Once upon a time, a long time ago, and before I knew very much about rabbits, I was introduced to a sweet, outgoing silver-grey bunny named Arwen. Arwen was such a learning experience. She taught me the basics of speaking "rabbit," and how to play games. She taught me that carrots are best with the tops still on, and that apple-wood sticks were for more than just chewing.
She even taught the vet students at UGA how to do hip relocation surgery. In a story all its own, she dislocated a hip when someone (who wasn't holding her correctly) got caught off-guard by her very powerful jumping ability. Unfortunately, that abilty can sometimes land bunnies in trouble, and in this case if the leap was awkward, the landing was even worse and the poor thing dislocated her hip.
One $800 experimental surgery and almost three agonizingly slow weeks of recovery later (it should have been four but she wouldn't wait that long), she was good as new, and the interns at the UGA Vet clinic had the unique experience of conducting a surgery, that, while fairly common in dogs and cats, has almost never been done on a rabbit. If you have any kind of pet (especially an "exotic pet," a group which includes rabbits), I heartily recommend the UGA Vet Clinic. They have been nothing but stellar for us.
But if Arwen was a teacher, her two favorite lessons were teaching us two-legs how to play, and teaching our other four-legs how to play.
Really, when you're expecting a timid, cage-raised animal, there's nothing that can prepare you for a completely self-confident creature running around your room like it belongs to her. The very first day I met her, she was in the middle of exploring my bedroom.
My bedroom, I tell you. Oh, no. It was hers.
As I stood in the doorway she scampered about, sniffing this or that object, and then the cheeky thing hopped straight up to me, sniffed my shoes (both of them), "periscoped" back onto her hind legs to get a better look at me, and then "binkied" off into the room to continue exploring.
(Some terminology:"Periscoping" is where they sit back on their hind feet and sort of stand up to get a better look around. It makes them look like they're trying to be little furry people. Very cute. A "Binky" is where the rabbit spontaneously leaps into the air in a fit of bunny-joy, often twisting wildly while in the air. A "binkying" bunny is a seriously happy one.)
Since it was obvious that she was not afraid of me in the slightest, I started following her around the room. Mostly she ignored me, beyond an ear or occasional eye cocked in my direction (exploring is important, I discovered), but sometimes she would suddenly dash away... and then dash back to my feet, looking up at me.
The first couple of times I was clueless. Then, one time I reached down to try and pet her... and she dashed away again, only to dash right right back to me. She'd look up, I'd bend down, and off she'd go again. Lather, rinse, repeat, and picture me laughing hysterically the whole time.
She must have been in a fantastic mood that day, because "Catch Me!" was a game she didn't play very often, but when she did she was like a little grey tornado.
Just ask our friend's rat terrier.
Our friends and their pets were housemates as they sought to complete their studies at UGA (they did, yay!), and Twiggy was a skittish, previously abused rat terrier that was scared of everything, and ran away from everyone except her new mommy. That abject fear eventually diminished, but the skittishness never really went away, at least not until much later in her life.
At this time, she was a wiry, hair-trigger spring, perpetually coiled, but well-enough trained that she could be trusted around the house, when not in her crate for the night. And on one particular day she was wandering about as the combined group sat around the dining area chatting.
We'd completely forgotten that Arwen was also out exploring. "Rat terrier." Name doesn't suggest anything to you, does it?
Our conversation cut off mid-word as a fuzzy silver bullet went by, followed oh-so-closely by a pointy black and white blur. There was no time to react. No one so much as had time to move, or even make a noise... before the pointy black and white blur came flying back again, this time with the fuzzy silver bullet hot on its heels.
Apparently as we chatted, oblivious to our error, the two had found each other out, come to an understanding, and begun to play. When we sought them out moments later they were calmly grooming themselves on opposite sides of the bedroom. Both had the nerve to look up at us as we entered with a look on their oh-so-innocent faces like "...What?"
Common sense might suggest that this is exactly NOT how to introduce a rabbit to a pet that might just as soon eat it as play with it. Common sense would be correct.
But "common sense" might also suggest that rabbits, being prey animals, can't do well around other animals with a natural hunting tendency. Arwen and Twiggy shot that one right out of the water. We made sure to keep an eye on them from then on, but let them play on as long as everyone was behaving. Mostly they did, and they turned out to be pretty good friends.
People talk about people or things being "God's Gift." There is no doubt in my mind that a higher power was at work in sending Arwen to us, because as much as my family thought they had learned before bringing her home, she taught us how much we DIDN'T know.
And she was more than willing to fill in the blanks.
Do you have any cute pet stories, or lessons your furry friends have taught you? Share them with your Patch neighbors in the comments below!