Friday, May 20, 2005

Bab's story

As you can see, I've been so busy in lab, I've had no time to work out. I do feel very guilty about this. I'm going to have to work extra hard to slough off the Buddha belly I'm acquiring. However, instead of boring you with lab details, I can tell cute animal stories:

I decided Taz needed a bondmate after having him for 3 1/2 years. He was very comfortable and happy with our small family but I had read that bunnies are very social and like company. Jason and I are gone most of the day so I worried he might be lonely. Jason was very reluctant but I wore him down gradually. It took several months. He made me swear I would not adopt any more pets after Babs. (I already broke that promise). I discovered the House Rabbit Society and decided to adopt a rabbit from them since they had so many rabbits that needed good homes. I found Babs' picture on the web. She looked just like Taz. Her name at the time was Velvet.
(Both Taz and Babs are mini-Rexes, which is a breed with incredibly soft fur. They have a mutation that disrupts production of the bristly guard hair that most animals have. So mini Rexes have downy-soft baby fur all their lives. It's softer than velvet. I've never felt anything softer. You can't stop petting them, which they love.)
I brought Taz over to meet Velvet. They got along okay. Taz was introduced to some other potential bondmates but Taz hated all of them. He tolerated Velvet the best, and Velvet really liked him. The foster mom was impressed b/c she had apparently already rejected several suitors. However, she kept trying to steer me towards other bunnies, which I thought was odd. I decided to adopt Velvet and rename her Babs, keeping with the Looney Tunes theme (after the Tiny Tunes girl rabbit character).
After bringing Velvet home, she turned into a different bunny. She was extremely aggressive when inside a pen and extremely fearful when outside during playtime. She didn't want me to pet her and bit hard when I stepped inside her territory. I found out later that her foster mom had hidden her in the sanctuary (where unadoptable bunnies go) after she had bitten and attacked many prospective adopters. Obviously, something terrible had happened in her past that had taught her to deeply mistrust people and consider them a threat. I had adopted an unadoptable bunny.
The bonding sessions didn't go well either. She attacked Taz tooth and nail. Poor petrified Taz kept trying to run away. Poor guy. Babs didn't respond to me either, which didn't help when I was trying to separate them. In fact, when I tried to stop her from lunging at him, she leapt up, grabbed hold of my hand with her teeth, and hung. I had to shake her off. I still have a scar.
At this point, I was crying and upset because I didn't want to give up on her, but Taz and I were both afraid of her, and I was considering giving her back. But I didn't. I started bonding sessions between her and me so she could get used to me. I spent a lot of time in her pen, reading, singing, and hanging out so I could earn her trust. I continued the bonding sessions, petting them and taking them to strange places together (vet, friends' apartments, dry bathtub, porch, top of washing machine, PetsMart, etc.) so Babs would be too apprehensive to feel aggressive.
Gradually, persistence paid off. Biting became nipping, which I still hated. I would shriek, stomp my foot, and leave (much like a bunny in distress does). Soon, she learned that nudging me with her nose was much more effective than nipping. In addition, I would lay down when I was near her so she would feel less threatened by me. Curiosity would win her over (it's not often people would lie down beside her), and she'd come over and investigate. Soon, after I lay down, she would lay down too, and that would be the signal for me to come over and pet her. Now, when she feels that she's being ignored, she spontaneously flips over on her back like a dog playing dead. I find this so adoreably irresistible, I am forced to drop whatever I'm doing and come over and pet her.
3 months later, I had won Babs over, and 6 months later, Babs and Taz were bonded. Taz and Babs now co-exist peacefully. They groom each other and cuddle. She still bullies him, especially at feeding and snuggle time. They're more like brother and sister than husband and wife. But she covers him protectively when they ride together in the carrier, and when I pull them apart out of concern for Taz because it looks like she's smothering him, he squishes himself back under her. I know they comfort each other.
Now, when I lay down, I feel a bump, bump on my shoulder, and there's Babs, nudging me for attention. She purrs when I pet her and runs up to me for attention. She races, wriggles, bounces, and leaps like an acrobat with excitement at feeding time. She's a perfect angel when I have to give her medicine or clip her nails. She responds to my voice when I say "Babs," "Good girl," or "No." She waits for me by the bed when I get up in the morning.
Babs has become a member of the family. She's a completely different bunny today then when I brought her home 2 years ago. She'll never be good with strangers, and she still runs and hides under the bed when I try to show her off to friends. But that's okay. She's my special girl.


Kevin said...

how almost makes me want to go get a bunny myself.

i had a friend that had one when i was in college, but she never took the time to train her or love on her. her rabbit spent most of the day alone while she was away at work as well. in fact, i dont even know if i ever really saw her pay any attention to the bunny.

i am willing to bet that they did not lay in the floor together and have story time :).

Rachel said...

All pets are very rewarding when you spend time with them. Just like kids. Bunnies are awesome pets. Very cuddly. Let me know if you are ever interested in adopting one in the future. I can give you info on care and House Rabbit Society chapters

Erin Nicole said...

i will never forget having the two of them over at my house with the two cats...dear lord that was funny!!

Rachel said...

I loved how Taz chased your girl kitty out from under the table. Hilarious!

Mon said...

Cute story!! I have 2 bunnies myself, and had to go through the great bonding trials!!! Congrats! Bunny love is adorable!