The natural inclination is to cover up the beginning of this story but I’ve never been one to edit. We bought our boys from a breeder. I’ve told you here before that I wasn’t an animal person, at all, until being a mom changed my life. About two months after the Bunny-daddy and I moved into our first home together we decided to “get” the rabbit we had been talking about since date two or three. He wanted a Dwarf Hotot. I figured, I know how to make anyone’s dreams come true so while he was sleeping late on December 28, 2011 I threw a few quick terms into Google, clicked the first link that came up and called the lady whose phone number appeared on an aesthetically busy website. She answered promptly and informed me that yes, she still had some Dwarf Hotots in stock; they hadn’t all sold for Christmas (I shudder now to think what happens to those who are considered overstock).
I woke the Bunny-daddy up and said we were going to get a bunny today! We headed eastward. We were led into a backyard and then down a set of basement stairs. Straight ahead, amongst what appeared to be typical basement clutter, was a square metal and wood cage with a huge rabbit inside. Thinking back now, knowing what I know about appropriate housing for a domestic rabbit, there’s no way that rabbit was able to hop more than once, if that, or “periscope” up in that enclosure. This giant rabbit, we were told, was “her” rabbit. We turned left and there they were, two rows of cages with piles of baby rabbits inside. I remind you, we knew nothing about what we were getting into! Bunny-daddy had done some rabbit care research; I had done none. I fell into the sadly common category of people who get a pet on somewhat of a whim, not quite preparing for much else than where this cute little guy or girl’s cage would sit in our home. I now know that these rabbits were too young to be weaned from their mothers. I now know that, even though I suspected it then upon sight, that a pile of 5-10 rabbits, no matter how small in body size, should have far more space to exist than the veritable boxes this woman housed them in. But hey, I worked in retail years ago—I know you sometime cram the stock wherever it fits.
Anyway… we left that backyard and basement that day with two rabbits. Bunny-daddy selected whom you know as Tater Tot. I selected a Lionhead, black, gray and white, whom we named Sammy. When we brought up the idea of getting two, like any good salesperson, the breeder explained that two boys would be no problem, ever, that they would do great together (let’s revisit this later). Sammy was toward the top of the caged pile of Lionheads. Each rabbit was placed into his own cardboard box and we climbed back up the basement stairs.
We were sold a wire-bottom cage, some pellets, a corner litter box, a water bottle and some hay. We were instructed to feed some hay, maybe a handful, every other day or so. Again, we didn’t know better and this lady sure seemed like she knew what she was doing, in some kind of way, right? She was in business, right? Don’t worry—we did more research soon and started feeding the right amount of hay. We set the boys up in their new home. Tater Tot was a rascal right away—didn’t want to be held or touched much. He was kind to Sammy though. Sammy, I thought, was just the best. He sat in my lap for hours, let me carry him around. By the next day, I realized he wasn’t very active but Tater Tot was grooming him and trying to show him how to eat and play. Again, what did I know? I thought they just had different personalities and different styles.
The next morning, I was positive something was wrong. We were only rabbit-parents for maybe 36 hours at this point so we had no idea what to look for or to expect. I called the vet closest to our house. They said to bring him right in. Sammy passed away in Bunny-daddy’s arms in the waiting room. I had to go up to the desk and say, “I think my rabbit is dead.” The doctor came out immediately, left what he was doing to attend to us, complete strangers, not established patients or anything. He confirmed that Sammy was gone and, although he is not a rabbit-savvy vet, he felt his belly and surmised that something gastro-related caused his passing. Knowing what we know now, it was likely stasis or bloat that took him.
We called the breeder. She offered our money back or an exchange. I think we were just numb. We drove back to her house, handed over the cardboard box with Sammy inside and went back to the basement. I picked the brownish Lionhead who was at the very bottom of the pile. I remembered him from two days prior. You know him now as Peanut. Five years later, I know he remembers the feeling of being at the bottom of the pile; I can see it in his behavior. He doesn’t trust easily. He doesn’t like confinement or even snuggles if he doesn’t initiate it (which is going over great with his incredibly affectionate brother as we are finally starting to bond after 5 years!).
When I sat down to write this, I thought this was going to be about bonding but look at the different turn it took. I sat down with the intention to regale you all with the Denise method of bonding… unconventional and slow, yet effective. Yet I ended up telling the origin story in more detail than I had before—ah the best laid plans, as they say. Maybe we’ll talk bonding next week. By then, I may have another story to tell entirely. Now, you know it all…