Everyone knows what a set-back feels like. You’ve finally gotten an animal to trust you, when something disrupts your relationship. The rabbit escapes, and you have to grab her. She hates to be held, and you have to medicate her. For most rabbits these events are taken in stride, but for a tense, formerly neglected rabbit they may seem disastrous. The rabbit reverts to trembling when you pick her up. She runs when you approach her.

I was taught that building a relationship with and animal requires consistency, patience and logic. Working with foster rabbits teaches what I forget to expect: the possibility of a breakthrough; that moment of a behavior change that has been worked towards but seems to occur spontaneously. I pick up the trembling rabbit each day pet her, set her down in her run. Nothing changes – that’s how she is. Or is she?

One day I lie down in her run and fall asleep. When I wake up, she’s lying beside me. She doesn’t tremble again. I can’t always be consistent in the way I treat my rabbits. I have palience, but not a lot of time. But it’s wrong to assume that the rabbits won’t improve. Teaching follows its own logic. All it takes is a breakthrough to turn a setback around.

Holly O’Meara

House Rabbit Journal Volume II, No. 2