Understanding the world through rabbits

attacked by bunnies
Attacked by bunnies

For the first time since we got rescue rabbits nearly four years ago and started on our journey to understanding these surprisingly complex animals, we finally had some major breakthroughs this week and, as usual, I’m viewing the world through them.

The thing about rabbits is… they are small, prey animals at the bottom of the food chain, and this causes them to behave in all sorts of unexpected ways.

Firstly, they hide their illnesses – an in-built behaviour to stop predators picking them off. You try not to take it personally but it’s pretty hard work trying to help an animal that doesn’t let you know it is ill until it’s at death’s door. Even giving them meds that will save their life can involve a massive battle involving swaddling them in a towel and pinning them down Big Daddy/Giant Haystacks style.

New rabbit house arrives
New rabbit house arrives

Secondly, prey animals have a natural distrust of you, despite the fact you give them food supplies, a brand new luxury rabbit mansion (or your own house), daily outdoor runs in rain, shine or snow, do their housework, and offer endless love and affection. You may be big and think you are in control but try to pat or pick up a rabbit and you’ll usually have a wriggly fight on your hands (unless you’ve handled them from babies). We’ve been nipped, scratched, bitten and whacked by those big thumpers. And all we want to do is have a snuggle for our troubles.

Thirdly, rabbits are highly social and benefit from company with other rabbits but also they can be territorial, hierarchical and vicious – even to the death. Anything new is curious but also potentially a threat. Thinking like a human and saying, ‘Oh my rabbit is lonely, I’ll get them a little friend’, is to play with fire. Rabbits need to be properly bonded not just thrown in together and the process can be painful and costly if not done properly. We know; we brought home a bonded pair from an animal sanctuary and one bit half of the other’s ear off in the new environment.

My point is, you are not the boss of a rabbit, despite their small cute helpless appearance and the fact that you do every for them. They are ruled by their own survival instincts. You cannot easily force your will on them. And they won’t automatically love you. You could even say they are even worse than cats for treating you like an unpaid, unappreciated servant.

Yet I have learnt so much from our past few years of looking after five rescue buns. It was a bit of a joke (albeit a true one) that Pete and I got married because of Professor Bunminster and his Lady Bunzilla’s role modelling the perfect relationship – providing basic needs of company, warmth, protection, social life, fun, etc, but keeping separate characters, independence and the space to do your own thing.

Buns on the wedding cake table

They’ve also been our fur-kids – requiring care through the night when ill, daily love and attention, a cramp on our holidays, spontaneity and lie-ins, infuriating at times but entertaining as hell. We’ve bonded together ourselves over caring for our little brood.

And now in these times of Brexit, Trump and the rise of various extremist political and religious groups, I’ve learnt something else that I only sort of recognised and half-knew.

The buns have given me comfort that perseverence, kindness and love will win out in the end. Because since last November when Bunzilla died and Bunminster lost his mate, I’ve been grooming and giving him neck rubs on an almost daily basis, something he never would have tolerated before. What happened is that he started to bond with me, slowly but surely to the point where he now willingly comes over for attention.

Eye med time for Bunminster
Eye med time for Bunminster

This week the culmination of that is that he has allowed me to give him eye drops twice daily for conjunctivitis. No fight, just trusting submission. He has even allowed me to pick him up for a minute – and this is something I can build on after years of not even being quick enough to catch him. Our little dictator, who bit off an ear in defence of his territory, has finally learned to trust us through perseverence and love.

Meanwhile, our new bun Clem has only been here a month from Fat Fluffs, but she sees the others getting cheek rubs and although she usually runs away from contact, yesterday she came in voluntarily for a group head rub.

buns in a group hug
The buns hug it out on news of the US election result.

 

Then today, the big one – Joy, who arrived with us after being dumped at Moseley Bog last Easter, and who is the most craving of attention, let me pick her up and put her on my lap for a snuggle. No looking around for an escape route and no jumping off after a few seconds. It was a major breakthrough.

Love conquers all, even rabbits. In understanding the lagomorph, the most political act as we drift towards a depressing new world of 21st century hate, misogyny, racism and fascism is to love.

For more soothing bunny balm, you can see our group’s progress at https://www.instagram.com/bunminster/

Day 24: Florence, Fat Fluffs and a farewell

I think I fell a little bit in love with Italy last week despite its October chills. Florence, the Cinque Terre and Pisa photos are to be uploaded but here are three of them, starting with the classic shot of Vernazza, which only those walking the steep trails from Monterosso get to take. (My calves still hurt five days on.)

One of my favourite snaps from Florence – amid the Renaissance sculptures and statues – was this golden man casually riding a giant golden sea turtle. Well played Flo! Perfectly positioned amusing incongruity.

Finally, there’s only one shot you need to take in Pisa, and we just about made it after a storm stuffed up our train back from Monterosso to Pisa Airport. It’s not the greatest shot but it’s a shot. Conclusion: it’s very leany.

It’s good to be back and get on with life though. Today was part work and part checking up on our bunnies who are going through a bonding with other rabbits at Fat Fluffs rescue and sanctuary. There was a quad, now down to a trio after Bert at the back there started pushing his weight around. Hopefully we can pick them up on Wednesday. Bunminster and Joy grooming each other is a massive breakthrough; new bun Hayley is obviously providing the right balance for harmony. (That or Bert stress-bonded them all together.)

A carvery lunch with the family was next as we wished bon voyage to my niece Hannah who is jetting off to Australia in a couple of weeks to start her working holiday visa year. This is something that I did back in 1999 and I have to say it changed my life. It’s great to see her stepping out into her own big adventure.

Finally I had an hour-long feed and cuddle with my new great nephew Matthew, who we are still counting in weeks-old. Yes, he chucked milk down me and yes it was great.

There are always many things in the world to worry about, particularly right now, but these are the lovely things and I have many reasons to feel blessed today.

Day 11: Fat Fluffs, mentoring and Tories in town

Rabbits are both social creatures and vicious furballs of hate so they must go through a bonding process in order to be ‘friends’; sort of like a supervised date. The excellent and knowledgable Fat Fluffs charity is going to attempt a double couple bonding with our male and female, who hate each other, followed by a group bonding. So with a bit of luck we may soon be looking after four rescue bunnies not just two. Busy times ahead.

I then did my first bit of mentoring in an effort to give something back and make use of my industry knowledge. I met with a young female graduate who wants to break into writing/publishing. Explaining what I do as a ‘words person’ (for want of a better title) was quite exhausting as we rambled from training options to journalism, blogging, content marketing, social media marketing and self-publishing. Hopefully useful info for someone just starting out but it’s a radically different world of publishing now from when I first started (and computers were only just coming in). There are fewer traditional routes in but also many more opportunities to get started. And little careers advice, it seems.

I guess I learnt from articulating things that most of my work in the past seven years has come from embracing new technology and tools, teaching myself new stuff, blogging that process, being semi-good at SEO, then sharing what I’ve learnt both as a trainer and in the workplace. I may have been a digital content editor/strategist by title but more often than not I was also chief explainer to new online publishers. Freelancers have to be self-starters and lifelong learners – and never more so than now.

The evening ended with a nice dinner catchup with an old comics pal from my London days. He’s now a local councillor and was up for the Tory party conference, which has rolled into town this week. It could have been a nightmare but fortunately the closest we got to talking politics was today’s Breakfast/Brexit gaffe. So all was well across the dinner table divide.

Before you buy a bunny for Easter…

Bunzilla and Bunminster An Easter message from Bunzilla and Bunminster (and me).

1. Do not buy a bunny this Easter because they look cute and fluffy, or because someone lumped bunny and Easter together like puppy and Christmas. You all know what happens when the festive tinsel comes down.

2. Buns are a 8-12-year commitment and attract expensive vet bills as they may need an anaesthetic to figure out what’s wrong being prey animals who hide their ills.

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