, muttering something about how well rabbit goes with mustard sauce and fingerling potatoes.
By the grace of the internet, my youngest became a lapine expert, finding a list of safe foods for rabbits, suggested activities, and deciphering rabbit behaviour. While his owners told us Buddy would grunt when he was happy, we also discovered he would slap his hind legs sharply on the ground if he sensed danger and that his favourite toys were jar lids and an empty plastic bowl that he would happily pick up with his teeth and throw around the room.
During a nasty heatwave, my son froze a number of two-litre soda bottles full of water that we placed in Buddy’s lair to help cool him down. It seemed to help but a day later, despite the better weather, he began to tremble and, with glazed eyes, declined all food and drink, even turning up his delicate nose at his beloved lemon basil leaves. I did some googling and a few chat rooms said this could be caused by gas. Rabbits fart?
In a nail-biting 24-hour period, even my death-metal, head-banging, drone-music listening teenager was lying on the floor, stroking Buddy and talking to him quietly. Could’ve been that, or maybe he just farted. The rabbit, I mean. But the next morning, he hopped over to his food dish, resumed eating then produced a respectable output in the litter box, I have never been so happy to see urine and fecal matter in my life.
Buddy’s back with his family and there’s now a void in my house of what one son called “a big white pile of dumb.”
Maybe, but dumb has never felt so soft or had such a calming effect, and I think tons of money could be saved annually on therapy if people would just spend some time with a rabbit.