It seems that the smaller the creature, the more we are inclined to be dismissive. If our pet rabbit, named Honey, has taught me anything at all, he's shown me that small creatures have emotions and plenty of personality to spare.
Though there is always a degree of curiosity, Honey and our two older dogs seem to have settled on a pact of mutual indifference. Honey seems to view the dogs as animals with which he has no particular affiliation. The dogs, on the other hand, think of the rabbit as potential sport they know they'll never be permitted to pursue (Shelties are herding dogs who love nothing more than to chase and corral). So Buddy and Scrap simply return the rabbit's disinterest.
Piper is the exception. He takes great interest in everything to do with the rabbit. First thing in the morning, he loves to watch as I clean the rabbit's cage and top up the feeder. Piper's learned that, if he climbs halfway up the stairs to the third floor attic, he has a perfect view of all the proceedings.
In contrast to Piper's excitement, the rabbit always sits glumly hunched with his ears flat against his back as my hand intrudes into the cage to mop and sweep up any mess he's made overnight. It's not until the rabbit hears the scoop of dried food pellets spilling into the feeder that his lethargy evaporates. In a hop, he's next to the feeder giving it a sniff, sniff sniff.
The dried food never seems to make him completely satisfied. Usually he sit back on his haunches as if to say, "Hurumph! I'm holding out for the treats." The plastic rustles as I open the bag of "Hearty Hay" and the rabbit gives a little hop of excitement. Piper hears it too and presses his nose in close to the side of the cage– much to the consternation of his territorial friend. The rabbit bobs his head as if to say,"Go ahead little dog! Try to steal my treats, I dare you!"
Some mornings the squares of "Hearty Hay", the fruity "Timothy Bits" and the yellow "Yogurt Yummers" are all dismissed. It's Honey's favourite– the orange drops, that look like chocolate kisses, he's holding out for.
Piper, on the other hand, isn't too proud to eat anything that might accidentally drop to the floor!
In case I have inadvertently created the impression that Honey is the sweetest of creatures–let me set the record straight. He is a very good little bunny, but he has a hot temper. If I dare to pick him up when it does not suit him, he'll paw at my shoulder to express his displeasure. If I fail to heed that initial message, he'll nip my clothing repeatedly. I have to point out that he'll bite my clothes, but he's never ever bitten my skin. It's a perfect example of the rabbit's sophistication that he's capable of making this subtle distinction.
Piper's fascination with the rabbit extends to bath time. A rabbit in a smallish cage can get dirty in a way that one in the wild never would. So every once in a while, Honey needs his paws and/or his lower body cleaned.
How does a rabbit, who has no inclination to water, take to being bathed? Like a trooper! As long as I hold him, he's pretty good about it. Somehow the rabbit seems to know that he's being cleaned and groomed.
Piper likes to peak into the bathtub as I soap and wash the rabbit's paws. Piper hates having a bath himself, but if it's the rabbit that's being washed, a bath is an entirely different matter!
When Honey's clean he gets wrapped in a towel like a new born baby. That's when Piper likes to move in to check on the tiny face protruding from the towel. If I don't push his nosey-nose away, he'll lick the rabbit's ears and face.
Cynics among you might imagine that Piper is simply taste testing the rabbit. I wouldn't blame you– he is a dog after all.
I'd think the same thing myself were it not for the fact that Piper gives Scrap the same love and attention. Every morning poor Scrap has to submit to Piper cleaning his face and licking his gums. It's funny to see Piper with his head down Scarp's wide open mouth cleaning those back molars. Buddy, who turned eighteen this November, is also the recipient, although a less co-operative one, of the Piper treatment.
Drying a rabbit after a bath is no simple matter. That soft, velvety fur refuses to let go of water.
I pat and rub Honey dry as best I can with the towel. Then it's onto a combination of the blow dryer and brush. I put down the toilet lid and cover it with a towel. The rabbit hops onto the covered seat like a star taking to the stage. While I direct the stream of hot air, he hops around in a circle. Sometimes he'll pause and lick his feet or wash his face with his front paws. Occassionally he will get impatient with the process, but he never tries to escape.
Star that he is, I think he likes being well-groomed.
Piper dotes on the rabbit, but how does Honey feel about the dog?
The love is not in any way mutual! Honey thinks Piper is an annoying buttinsky. Honey will put up with nose pokes and doggy kisses only so much. When the rabbit's had enough, he'll hop, box at Piper with his tiny paws and threaten to nip. I always try to separate the pair long before it reaches that point.
When my son brought the baby bunny home, he constructed a three-story cage to elevate some of my objections. The rabbit moved into his bedroom, but that didn't last long. Rabbits are nocturnal creatures who are often most active at night. Before you knew it, the poor rabbit was evicted from my son's room and banished to live in an adjacent hallway. As is so often the case with kids and pets, my husband and I soon found we were Honey's principal caretakers.
Even though the cage is a large one, I hate seeing Honey looking bored and dejected. So he comes out of the cage as often as I can manage it. It's not always under ideal circumstances (he sometimes has to be on a harness and extending leash), but I do what I can.
Many days Honey comes along when I take the boys out to play ball. Like all critters, who are a popular item on the food chain, the rabbit likes to seek cover. His favourite spot is under a bush by the back fence or hiding under the skirt of one of the pine trees.
In the spring, he's sometimes given free-range of the backyard (the yard is fully fenced). You might imagine that, let loose, the rabbit would be hellbent on finally making good his escape into the wild. Surprisingly enough, he usually finds some cover, settles in and gets comfortable. Sometimes he'll nibble different plants, but mostly he seems to like to watch me work. Catching Honey again at the end of the day is the only challenge. Like any kid, he never wants the outdoor fun to end!
Weather permitting, Honey also comes along when my husband and I give the dogs their evening walk. Most nights he sits in the black chair (the one you see in the pictures) while I put on his harness and lead.
Once I am dressed for the weather and standing on the front walk way, I bend down and Honey hops onto the flagstones. Then he's usually down the walk, through the gate, and pulling me down the driveway before the others are even out the door. The dogs and my husband have to scramble to catch up with us.
So if you ever are driving down Embleton Rd. around nine-thirty at night and see an older couple, three dogs and a...wait a minute...what the heck?
Yes, believe it or not, it is a rabbit out for an evening stroll.