Thursday, January 26, 2017

Our Odd Couple: Piper & Honey the Rabbit

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.

It was my son and his then girlfriend that brought a rabbit into our lives–against my express wishes I might add. I hated the idea of restricting a running, jumping creature to the confined space of a small cage.

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.


  1. When I was a child, and into my teen age years, we had a huge Collie, three cats, and a big white rabbit. They all lived very happily together in the back yard. Sir Lancelot, the collie, loved to lay out in the shade under the apple tree. Most of the time our big white rabbit, stretched out right up against him, and the three cats stayed nearby too. Once a year, in the summer, our Mama cat would have kittens in the late spring and the kittens loved to practice their climbing skills as they tumbled all over and around the collie and rabbit laying together. Sir Lancelot groomed the rabbit, tiny kittens, and when Mama cat was pregnant each summer, it looked for all of the world like he was checking her to see if the babies were coming soon. Honey, the Mama cat was not impressed with that much up close and personal examining by a dog, but fur never flew because of it. That 100 lb collie spent much of his time during kitten season carefully walking around on three legs so as not to step on any toddling kittens. When the summer grew very hot, the rabbit would often retreat to her warren of tunnels that she had dug underground next to the house. Years later, when the basement started leaking, my dad discovered just how extensive Snowball rabbit's warren was. It was quite a project filling it all in.

    Collies and Shelties seem to find joy in observing and being with other smaller animals. They are such sweet guardians.

    1. Thanks for sharing this childhood story! It's such a heart warming tale of living in harmony. We humans could do to follow such a fine example.

  2. Great story, and very cute. Only another animal lover would understand that devotion to duty! Honey is a lovely colour and Piper would have made an excellent parent to many litters of puppies by the sound of this story.

    1. Piper would make a perfect parent and certainly a good nurse. He is super attached to Scrap in particular. I worry what will happen when Scrap, who is quite old, passes away. I hope Scrap will be like Buddy and live a long, happy life.

  3. Awwww what a cute bunny! I'm glad Piper is interested, maybe they'll be good friends??

  4. Lovely post! Way back in the 80's our Sheltie used to like looking after a rabbit and 2 guinea pigs when they were all in the garden together, he was ever so gentle with them, happy memories!

  5. Lovely story! It is amusing to watch to animal species interact when domesticated. My sister and I had pet rabbits growing up. They were kept in a cage in our back garden and we often took them out to play in our fenced sandbox and hop around in our house. They were very good about being held too. I think Honey sounds pretty pampered and maybe she even secretly enjoys all the attention.

  6. How lovely it was reading Honey's story, what a lovely life he has with you all, it's good knowing how spoilt he is as so many of these poor creatures are horribly neglected. Oh my....yes, rabbits sure take some drying! I enjoyed seeing Piper too, what a beauty!xxx

  7. This is such a sweet post and it is always so wonderful seeing how animals interact. Even though they have their differences and sometimes just tolerate one another, there is still a love and companionship between them. I loved your story!

  8. Smiling from ear to ear, and then some!!
    What a sweet little bunny, and I love the way you describe the relationship between him and the dogs.
    Truly heartwarming.
    Thank you for sharing, Jennifer.

  9. Jennifer girl I loved this story and I have had other friends that have had rabbits that has taught me they have amazing personalities .. your sweet pups do too of course !
    I love that header picture .. the light is staying longer and coming earlier as well .. so there is hope ? LOL
    Take Care !

  10. Bless your bunny-tail heart! You are so good to Honey. How lovely that Honey not only gets to spend time in the yard but also to be taken for walks. I absolutely loved reading about the relationship between Honey and the dogs -- fascinating. Oh and I'm so surprised how Honey seems to enjoy the after-bath ritual.


I love to hear from you. Thanks for leaving a comment.