I’ll always remember that day in January: sunny, bitterly cold…and full of promise. I entered the shelter eager to find my bunny companion. Even before I saw any of them, I had decided to bring home the one who had been there longest.
Shelter records brought me to Shimmer, who had been relinquished by a family with too many rabbits. Although I wondered what happened to the rest of his siblings, that dreary thought disappeared as soon as I neared his cage. There was my new bunny: small and cute! Black stripes meandered through shades of gray. He had a charcoal-gray face, black undercoat and tail, and white undersides. Black-tipped lop ears stuck out like askew helicopter blades. I loved him instantly.
Once we arrived home, I made him comfortable in my bedroom, which was already bunny-proofed. Shimmer, frightened by the unfamiliarity of the space, hunkered down as though trying to become invisible. I sat with him, speaking softly while stroking his face and ears. I didn’t want to go to sleep until he felt safe, and so I spent most of the evening by his side. Eventually he ate some grass hay and pellets, and then he bumped against my hand, wanting more attention and petting. I was relieved to see him settling in, and it didn’t take long before I nodded off. All the night sounds in his new environment scared him, though, and I quickly found out just how loud my little companion could thump!
His transition to beloved house rabbit was pretty easy. Already neutered, he readily used the litter box. After a couple of days, I introduced him to other rooms of the house—and that meant bringing him into the presence of my parents’ two cats. Shimmer immediately froze in fear, and I was happy that the felines ignored him. My parents, however, were captivated, and that became the way of the way of the household: humans doting on him and four-leggeds ignoring him. Even after Shimmer began initiating pleasantries with the cats, they refused to spend time with him and instead jumped to a spot where he couldn’t follow.
Fortunately, my parents loved Shimmer almost as much as I did and gave him all the petting he wanted while I was away at work. He loved the attention—tooth-purrs vibrating through his body—and he lavished affection on all of us in return. He loved to give bunny kisses, his soft pink tongue caressing my arms, face, and legs. Love abundant: that’s who he was.
It wasn’t often that Shimmer became scared, but if a stranger appeared or there were unfamiliar noises, his thump-thump-thump reverberated through the house. Or he would scamper this way and that, looking for the best place to hide. Sometimes he would squirm under the dresser, feeling safe in the snug dark space of his “burrow.” More often, though, he was relaxed and happy, performing what seemed to be choreographed binky dances around the house or comedic jumping routines helter-skelter around the room.
The first time I saw him flop down onto his side after his animated exertions, I panicked, afraid something was wrong. But once I realized it was his way of taking some time out, I often sat close, mesmerized by the way his fur gleamed as he lay in a patch of sun on the floor. He was well named; his coat simply shimmered.
Playful and fun, Shimmer brought me something that had been missing, and he affected me deeply. During a time when my life seemed more down than up, his presence and unconditional love were a healing force. Whenever I am away from him, feeling alone or perhaps lonely, all I need to do is think of Shimmer and I am flooded with feelings of warmth, tenderness, and love. I clearly see him in my mind’s eye, his fur shining softly, each wisp of gray laced with sunshine. For me, now and always, love shimmers.
Warm thanks to Amy Gallo for providing information for this story. –Marie Mead
About Rabbits: Attention Pays Off
After the initial excitement of having a bunny wears off, it’s not uncommon for the human’s dedication and attention to wane. This is very unfortunate because the nature and needs of the small social creature have not changed; he or she still needs loving care and stimulation, both mental and physical. When a rabbit is ignored and neglected, his true personality shuts down. Conversely, when given time and attention, the bunny thrives and reveals his unique behaviors and characteristics. What a marvelous and enthralling experience that can be!
Rabbits are so much more than cute, cuddly creatures, and they need and deserve more than the basic necessities of food, water, and shelter. They are intelligent communal animals, and their daily regimen should include ample social interaction and exercise time outside the cage. When two (or more) rabbits are paired, they can comfort, cuddle, and play with one another when family members are away.
If you are unfamiliar with rabbits, a wonderful world awaits you. Prepare ahead of time for your new arrival by obtaining information from the local rescue organization and this website (among others). Such preparation will do more than educate you about rabbits—it will also make the settling-in process much easier and less traumatic for your new bunny.
Remaining attentive to a rabbit’s needs is a loving way to care for him or her. Providing a lifetime of such care also models respect for animals to both children and adults. Love, attention, respect … rabbits have those needs, just as we and other animals do.
by Marie Mead
© Copyright 2014 by Marie Mead. Used by permission. All rights reserved.