I remember it well, the day she arrived in my life. I'll never forget it, and I'll never get tired of talking about it. She was funny, smart, pretty, sweet, loving, happy -- I could go on and on. What's that? The mother of my kids? Oh. Well, yes, she's lovely, too, but I was talking about our first pet rabbit.
I'm going to pay for that, aren't I? Better type quickly, I guess...
Once upon a time, I was an avowed cat-person. I liked most pets, and generally approved of other people's dogs, but I was firmly in the Kitty Kamp. Like most cat people, I cherished the time spent in their company, reveled in their quiet majesty and independence, and loved watching them as they played with whatever was handy - a piece of yarn, a feather, a crinkly plastic grocery bag. What could be better than this?
I didn't have to take the cat outside for a walk, I didn't have to worry about stepping in anything when I went out in the yard, I didn't have to take time out of MY life to get them their exercise, and I most definitely didn't have to worry about their barking waking me or the neighbors. Other people's dogs? Love 'em to death. Take 'em home with you when you leave, thanks.
Goldfish are fine, but you have to clean the bowl and they aren't very cuddly. Hamsters and guinea pigs are cute and generally friendly, but fragile and smelly, and don't get me started on ferrets - phew! (Y'all know they're related to skunks, don't you?) Birds are seriously expensive, and though they can be pretty neat to have around, they're just so high maintenance that only snobby-rich people can enjoy them, right? Lizards and snakes do have a serious coolness factor, but they don't play much… and speaking of cuddly, did you know people keep SPIDERS? For pets?? One of my kids likes the idea, if you can believe it. "Go play in the woods, if you like 'em that much!" Yeugh.
Anyway, as you can see, I was firmly convinced that there were only two "real" pets out there - cats, or dogs. Pick one.
Well, Arwen showed up and changed everything. I thought she was a rodent. I thought she'd be smelly. I thought we'd have to keep her in a cage somewhere the whole time. I thought we'd have to keep the cats away or she'd get eaten, and that after a few months the variety would wear off and she'd be just another mouth to feed/box to clean/boring pet.
I could not have been more wrong if I had called her a horse and bought her a saddle.
Arwen was nearly flawless with her litter box, and changing it once a week was plenty to keep any real odor away. She wasn't a lot smaller than the cats, and was seriously unafraid when they'd come around. Expecting her to act like prey, they didn't know what to do when she came right up to them to get a good sniff, and since nobody got aggressive, everyone got along. With no fear of accidents or fights, once we did some "bunny-proofing," we were able to let Arwen spend large amounts of time running around the house.
This last piece was what changed everything for me, because with all the time she spent around us, it soon became clear that this "timid little prey animal" was anything but.
We had little plastic cat toys with bells inside which the cats generally ignored. We would sit on the floor with Arwen, pick up one of these toys and shake it, and then put it down in front of her. Arwen would pick it up in her mouth, shake it a little to make it ring, and then put it down off to one side. Just like playing "fetch" with a dog, when she was in the mood we could repeat this game (we called it "This Goes HERE!") over and over again.
Another favorite was "Sword," where she would pick up a used toilet paper tube or a small stick at one end and wave it around like she was Errol Flynn. Then there was "Chase," and "The Bunny 500," and "Fix It!" which I think was her favorite.
I had no idea that bunnies don't just accept pettings, they GIVE them, too. Who knew that being polite to rabbits meant sitting still to get bunny kisses when it was your turn? Or that there was such a thing as "being polite?" Believe you, me, that when you're on the receiving end of a chastising nip, a dismissive foot-flick, or disapproving ear-wobble, you'll find out. (More on bunny language in a later post.)
My eyes had been opened. I'd always been nice to animals where possible, but my red & black, us & them, cat & dog view of the world had been shattered. Every time I meet a new pet now, I try to stop and see if there's more there than I expect, and there almost always is. Ferrets play better than anyone. Mice are curious and inquisitive. Birds are super-smart and have neat individual personalities. Even ours, the lecherous thing - he barely tolerates the boys, but loooooves the girls. I've even seen lizards that come when they're called. But nothing compares to your first true love, and Arwen was my first bunny love.
"And they called it... bunny love...."
Ok, I'll stop singing now.
Alright, folks, the gauntlet's been thrown: are you "CAT PEOPLE!," "DAWG POUND!," or "NONE OF THE ABOVE!?" What's your favorite kind of pet, and what's your favorite thing about them? Represent in the comments below!