Stepping into the Rescuer’s Shoes

Thanks, Trixie

By Amy Espie

Twenty-four years ago, I bought my first rabbit, at a pet store in Berkeley. Like all of us in those early days, I was desperate for information that didn’t center around “production” — pelts and hutches and recipes.

That’s why I hurried home from that same pet store five months later, eager to answer a notice posted on their bulletin board. A woman in Alameda wanted to interview people who had rabbits living as indoor pets.

Patrick in My Life

By Beth Woolbright

Why did I get a bunny? Because while I was in college, my parents moved to Texas with the family dog. Feeling alone in California, I went to a certain Berkeley pet store and instead of the hamster I’d intended to get, came home with a bunny. Living surreptitiously in my dorm room for three semesters, Patrick was not so much a “pet” as a roommate. Unfortunately he was evicted during my final term. Fortunately (thank Firth), Bob and Marinell agreed to board him until I graduated.

A couple of significant things happened to him there at the Harrimans. First, Patrick had the distinction of being the first House Rabbit Society bunny to be neutered, an action that took care of all sorts of behaviors undesired by humans and began a steadfast HRS recommendation. Second, the charmer fell in love with sweet Daphne, one of the resident girl bunnies. They became a couple. So when I did graduate, I wasn’t able to bring Patrick immediately to live with me. So I continued my regular visits to the Harriman household to visit my floppy-eared guy, the love-of-his-life, and Bob and Marinell. He was the first of many generations of (unrelated) bunnies who have lived with me and filled my life.

Natasha’s Honor

By Susan Stark

I met Marinell and Bob at a class they gave soon after I had read the House Rabbit Handbook. I stayed after class and talked more “rabbit” with them and soon found myself visiting their home many Sunday afternoons. When my first rabbit Natasha died, I was devastated, and Marinell and Bob were there to console me, knowing exactly what I was going through. I needed to make Natasha’s short life more meaningful and felt the need to do something in her honor. Marinell and I talked, and I became the first satellite fosterer by taking some of her rabbits so that she could rescue more.

Early Days

By Holly O’Meara

In 1986, I wrote Marinell Harriman in gratitude after reading the House Rabbit Handbook while my rabbit Bromley was sick. Marinell wrote back, “We rescued three rabbits that were scheduled to be ‘put down,’….ran an ad in the paper and found homes for all of them. It was easy to do and proved a most gratifying experience.” Why is she telling me this? I thought. She doesn’t think that I would…that I should…there’s NO way I am going inside an animal shelter! Marinell’s mild, matter-of-fact manner was preparing me for the very involvement I was resisting.

From 1988 to 2000, I allowed the worst and the best to motivate me to carry out the mission of HRS in my area. The worst was the mistreatment–often unintentional–of unwanted domestic rabbits in Southern California. The best were the rescued rabbits themselves: resilient, expressive and beautiful. Brave hearts I carry with me in memory. The best were the people who responded when I asked for help: veterinarians, rescuers, donors, volunteers, educators, and rabbit caretakers. Everyone who supported and inspired me to, in Marinell’s words: “Keep going.”

Blueberry and Raspberry

By Margo DeMello

I bought my first two rabbits at a pet store in Berkeley and then found the House Rabbit Handbook at another local store. After reading it, I sent a letter to Marinell, along with a photo of my rabbits, Blueberry and Raspberry, asking to be included should she write another book In reply Marinell sent me the first issue of House Rabbit Journal, and I immediately subscribed. In the second issue I read with great interest Susan Stark’s article about fostering. By that time, I had bought a third rabbit, a little dwarf baby, again at a pet store. She died soon after I brought her home. I was devastated. The pet store’s solution was to give me a new rabbit to “replace” the little one who died. I phoned Marinell and asked if I could start fostering.

Shannon and I went to Marinell’s house and picked up Peaches and Grumpy, a pair of brothers. They were my first fosters. After we left, having seen so many bunnies, Shannon said, “I can’t imagine living like that.” Of course, the funny part is that we did end up living like that.

The Dust Bunny

By Sandi Ackerman

Early 1988, I entered a pet store to purchase food for my eight cats. Instead I saw what looked like a stuffed toy. He had big brown eyes which peered out from long, champagne colored hair. I was in love! Not one to do things on impulse, I went home.

The next evening I went back. “Could I pet the rabbit?” I asked. An hour later I arrived home with this adorable rabbit, a species I knew nothing about. That evening, this long haired fuzzy rabbit explored under chairs and tables and came out with dust attached to his fur. Of course he became known as “Duster.”

Several months later, I was at the animal shelter looking for a missing cat. Instead, I found a rabbit who came home with me. A week later, I received a call from a pet store saying they had a customer who wanted to find a home for her rabbit (the shelter had given them my number). I met the person at a fast food parking lot and coaxed her rabbit from under the car seat. By word of mouth and eight rabbits later, I realized I was in the rabbit-rescue business.

Bunner-Runner’s Legacy

By Sandy Koi

I rescued our first bunny in June 1989. He was a discarded Easter bunny, and by December had developed a tooth-root abscess in a pre-molar. I had just found House Rabbit Handbook and I was SOOO happy to have “met” someone who loved their rabbit as much as I did. The HRH saved his life, because I wouldn’t have known what to do without it! He lived eight and a half years- pretty respectable for a dwarf rabbit who is 100% healthy, let alone with on-going pasteurellosis issues.)

The second, third, and fourth rescues came in quickly thereafter. By then I was working as a wildlife rehabilitator, getting domestic rabbits in as much as wildlife, and began Rabbit Rescue, Inc. by 1992. I didn’t know how to contact HRS directly (no internet back in the day!) until I met a member at the wildlife hospital in 1992. Sandi Ackerman was instrumental in helping me set up Rabbit Rescue, and of course, Rabbit Health News was an incredible resource for the hundreds of injured or sick buns that came in.

Memories of the HRS Chicago

By Susan Brown, DVM

Helen Lau and Anita Richter, founders of the HRS Chicago chapter, were dedicated rabbit clients of mine at the Midwest Bird & Exotic Animal Hospital in Westchester, Illinois. When they started the HRS Chicago chapter I couldn’t have been more thrilled! I had great respect for HRS, and this was a perfect avenue for education and communication among local rabbit caregivers.

We used our clinic’s rabbit-client list to recruit some of the first members and fosterers. Ours was the main clinic for many years, doing exams, any needed treatments, and low-cost spays and neuters of HRS Chicago foster rabbits. I had the honor of being their first medical director, lecturing at their educational conferences and writing for the HRS Chicago chapter newsletter for many years. We had at one time, I believe, the largest HRS chapter in the country!

In addition to being a wonderful educational organization, the importance of HRS Chicago for me is that the many HRS foster rabbits who came to our clinic helped to train countless veterinarians, veterinary students, and other staff in caring for these wonderful animals. This is a critical and often overlooked benefit of the relationship between HRS chapters and the veterinary clinics with which they work.

Thumper and Me

By Julie Smith

Having no idea of the history of this rabbit, I agreed to take him on condition that he be neutered and held until I moved-one month later. In the meantime I wrote long letters and sent handouts to Thumper’s current human, explaining how to improve her relationship with her bunny, hoping, of course, that she would keep him.

A few days after I agreed to take this rabbit, Helen Lau from the Chicago chapter of the House Rabbit Society called me. She had been wonderful when my rabbit, Pajamas, had a serious fur blockage. She explained that because of landlord problems, she needed to find temporary homes for the Chicago foster bunnies until she and her husband, Franklin, could buy a house. Could I take some, she wondered? I screwed my courage to the sticking place and said I guessed I could. When I asked how many she had and she said ten, a wool blanket fell between me and the rest of the world. I went numb, knowing I was going to take them all.

(Excerpted from July, 1993, HRJ article by Julie Smith.)

One Group Spawns Another

By Laurie Gigous

My husband bought my first rabbit from a pet store in 1990. We knew to feed pellets but that’s about it. Luckily, I took my “first-born” to be neutered (“he” ended up being spayed) and they gave me a paper, Mutt Matchers Messenger, that advertised adoptable animals, including rabbits from House Rabbit Society! I called the Los Angeles House Rabbit Society contact, Holly O’Meara, and she started my rabbit education and became my years-long mentor.

In 1993, Holly put several of her Orange County (CA) people in touch with each other and eventually we started our own chapter. We learned as we went and passed that information on to others via the telephone “hot line” and many educational events. Even though the Orange County chapter is no longer, I feel we were a great success because of all of the people that we were able to educate and the two other rabbit rescue groups came into being because of the Chapter.

Mentored Rescuer

By Kathleen Wilsbach

I was going to graduate school in Los Angeles. I heard one of my neighbors, also a student, didn’t want their rabbit, a stray some kids had found. I had no idea how Clover would change my life. I saw an LA HRS ad for adoptable rabbits. I knew instantly that Clover needed a friend. I left Holly O’Meara a message and didn’t want to leave the house in case she called back. Holly introduced Clover to Adam (aka Bramble). I learned about spaying and that I was feeding Clover the wrong food, using the wrong litter and going to the wrong vet. At least I now knew someone who agreed with me about feeding her fresh food like carrot tops. That and keeping her inside were the two things I was doing right.

I started volunteering to clean litterpans. I read everything Holly gave me voraciously, including the House Rabbit Handbook and every back issue of the House Rabbit Journal. I started helping with education at events and over the phone. There was a big Pasadena rescue, and I took Luke, my first foster rabbit. I moved to Baltimore in 1994. I named one of my first Maryland foster rabbits, Phoebe, to honor our connection with Marinell and the past of HRS. Holly’s example was an inspiration to me. Because of her wonderful mentoring and with the help of a lot of wonderful volunteers, we built the Maryland/ DC/Northern VA HRS.

By Marinell Harriman

House Rabbit Journal Winter 2008: Volume V, Number 3