Saturday, January 2, 2016

Rabbitude



Once again, I heard a demonic like snorting emanating from under the bed while laying the sheet on top of my mattress. It was followed by a gentle yet intentional head butt along with the feeling of fur against my foot telling me to back away from the bed or else. “Dammit, Halo. It’s me. It’s always me.”

For the past seven years, making the bed has been an adventure few experience. My pet rabbit, Halo, makes sure of that each day as she vehemently defends her territory which consists of under the bed, a nearby litter box, water bowl and food tray. If so much as a toe infiltrates her domain, I hear about it.

Bang

With a name like Halo, you might envision a sweet, cuddly, little rabbit, right? She has her moments. More often than not, however, Halo is a rabbit with a clear sense of what is hers, and doesn’t hesitate to let me know. Perhaps Bang, Bonk or Snort might have been better choices of names, but who knew.

After making my bed, I went to the kitchen to grab a bag of lettuce as part of the morning routine. I generally give Halo a heaping handful with a small piece of fruit or carrot a couple of times daily. As I leaned over to place the lettuce on her tray, my little angel rushed out from under the bed, and with her two front paws raised, knocked the bag out of my hands with determination. Leaves flew everywhere.

This is not the first time either. It seems it mostly happens on the mornings I’m running behind schedule and can’t spare a moment to clean up the leafy blanket of green strewn across my bedroom floor, bed, or even the night table depending on the force Halo was able to whack the bag with.

“Bad rabbit!” I said sternly knowing the admonishment would have little impact on future behavior. She just looked at me with those big, soft, brown eyes feigning innocence while munching on the tender leaves she had liberated from the bag.


Bonk and Snort

Rabbits make a grunt sound when they are just not happy about something. Halo has taken the grunt to new heights. Her grunt is a bonafide snort. It sounds like her head is about to spin around, and is rather disconcerting.

The snorting occurs any time I mess with what’s hers. There are times she allows me in her space - at her discretion of course. The one time she gets the biggest rise out of me is while making the bed. That’s when she combines snort with head butt. She still can take me by surprise at which time the words “Dammit, Halo,” are my standard response.

My rabbit is all about posturing, though. In the seven years we have known each other, she has not so much as scratched me. In that time, she has also lived in relative peace with two separate dogs. The worst she did was rear up on her furry hind legs and snort loudly. In that instance, I supported her actions as my goofy puppy was attempting to rough house with her. 

Bunnies do not rough house. I stood ready to intervene, but Halo had it under control. In fact, Kona, my dog, and I give Halo a wide berth when entering her space. I mean, who wants to be snorted at?

Rough Start

My rabbit came to live with me after surviving terrible conditions. Halo, along with 39 other rabbits, were fancy breeding bunnies housed in small cages and used for profit. When their owners could no longer afford the rent on their property, they suddenly left abandoning 40 caged rabbits.

The rabbits were starving to death when discovered. Some didn’t make it. Halo survived. I adopted her a few months after Mary Ellen Whitehouse of Bunny Lu (http://www.bunnylu.org/) rescued her. By the time I went to adopt her, she looked strong and healthy although she had been thin, weak and dehydrated when found.

I chose Halo for two reasons. First, when I looked into her eyes, I recognized something familiar in her. It was a feeling like I knew her - a soul recognition, if you will. I can’t explain it better. The second reason is she looked sturdy. Prior to Halo, I had a bunny named Sparkles. She was a happy, loving rabbit who was healthy one day and deathly ill the next (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uCoE31n2l0o). She died suddenly. It broke my heart. So, I wanted a sturdy rabbit this time around.

Clover and Halo

I brought Halo home to be part of a blended family: human, dog and rabbit. My dog Clover had lived with four bunnies prior and treated each one like her puppy. She snuggled with them and cared for them. It was love.

Clover was no spring chicken when Halo came to live with us. As Clover’s health declined, and vision failed - her balance became challenged. At that point,  Halo functioned as her eyes and helped her navigate sharp corners in safety. She also slept cuddled up near Clover as company. It was amazing to witness the bond between them, and even more, the care one little rabbit showed toward an old, sick dog.

The day came when we needed to say goodbye to Miss Clover. It was a terrible day for me. I’m sure it was a huge loss for Halo as well. We had both lost our best friend.

Halo never snorted at Clover. There were never any territory disputes. It was share and share alike. Unlike with me where snort, bonk, bang were (and are) daily occurrences.


New Puppy

My life seemed empty without a dog, so in came Kona. Things were OK as long as the rambunctious newcomer was smaller than Halo, but that lasted only about three months. With all the high energy puppy play, Halo had to set some clear boundaries. It took concerted snorting and charging to define territory, but Kona now understands his place, and it is not under the bed or near Halo's consecrated turf. Not EVER!


I do feel the need to add, the entire process was closely supervised. That little bunny, even with all her rabbitude, needed a watchful eye. I would not allow anything to happen to her.


Bones

In the wild, bunnies line their underground homes with fur –which, by the way, is plentiful. Halo tries building the same nest under my bed. 

Since I pay the rent, one of my rules is no nests under the bed! That means I have to periodically vacuum and wipe down the area near the headboard where giant fur bunnies accumulate. It's kinda gross.

During a recent nest removal, I found several half chewed dog bones. I had been wondering why Kona’s bones were disappearing so quickly. I noticed gnaw marks in them, too. Halo has been stealing bones and chewing them!

Kona gets special bones called Whimsees made from rice and potato starch. They are good for cleaning teeth and healthier than regular bones. They are also vegetarian…perfect for a rabbit’s taste buds, but not so good for a bunny belly.

One night, as I was lying in bed, I caught her in the act. Kona was lying on the rug chewing a bone. My bunny kept inching closer while looking cooly in the opposite direction as if everything was status quo.  

Closer and closer she got until she was standing right by his side. In a moment of distraction, she reached beneath Kona’s chin, grabbed the bone and zoomed under the bed. Both rabbit and bone disappeared in an instant. In the next moment, I heard the sound of crunching. When I reached in to remove the contraband, Halo shot me a penetrating look and snorted a ferocious snort.


She Loves Me




Things have gone on much the same between Halo and I for the past seven years. In addition to snorts and head butts, Halo chooses when I can pet her. Given her history, I can understand. Still, I would love to be able to scoop her up and snuggle at will! Nope, nope, that’s just not who my self-possessed, independent bun is.


At the conclusion of another day, I look over at Halo before turning off the light. I gaze into those big, soft, bunny eyes and swear I detect love as they stare gently back at me.

Goodnight, Halo. I love you, too.