The buns are back in town!

It’s been a rough couple of months at Russell, Jane, and Bear’s house – hence the lull in posts. I shouldn’t have let the blog slide, as I enjoy it immensely, but the squeaky wheel gets the grease, as they say, and I have been overrun by squeaky wheels. 

First, the bunnies: A couple of weeks after the last post, Jackson and Bear had a serious fight. Bear’s ear was torn and I panicked, wracked by guilt and fear of losing him, and returned Jackson to the center. I had other sources of guilt, too: Russell had grown incredibly fond of Jackson, following him around like an adoring little brother and snuggling him at every opportunity. Around the time of The Fight, Russell became uncharacteristically aggressive with Jane and Bear, and despite my re-bonding attempts, they remain separate. My little trio has split up, I guess permanently. 

Russell settled back into bunchelor-hood for a couple of months until last week, when I gave in to the persistent guilt I’d had over returning Jackson and fetched him once more. The reunion was adorable. I could almost hear them both saying, “Hey, friend!” They re-bonded immediately and as I type are snuggling in my bedroom. Russell is so happy to have a buddy again! Now, I have two bonded pairs. Jane and Bear are content together living in the guest bedroom, while the boys have taken over the master bedroom. My fiance loves it. 

The bunny house is in a state of flux. I’m working on the first event of the year, Bowling for Bunnies, to be held on March 15. At the end of December, we won a $1,000 grant from Adopt-a-Pet, which thoroughly gladdened my heart. I’m hoping this year is lucrative and smooth as regards GHRS. We’re so close to making big, significant progress. 

Personally, I’ve grown tired and disillusioned with graduate school. I’d love to quit my PhD program, but still (one year and counting) cannot find a job. It is monstrously depressing. I try to focus on my work with GHRS and on my family, but it does drag me down quite often. I wish someone, anyone, would just give me a chance. 

Bunny house update

Oh, what a relatively long time it’s been since I posted! Things are busy in the world of bunny rescue. GHRS is – to my great, great pleasure – going from strength to strength these days. Our most recent event, Brews for Bunnies at Monday Night Brewery in Midtown was not a huge success, but we did all have quite a bit of fun drinking their sub-par beer. Here’s a few shots:

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The most recent GHRS membership meeting saw yours truly become chair of the Events Committee. I take the place of Megan Rockwell Carpenter, whose sweetness of spirit in the midst of chaos is her hallmark and will sorely be missed. For my part, I’m excited to play a more central role in planning at GHRS. Like everyone else on earth, I secretly believe my ideas are somehow superior and with me at the helm, progress will be made by leaps and bounds. We also kicked off our holiday fundraising drive this morning, quite by accident, when I saw Amazon Smile on Nonprofit Quarterly’s Twitter feed. If you’re not familiar, here’s how it works:
1) Go to Smile.Amazon.com
2) Search for “House Rabbit Society North Georgia Chapter”
3) Click ‘Select’
4) Shop! Now, anytime you purchase goods through Amazon, a small percentage of your total will be donated directly to GHRS. (Just make sure your shopping cart screen says “Supporting House Rabbit Society North Georgia Chapter”)

Tomorrow, Ellen and I will take on Atlanta Veg Fest. If you’ve nothing to do and want to observe vegans en masse, come hang out with us!

My own baby bunnies are doing just fine. We tried out Doodle Bug for a few days as a possible fourth bunny, but it was not meant to be. DB, as I came to call her, is a somewhat grumpy, 15-pound Flemish Giant. The boys liked her okay, I guess, but Jane was driven to rage by her very presence. She attacked through the ex-pen bars so many times I eventually had to surround the cage with cardboard and hope her furious scratching wasn’t strong enough to break through. DB went back to the center after just three days, bless her heart, and Jane returned immediately to her gentle, mild-mannered self. As if she didn’t just spend 72 hours acting like a rabid bloodthirsty she-wolf.

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Can you feel the murder tonight?

After DB, I brought home Jackson, one of the sweetest and gentlest little boy buns I’ve met. Today makes six days he’s spent with us, and I still can’t figure out if it’s going to work. Jane is not wild about him; she seems mostly indifferent or irritated if he hops too close when she’s resting. Russell is just here for the food. Bear, however, has taken a special interest in – tormenting? initiating? – Jackson. He’ll face-hump (sorry) Jackson until the latter gets understandably fed up and snaps. Bear becomes visibly confused when this happens, as if he were only trying to be friendly, and twice now they’ve come to semi-serious blows over it. I’m hesitant to give up on Jackson, because I know that both he and Bear are naturally sweet-tempered, but the thought of either of them being seriously hurt makes me feel sick. For now, Jackson is confined to one of the center’s tall ex-pens all night and during the part of the day when Kirck or I can’t supervise.

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Sweet wittle Jackson in his pen at GHRS

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A very promising joint dinner

Will Jackson join us permanently or be face-humped back to the center? Time will tell. Save the bunnies, y’all.

Bunnies are expensive, one thousand percent worth it

I freely admit to being cheap. My mom says I remind her of her own mother, whom I never met but who apparently placed a high value on thrift, even going so far as to reuse tinfoil. Kirck is just the opposite. He would rather spend an extra $10 or even $100 on a high-quality item that he plans to use a lot than go cheap and have to replace whatever it is in three months. I still roll my eyes every time I think of that extra (totally unnecessary) $40 we spent on our first vacuum cleaner.

Every rule has an exception, however, and for me that exception has six ears, 12 legs and three sweet little wiggling noses. I happily, merrily, gleefully blow cash on my bunnies pretty much all the time. Some of it is necessary (hay, pellets, greens); some of it is … less necessary (new hidey boxes, sheets for digging, treats, ramps, rugs, etc.). Kirck fusses about the expense occasionally, but literally nothing gives me more pleasure than to come home from the bunny house or Petco loaded down with new bunny stuff, dump it all in front of the bunny area, and watch them rummage around. It is so much fun. And then, once they’re really excited, I coo, “Do my babies need a treat?!” And – this is crazy – they ALWAYS do!

But even if I weren’t a fanatically devoted spendthrift bunny mom, the buns would still need supplies, and bunny supplies are not cheap. No, sir. In fact, sometimes I even think of rabbits as “the rich-people pet.” Not because they’re fashionable, mind you, but because you really do need a decent income to sustain them and the humans in your house. You can’t just go to PetSmart and buy a store-brand 60-pound bag of dry food and dump some in their bowl every day. Nor can you  just pick up an extra head of lettuce once a week at Kroger. You can’t go cheap on bunny stuff. Either your buns’ health or your home will suffer and you’ll end up spending way more than you would have had you just not been stingy in the first place. Here’s the breakdown at my house:

Food
Purina Fibre-3 Rabbit Chow (7-lb. bag) – $8.24
Oxbow botanical hay (15-oz. bag) – $4.39
Oxbow Western Timothy hay (40-oz. bag) – $7.88
Greens: romaine hearts ($3.50 for three), endive ($3.50 per half-pound bunch), parsley ($.74 per bunch), dandelion ($3 per bunch)
Applesauce, unsweetened (Publix brand, small jar) – $2.34

Treats
Oxbow Simple Rewards (banana, 1-oz. bag) – $4.63
Dried papaya (5-oz. bag) – $3.68

Bedding
Southern States pine pellet bedding (40-lb. bag) – $5.99

Supplies
Natural Chemistry Healthy Habitat all-natural cleaner/deodorizer (24-oz. spray bottle) – $9.99
Nail clipper for small animals – $6.99
Comb for small animals – $6.99
Single small pet carrier – $29.97

Note that this does not include incidentals like upgrading or enlarging your buns’ habitat; certain one-time purchases like food/water crocks, food storage containers, and exercise pen(s); ongoing expenses like new toys, hidey boxes, carpet to replace what they’ve chewed, and towels for digging; or any vet or healthcare costs, especially the bunny First Aid kit you’ll need to have assembled if and when a health crisis strikes.

Are you a traveler, like me? Prepare to spend $16-20 per day boarding your bun when you go out of town, if you don’t have a bunny-sitter who can come to your home for up to $200 per week. Or maybe you’re contemplating a move with your bunny? That will be at least a cool grand in administrative fees, quarantine costs and vaccinations before Flopsy even boards the plane.

But Kate, you say, many of these costs are commonly associated with all pets, not just rabbits. To that I say: True, but because rabbits require specialized care, diet and handling – and only a very, very small percentage of animal health professionals know how to provide those things – you’ll always pay a premium for the right person and the right supplies. Fair? No. Worth it? Absolutely.

If you already have bunnies, you know what I’m talking about. I’ve never met a bunny parent who would think twice about getting their bun anything she needed, be it a 50-cent chew-toy or a five-hundred-dollar surgery. If you have the money, the time and the space in your heart (most of it should currently be empty, just to make sure) for a rabbit, get one. Get a pair. Hell, get three. Just know going into it that it’s a massive investment, a very, very long commitment and more hugely rewarding than I could possibly describe.

Bunny food

I don’t have any human children, but some of my friends do. When they were pregnant, several of them made certain (totally unrealistic) plans for the baby. Cloth diapers, organic-only food, hourly use of hand sanitizer. On paper these things sound like a good idea, but in practice they’re just an expensive unnecessary nuisance that are in all likelihood going to make the kid kind of a pansy. Let them eat a bit of dirt, I say, and fortify that little immune system!

Bunnies are physiologically nothing like humans (closer to horses, in fact), but they’re way tougher than humans give them credit for. I’ve seen GHRS bunnies pull through too much awfulness to believe otherwise. But like humans, bunnies do have their own little food pyramid, and it looks like this:

foodpyramid

When I first got Russell, I was measuring out with painstaking accuracy exactly one eighth of a cup of whatever pellet he was eating. I would compress his chopped greens to make sure it was precisely a quarter cup worth. He got one (no more) papaya treat per day, no fruit and definitely not as much hay as he needed because he wouldn’t eat it. It finally dawned on me that the pyramid is just a suggestion. It’s a strong suggestion, sure, but it can’t possibly take into account the needs and circumstances of every rabbit. That’s up to you, human. Here’s some food for thought:

Portion size: Russell, Jane and Bear would be miserable if they each got only an eighth of a cup of pellets and a handful of greens. Why? Because they’d be starving. They’re free-run buns and are extremely active. They run around, chase each other, jump and climb and explore the apartment. They don’t sit in a cage all day waiting for their HRS-recommended two to three hours of exercise. Therefore, just like active humans, they need a little extra fuel. Listen to your bunnies. If they gobble down what you give them and do the frantic nosing-around thing in their bowl, they’re probably still hungry.

Food type: This one is trickier. In my humble opinion, you must get to know your buns before you can say definitively what’s best for them. Just like people, bunnies aren’t going to eat what they don’t like. Sure, you can be a jerk and force your bunny to eat food she hates out of desperation, but is that really the kind of relationship you want with her? Russell, for example, started out with romaine and parsley. I added cilantro and he ate around it. I tried turnip greens and broccoli and carrot heads and he turned his adorable little nose up at all three. It takes time and, yes, money to figure out what works best for your bunnies, but it’s worth it. Now I know that Russell’s ultimate favorite is dandelion greens, that he loves Belgian endive (it’s like five bucks for one sprig, so of course he does) and that he absolutely will not eat Oxbow pellets.

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Dinnertime! Chopped romaine and endive, drizzled with applesauce. Washed down with Brita-filtered water because tap water in Marietta tastes like death.

Balance: If you try to strike a perfect balance between hay, pellets, greens and treats, have fun on your stroll down the path to certain madness. In a perfect world, bunnies would stuff themselves with timothy hay and high-fiber pellets and refuse all but locally sourced organic blueberries. As this is not the case, give your bun high-quality hay, greens and pellets that she likes and eats willingly and forget about it. Keep the bunny pyramid in mind, but ask yourself: Is my bunny eating? Is my bunny pooping? If the answer is yes, you’re probably fine.

Treats: Give them sparingly (one per day, max. Okay, two. But ONLY if they’ve been extra cute that day.) and stay away from anything that looks lab-made. Those yogurt drops they sell at Pet Supermarket? Yeah, no. If you’re in the area, go to GHRS and get the tubs of unsulphured papaya, the Probios cookies or the flavored timothy biscuits. Certain fruits are fine, too. Russell, Jane and Bear go absolutely insane over banana, so I save that for once every couple weeks. Their lagomorph excitement is indescribably cute.

The bottom line with food, as with just about anything else bunny-related, is this: Listen to your bunny. Also, here is an article from the House Rabbit Society on suggested fruits and vegetables.

Weekend cuteness

Saturday mornings with the buns are lots of fun. No rushing through the feeding and cleaning; instead, I can play with them as long as they want attention and take my time fixing up their little home.

Bear sandwich

Bear sandwich

I swear I don't pose them. They're just naturally adorable.

I swear I don’t pose them. They’re just naturally adorable.

Russell falling asleep with a full belly after breakfast

Russell falling asleep with a full belly after breakfast

Bunny lovas <3

Bunny lovas ❤

Stupid remarks = not okay

Last weekend GHRS attended the Cobb County Animal Control Adoptathon. It’s a neat little event; I worked the one back in April and other than the crappy weather it was a good day. We didn’t take any bunnies to that one so this time Darren (GHRS chair) asked volunteers to bring their own. I don’t really like upsetting my babies’ routine, but there’s pretty much nothing I won’t do for the bunny house so I took Bear. (Russell is easily the most charming, but I can’t separate him from Jane, and she would lose her little bunny mind if she had to be outdoors, in public, with a bunch of strangers.)

Poor Bear. “That’s what you get for being a laid-back bunny,” I told him on the ride to CCAC. As rabbits go, Bear is not all that outgoing, but he’s very even-tempered. I took Russell and Jane’s old ex-pen, two towels, a sheet, two bowls, a litter box, a bottle of water, pellets, hay, treats, toys and a hidey-box. (For a two-hour event. I told you bunnies are high-maintenance.) We arrived, I set up his temporary home and the Adoptathon was under way.

Well ... here I am.

Well … here I am.

We didn’t really expect to get much interest. CCAC, like the vast majority of government-funded animal controls and shelters, is overwhelmingly concerned with dogs and cats, not bunnies. But it’s good exposure to the 10 or so people who do stop by the tent.

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Here’s where the problem(s) began: People are insensitive and oblivious and I want to choke them.

Exhibit A: A woman walks up, briefly admires Bear, and relates the story of her bunny, who lived only about eight weeks because the neighbor’s cat killed it.
Exhibit B: A man and his son come by, the son asks if they can get a bunny, and the man says “Sure, we’ll make him for dinner one night.”
Exhibits C and D: Two (TWO!) different individuals come by with their (large) dog on a leash. Both dogs lunge at the ex-pen, straining to get inside, and both owners are stupid enough to say, “Oh, he wants to play with it!” All this time, Bear is cowering inside his hidey-box and I am forced to place myself physically between the dog and the pen.

How much longer, Mom? I want to go home.

How much longer, Mom? I want to go home.

I was reminded of why I’ll never work in PR. When people do and say obviously insensitive things about rabbits to rabbit people, my reaction – without fail – is to give them a “Please kill yourself” look. Around Easter, I worked a Petco where they were offering a picture with one of our bunnies for $5. I was there to supervise Hershey and Stormy, a bonded bunny pair, and literally the entire time I was listening to idiotic comments like “I bet my dog would enjoy those two rabbits!”

Look, I absolutely am aware and understand that rabbits are used for meat and for bait and it breaks my heart that people can be so arbitrarily cruel. I just can’t stand that, because rabbits inexplicably have this status as “disposable,” people think it’s okay and even funny to discuss their death and ignore their fear in front of people trying to protect them. Truly, the only thing that keeps the back of my hand from contact with these individuals’ faces is the fact that if I were arrested, my bunnies would worry.

Edie says every demonstration of ignorance is an opportunity for education, and she’s right. She’s a kinder, gentler spirit than I am, though, and it’s extremely difficult – not to say impossible – for me to take this view.

*Dismounts soapbox*

Anyway, here’s an adorable picture of my children taken this morning before I left to go earn more money for bananas and endive. Happy Thursday!
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Russell redecorates

I love Russell so much. Sometimes I lay on the floor in front of him while he pancakes and begs for earjobs and purrs like a tiny motor and I marvel at his otherworldly cuteness. (Those feet! Those ears! That little butt-skirt!) He gets more treats than any child and is generally feted and adored on a daily — not to say constant — basis. He has inspired at least a half-dozen songs; for example, there’s “Good Morning to the Bunny” (sung at breakfast time to the tune of “Happy Birthday”) and “My Sweet Bun.” (Really wanna pet you! … really wanna rub your cheeks!) Point is, Russell is wonderful and he bloody knows it.

You may recall that kicking all the bedding out of the litter box is his all-time fave thing to do. I don’t know why he does it – he’s got plenty of non-pee-soaked things to dig in – but after a couple months of bewilderment and hourly (hourly!) litter box cleanings, I decided to give up and just let him do it. It doesn’t really hurt anything, though I’d rather not have the buns sitting in damp bedding, and it appears to give him immense pleasure. Once he’s kicked all the litter out of the box, he’ll keep going, slapping away maniacally at the box’s plastic bottom. Exhibits A, B, C and D:

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At this point I’ve noticed and exclaimed, “Russell!” in desperation and defeat.

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He turns slightly toward me as if to acknowledge my dismay and communicate his indifference.

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He exits the box briefly to ascertain establishment of the biggest possible mess.

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Satisfied with emptying the box of its contents, he settles in to admire his work.

Note: Today I acquired two small square grates and placed them atop the bedding in what is probably a very foolish attempt to thwart his mess-making. Stay tuned.