May 2006


I’m not sure if the pantry is really neutral territory since it was used to bond Bean & Lookout, but its as close as we have outside of the bathtub in our house. So all 3 of our buns got to spend some time together (about 2 hours) in the pantry. For a while, Matt and I were in there with them to keep an eye on things and act as referree if any fights broke out. As predicted with Echo acting as littlle miss scaredy-bun, the few skirmishes that took place were very mild. Eventually, Matt drifted off to to deal with some bills and I brought my computer out to the dining room so I could resize some photos and put them up while keeping an eye on the buns. So here’s some photos of this evening’s progress.

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-Liz:HRN Member

We had a very funny rabbit incident yesterday that I just have to share. Lookout was on the bed “helping” us while we folded laundry. (For her, helping fold laundry consists of re-arranging the socks and underwear and trying to unfold the dish-towels and t-shirts. She enjoys the game and we find it funny enough that we don’t mind re-folding a couple things.) Because Lookout was behaving really well, we decided to bring Echo out and see what would happen when they interacted.

So we put Echo down on the bed and she and Lookout nosed at each other once or twice. Echo meeps in consternation and runs off to hide behind Matt. Lookout expresses interest in her a couple times, but generally, Echo runs away. No fur flying, no nipping, just curiousity and retreat. Interesting and very impressive since Lookout has been so agressive before. I think Lookout is beginning to settle down and become a more sweet-tempered bun who just doesn’t like being held very much. (See my other post about Lookout’s behavior changes.)

So eventually, Lookout goes over to the headboard, shoves her butt up against the slats, and manages to carefully pee off the side of the bed, barely getting the pillow wet and almost entirely hitting the floor. We’d forgotten to bring a litter box onto the bed, so this was an incredible display of bunny respect and restraint, considering that she could have just peed on our bed but chose not to. We didn’t have to change the sheets! Just one pillowcase and a bit of clean-up with some papertowel. I was impressed. I scooped her up and took her back to her cage so she could finish her business in peace.

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I grabbed Beanbag and the litter box and brought them both to the bed, setting the litter box in easy reach of both buns. Beanbag walked toward Echo and tentatively stretched his nose out in the rabbit body language of a tentative “Hello?”. Echo meeped and ran away to hide behind me and lick my face! After a couple more minutes of interest from Bean and Echo trying to run away, we decided to force the issue by taming one bunny with scritches and then plopping the other bunny down beside them. We got a couple minutes of side-by-side scritching where Echo and Bean were both trying to be the submissive bunny in a game of nose wars. (“I’m on the bottom!” “No, I’m on the bottom!”) Then Beanbag would try to groom Echo’s paw and she’d jump up and run away to hide. (Go figure, we’ve got a bunny with a paw grooming fetish!)

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After about 10 minutes of Bean and Echo time, we decided “hell with this” and retrieved Lookout from the cage. We figured, if Echo is going to run scared all the time, we might as well bring Lookout back because the likelyhood was that she and Bean would be curious about Echo and Echo would just run away. This proved true; Echo would try to run when they expressed interest in her and we would scoop her up and bring her back so they could all smell each other.

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It was just so comic to watch Echo doing this little scaredy-bunny routine. Who would have thought she’d be affraid of both of the other buns and that Lookout would be so well-behaved and restrained. I think we’ll be trying to put the three buns in a pen together this week so they have to spend some time getting to know each other. So far, this is the third time we’ve gone through the rabbit bonding process and each time has been different. We’ll see what happens next and how this all works out in the end. We’ve just got to convince Echo that they aren’t going to hurt her and that she’ll get groomed and cuddled if she sticks around to make friends. Yes, there are pictures of all this BTW. I’ll try to post some when I get time tonight or later this week.
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Oh, and this is what Echo thought of the entire experience:
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-Liz: HR N Member-

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During my junior year of college, I finally started living alone, with no roommates, in a studio apartment. I wanted a pet so I wouldn’t be lonely. I first thought of getting a guinea pig because I missed having them from my childhood. Weekly trips to the town Farmer’s Market changed this. My college town in Central Pennsylvania had a wonderful farmer’s market. There was a woman who brought several rabbits and guinea pigs every week and sold them, for $5, to college students as pets. Each week, she had different rabbits, sometimes babies, sometimes adults. Selling rabbits to college students, VERY bad idea, right? I will get to this later…**

I went back week after week to see the bunnies. Finally, I had made my decision. The Friday I went, there were two guinea pigs and two black and white Dutch mix rabbits. The woman recognized me and said, “Are you going to take one home this week? You come every week.” I said, “yes, I think I will.” She said, “Oh good. You can take one for free…I usually just give the rest to reptile owners anyway.” With that, a promptly chose the Dutch mix with more white, put her in a box that the woman gave me. The woman told me that the rabbit I chose was a dwarf and female. I hate to think of what happened to the other bunny and the guinea pigs.

I already had a cage set up at my apartment in anticipation of bringing my new friend home. But, I really did think she was a dwarf. I wanted a dwarf and the cage was dwarf-sized. I had never seen the Dutch pattern; I didn’t know much about bunnies. One quick search on the internet probably would have solved this little bit of misinformation, but I didn’t do this until months later.

I named my little girl Eve and put her in her tiny cage. I estimate that she was about 10 weeks old at the time.

I learned, after a month or so, Eve was not like Portia, the rabbit I had as a teenager. Eve was energetic, crazy, happy, chewed on everything and loved to make trouble. She often drove me crazy. And she didn’t stop growing, either. I soon found out that she was no dwarf. She was a Dutch; not only that, but a mix who turned out to weigh a tad bit over 6 lbs. at her healthy adult weight! The cage would have to go…

I didn’t know about spaying rabbits, even in 2001. I took Eve to the local vet who said spaying was not safe (I asked because I heard rumors that she could be spayed). So, I returned home with my rabbit who was quickly becoming a defiant, destructive teenager. Around the age of 5 months, Eve started waking me up every morning at 5AM by chewing the bars of the cage, bouncing around, tipping over her food dish, anything she could think of that would make me wake up and give her pets, treats and time out of the cage. She learned to escape from her first cage…she managed to open the door, but it was too small anyway. The second cage was a medium-sized dog crate, still too small, but it worked for awhile.

Eve was not litterbox trained until she was about 7 months. I didn’t know I could train her, but I have to say, even though she was un-spayed, she taught herself to use the box. By 9 or 10 months, Eve had stopped most of her annoying behavior and we became good friends. I learned when she was about 5 months that she needed unlimited hay. I learned this the hard way when she stopped eating her pellets and started eating my carpet. The vet told me she was looking for fiber.

I had a boyfriend at the time who loved Eve more than he loved me. He spent HOURS working with her on behavior, training and just being a good bunny. He taught her how to give kisses/face washes. He treated her like his own. He did not live with me, so I suspect he only came over to see her! Ha!

I eventually did get Eve spayed (that is a story for another day, though) and she has a huge cage now, ample run time and more recently, a bunny buddy named Dorian. Every day, I learn more about Eve and Dorian. Although I think I made tons of mistakes with Eve, I know I did better for her than I did for Portia. Eve will be five years old in June and I certainly hope she enjoys her life.

**The sale of rabbits at the Farmer’s Market in State College, PA was later outlawed by a town ordinance. The excess of rabbits that ended up in shelters caused a rabbit rescue network to form. Many college students would buy rabbits, not knowing anything about them, and then abandoned them. It was very sad, but I hope that at least some of them were rescued. Eve was lucky.

-Rachel: HRN Member/Volunteer

I grew up with many different kinds of pets: gerbils, hamsters, a dog and cats, but I would have to say I was partial to guinea pigs during my childhood. I really wanted a rabbit, but I knew my Mom would not go for a “larger” pet in the house (Mom believed rabbits could only be housed indoors) so I asked for a guinea pig. I got Rainbow, a tri-colored female, from a pet store. Little did we know, we got three for the price of one when we realized Rainbow was already pregnant. My Mother was also very much against letting animals breed and have babies, so I was thrilled when she not only let me keep Rainbow, but she let me keep Diamond and Princess, the two babies, as well. After these first three piggies passed on, there were two more, Carmina and Rosaline…

What does this have to do with rabbits, you ask? Read on…

Near the end of Carmina’s life, we finally convinced Mom and Dad to get us a rabbit. The rabbit would be my brother’s pet (he was six at the time) and would live in his room. We got Portia from a friend who had a litter of Holland lops. Portia looked exactly like Starla does (Starla was recently adopted through HRN). Portia was SO sweet–she was mellow and easy-going her entire life. Tim, who was such a tiny kid, could take her out of her cage and carry her around, play with her, cuddle with her…and Portia was alright with that.

I don’t think Porta had a very good life…and I feel guilty about it to this day. She was not spayed as no one had heard of spaying at this time, at least where I grew up. She wasn’t litterbox trained, although she did always poop and pee in one corner of her cage, but *WE* never really caught on. She didn’t really get unlimited hay, no, hay was only a treat. Her cage was big enough, but we didn’t let her out of it much. Tim gradually lost interest in Portia as he grew up. My Mom lovingly took care of the rabbit as best she could, but she didn’t know much and she had many other pets to look after. There were weeks that Portia’s cage was disgustingly dirty. There were no toys for her to play with; just water, pellets and occasional hay or alfalfa. I left for college when Portia was about four years old. She got even less attention after I left.

I remember very little about her. I know she was a bit food aggressive and enjoyed having pellets dumped on top of her head. That was funny. She would nip if you didn’t pour them fast enough.

Portia lived to be 8 years old and died quietly in her sleep one day. She never seemed sickly. Eight years is a fairly good lifespan for a rabbit, surprisingly. My brother, who was 14 when she died, was upset. But, he also knew that he was not responsible enough for another pet and recognized that he did not do a good job with her.

We all make mistakes in the beginning, I guess.

The following conversation occured between one of my viola da gamba teachers, we will refer to her as J, and myself. (This is not my other teacher who I sometimes talk about, who has twelve rabbits) J is a bit uninformed about bunnies, but, like many other people, had a bunch in a hutch in her backyard as a child.

…it is the middle of my lesson which is at my home…J looks over to see that our bunny abode condo now has an extra level so that there is a enough space for Eve AND Dorian, our new bun…

J: Wow, it looks like you have the ‘bunny hotel’ over here!!
R: Well, yes, that is Dorian, he is our new little boy, so they need more space…
J: Oh! How cute!
R: Yes, I think we are finally set now that we have two bunnies, we can’t put anymore in this tiny apartment, after all.
J: Well, you can just let them do the rest…you know…they will make lots more bunnies for you!!
R: No, they can’t. They are both fixed. We don’t want more bunnies, there are plenty that don’t have homes.
J: I guess it is good that they are fixed, I didn’t know you could do that. I guess they won’t be ‘breeding like rabbits.’ Oh well.

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UGH!! This is one of SO MANY conversations I have had like this. People tell me, since I have a male and female rabbit, that they will make lots more rabbits. In fact, when we JUST had Eve, people said that too (as if she could make more rabbits without a male–did these people take Sex Ed.?) People always say we should LET them make baby bunnies because bunnies LOVE MATING!! And bunnies are happiest when they are MATING.

Ok, how many other people have had conversations like the one above? Why are rabbits stereotyped as sex-craving-lunatics that need to mate all the time? Yes, I know bunnies reproduce quickly, but so many people don’t know that things can be done about this, namely, spaying and neutering your rabbit. In the meantime, I will continue to be annoyed at conversations stereotyping my sweet, loving bunnies!

-Rachel: HRN Member/Volunteer

Following Jessica’s lead, I’m going to write about how my husband and I adopted one of our bunnies, Lookout, who is one of the more complex bunny personalities I’ve met.

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There’s a pet store I’ve been going to since I was a kid. The guy who owns the store is a liscensed state animal rehab agent. He takes in the kinkaju,s orangutans, flying squirrels, and raptors that idiots bring in as illegal pets only to find out too late that they are in way over their heads. This guy’s store is where I got both Lookout and my dearly missed little Fuzzface. (I know now that I’ll never get a bunny from a breeder or a store again. There are too many bunnies abandoned as it is. But I hadn’t really thought through the consequences of getting buns from a breeder or store when I got Fuzzface or Lookout. I know better now.)

A couple years ago, when Fuzz was still alive and living with Beanbag (whom we adopted from a friend who’d found out she was allergic to him) my husband and I went into the pet shop to pick up our usual supplies of hay and pellets. Sitting in a cage by herself was a white bunny the traditional Hotot breed markings of black eyeliner ear spots. The store owner told us that she’d been pregnant when he got her from a breeder. (A breeder whom he was no longer planning to work with because of this mistake.) The little white bunny was about 4 months old and shouldn’t have been allowed to breed that young. The store owner, in good conscience, was waiting for her to give birth and wean the litter of kits so he could find homes for all of them.

The next time we went to get our supply of hay, the white bunny was calmly sitting there, ears up, eyes alert, surrounded by 5 scampering kits. The kits were about 6 weeks old and looked great. The mom seemed calm and alert as she listened to the parrots talking at the other end of the store.

A few weeks later, my husband and I stopped by the store again. As we watched, the last of the little white bunny’s kits was adopted by a young couple, excited about finally getting a friend for their boy bunny at home. The little white bunny sat in her cage, alone for the first time in months.

My husband and I talked a number of times over the next week about the little white bunny, alone now in the store. It was just before Thanksgiving, and we finally agreed that if the bunny was still there on the following weekend and the store’s owner was willing to hold her for us till after Thanksgiving weekend, we’d adopt.

The store’s owner was more than willing to keep the white bunny on hold for us till we got back from our Thanksgiving trip. We approached her cautiously. She’d had very little human interaction in her short life so far and most of it had been to disrupt her space and take away her kits. Once she was out of her cage, she stood in my arms, alert, listening, looking smelling us. She covered my black wool coat in glossy white hairs. I didn’t care.

The day we returned from Thanksgiving, we pick up the little white bunny and brought her home. She was 8 months old and pretty anti-social to both humans and other bunnies. It would be another 2 weeks before we settled on naming her Lookout because of her constant attention to the world around her. It would be almost another 2 years before our beloved Fuzzface left us and her partner Beanbag. A few weeks after Fuzzface died, we began the slow and difficult process of bonding Lookout with a confused and very lonely Beanbag. It would be 3 months before the bonding process was complete.

Lookout is still a bully sometimes but these days, but I am beginning to re-consider her behavior in a new light. Despite her occasional agressive nips, she truly loves Beanbag and the companionship he provides. While I once thought that her agressive behavior was just the product of the 8 formative months she spent mostly alone, I am now beginning to think that she is actually protective. She herds Beanbag back into the cage, away from the perceived threats of humans and strange noises. When we made the first introductions between Lookout, Beanbag, and Echo recently, Lookout was the one who behaved calmly while Beanbag and Echo were anxious and nipped at each other. Lookout, calm and alert, let Echo groom her. I think after all this time that I finally understand her. Lookout is uncertain about human beings, she always will be. But when it comes to other bunnies, she craves their companionship, is uncertain what to expect from them, and protective of those she sees as either part of her warren or young enough to be considered a kit. While her agressive behavior and disinterest in cuddles makes her something of a challenge, I don’t think I would trade Lookout for any other bunny in the world. Her complex needs are a constant challenge. With her, I have to “listen” harder than I have with any other bunny in my life to hear what she is saying. I think though, that I am finally learning how to hear her.

-Liz: HRN Member-

When we were kids, my brother, sister, and I were desperate for a dog. We’d beg and whine and beg some more like typical kids but my parents knew better. They didn’t want the responsibility of a dog and so we were not getting one no matter how we promised to take care of it and feed it and walk it and pick up its poop. No.

What we did do was visit pet stores and play with the puppies they had there. (This was before I new about rescues and pounds and puppy mills.) Every week we’d come home begging for this pup or that. Well one week I saw a little black bun in a fish tank (a BIG no no due to poor air circulation) and I sat down in front of her tank and watched her. I didn’t beg. I didn’t cry. I just watched her. The next week we went back to that store and I planted myself in front of her cage and watched her again.

After the third week, my parents knew that if we went to the pet store and that bun was gone, they were going to have a problem on their hands. Unbeknownst to me, my parents made a plan.

The next day my dad came home and called me out side. He had a rabbit cage for me! I flipped. All we needed was bedding and we could go get the rabbit! He handed me bedding. All we needed was food and we could go get the rabbit!! He handed me food. All we needed was a water bottle and we could go get the rabbit!!!! He handed me a water bottle. We had it all!!!! We could go get her!!!!! (Who knew about hay then?) I was beside myself as my dad handed me a little cardboard box.

I opened that box with determination and purpose. The first corner let light stream into the little box. The next corner and I could nearly see inside the box. The third and the fourth and one little corner stayed black. There she was: my very first bun and the only thing that mattered in the world. We were together.

Pepper was a fantastic bunny. This was before the time of spaying and litter box training, but she was never aggressive and would jump into her cage when she needed to use the bathroom during her romps around the house. She didn’t mind being held and would sit on me soaking up pets for ages. She used to nudge my hand when I stopped petting her which I thought was the neatest thing. She was an amazing ambassador to buns.

When I look back at her memory, I know I did a lot of things wrong. I was a kid and the primary care giver. I know there were times her bowl stayed empty too long or her water ran dry. I admit there were times when her cage was such a mess there wasn’t a clean corner for her to sit in. She wasn’t spayed (but they didn’t spay buns yet,) she never had timothy hay (alfalfa was a treat,) and she was an only bun. There were stretches of several days in a row that she didn’t come out for a run and she spent the summers in a raised hutch my dad and I built under the deck. I definitively wronged her, but she was a love bun anyway and I know better now.

I remember the raw pain when she died. I remember where I was and how it felt to hold myself up. I remember opening the shoe box that my dad had put her in so I could see her. I remember wanting to be alone with her but being too afraid to ask. I remember worrying about my parents because they were so worried about me. It took years for me to be able to even look at a solid black bun again.

I have a solid black bun again now. Rocky is a little smaller than Pepper was but is also filled with a loving personality. He’s neutered, has unlimited hay, has friends and clean water, hay, food, and medical care. He was adopted just before his third birthday and since then he’s only been outside on a leash and under close supervision. I hope I’m doing better by him.

I also hope I’m doing better by all the buns who have come into my life since Pepper. First there was Thumper who was a poor sweat sickly thing, then Opal who was a 14lb bundle of love, then Bear who slipped away never knowing he could trust me, and now Scout, Savannah, and Rocky who each have a personality uniquely theirs.

Thanks to Pepper, I saw what amazing animals rabbits are. Now that I’m a grown up and can properly take care of them, I never plan to be without a companion bun. They add to my life in a way that no one else can. I’m eternally grateful to my parents for not wanting to deal with me if we went back one time and she was gone.

So, long story long, that’s how I fell in love with rabbits. How about you?

Jessica:HRN Memeber

Our youngest bunny, Echo was spayed about 3 weeks ago. Her surgery took place later in the day, around 3pm, so she was still pretty dopey when we got her home that evening around 7pm. She was contented to spend that evening being cuddled while wrapped in a towel. I sat comfortably in one of my favorite chairs, my computer on my lap and the bunny on my chest and shoulder. One hand typed and surfed the net while the other scritched the bunny on the head. Occasionally she would get up and reposition herself in the bundle of towel. Mostly, she was just content to lie there quietly accepting scritches and the comforting warmth of my body. (Hey, I can play living heating pad if she wants it!)

Since then Echo has recovered remarkably well. While she was ready to get out and run the day after surgery, we didn’t actually let her get any out time till a week after surgery. We discovered that the stress of surgery had caused her body to purge itself of a large number of pinworms, a common intestinal parasite found in rabbits. Luckily, treating for pinworms is fairly easy and they aren’t terribly harmful to the body of a healthy bunny. Aside from that, Echo has been a happy, healthy bunny who doesn’t seem too concerned with the bald spot on her belly or the healing stitches where her spay took place. For the first couple weeks after surgery, when she did get out time, it was in short half hour sessions. As her body healed, we have her longer sessions out of the cage. Her fur is already growing back nicely on her belly, and its only been about 3 weeks since the spay. Her litter habits have started to become more consistent. She also seems less inclined to scent everything in sight.

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Last weekend, we took a chance and put Echo in the bathtub with our other two bunnies to see how they’d get along. Echo got anxious and scared pretty easily. Whenever one of the other buns would express interest in her, she would immediately try to assert dominance by nipping and grunting. Lookout, our other female bun who is a fairly agressive bully, was amazingly indifferent to this behavior. She would either hop away, stand there just looking at Echo, or just put her head down in the expectation that she was eventually going to get groomed. Beanbag, who has always been the submissive bun in every relationship he’s had, was acting agressive and territorial. We aren’t sure whether he’s defending and protecting Lookout, or whether he’s just trying to establish himself as higher in the pecking order than Echo. Either way, we were very surprised to find that after 20 minutes in the bathtub, Lookout the bully of the bunch, was the one who’d been disciplined the least. Echo was pretty soaked from the number of times we’d had to squirt her with water for bad behavior. Beanbag had a couple of wet spots.

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We plan to try taking the buns to a foreign location next and seeing what they do when all 3 of them are in alien territory. Perhaps, if the weather is good this weekend, we’ll build a pen to put out in the back yard…

-Liz:HRN Member-

I have three rescue buns of my own and a rescue dog but I’ve never been a foster mom. I have transferred buns between foster homes and from the MSPCA to foster homes. Somehow during each of those short drives I fall completely in love with whatever little fluff ball I’m relocating that day and day dream about taking him or her home.

A few months ago I brought Starla to Suzanne’s house. That night she had her four beautiful kits. (She had been turned in pregnant to the MSPCA by her original owners.) I so wanted to take them all home with me. I’ve never raised a foster litter and it would have been so fun but I think my husband may have left me if I had taken them.

I very nearly snapped up Quinten before he even made it to Suzanne’s house. I only talked myself out of that because of our up coming move. We have enough going on right now!

Every time I go see Erica’s fosters, Minnie, Nushi, Spot, Zues, Tumble, and Rose, I want to steal them all and keep all the cuteness for myself. I can’t though. They’re nervous around the dog so it wouldn’t be fair to them.

You see I am good at making excuses right? The real reason I think I’ve never been a foster mom is because I fall in love. I just can’t imagine caring for and loving a foster bun and then letting them leave the nest and be adopted. I know I’d end up keeping every one both sweet and ornery and then, well, then my husband probably would leave me!

So I’m not a foster mom. Instead I help out however I can and have to say to all the foster parents out there THANK YOU! You are amazing. You are changing the world for every bun you bring into your home. I have immense respect and admiration for you and I don’t know how you do it. Thank you. With out you, I may not have my wonderful little fir kids. Thank you.

Echo got her first visit to the great outdoors this weekend. The weather was so fine on Sunday that Matt and I decided to get some gardening done. Now, I’d been sick for the entirety of the previous week , so I didn’t exactly have a ton of energy. Luckily, Matt had done a great job raising our seedlings this year so we exchanged the extra seedling for some help in the garden. Friends and family came over and helped up transplant, separate, and water so I didn’t have to worry about working too hard. When I ran out of energy, I decided it’d be a good time to see what Echo thought of the back yard.

Being born in winter, Echo had never really been outside before we adopted her in late February. She’s been outside on her way to and from the vet a couple times but it doesn’t really count if the bun is cooped up in a carrier and can’t explore. This was her first real encounter with the wide world. Luckily, at about 6 months old, she’s young enough to not mind being put into a harness. She didn’t chew at the harness or try to bunch her body up so I couldn’t tighten the harness down properly. She just let me put it on her and attach the leash, all the while snuffling curiously at my hands.

Once she was in the harness, I took her outside and held her for a few minutes so she could smell the air, listen to the noises, and feel the sun on her fur all from the safety and familiarity of my arms. When she started showing signs of curiousity, I put her down on the back porch and waited to see what she would do. She hopped back and forth, exploring the world nose and ears first. Once she seemed to be feeling confident about her exploration of the porch, I scooped her up and took her down to the grassy patch of yard in the midst of the collection of containers that makes up our garden.

There’s something priceless about each bunny’s first encounter with a stretch of lawn grass. They tentatively grab their first strands of grass with their teeth, nibbling daintly, ears cocked for sounds of trouble. You can almost see the moment when their eyes sweep the surrounding horizon and calculate the ammount of green grass that is theirs for the taking. They hop back and forth, never settling in one spot for more than a moment or two as they sample the grass from every inch of lawn they can reach. The experience is worth all the shedding and vet visits in the world.

By the time we went back inside an hour later, Echo had eaten grass non-stop for a solid 15 minutes or so of her time outside. I snuggled her for a moment before sadly putting her back in her cage while I went off to get dinner for the hungry gardeners. The sounds of people talking, laughing, and eating didn’t seem to disturb her as she napped away the rest of the evening. I think that was the first time I can recall ever seeing her so tired out that she just spent the rest of the evening flopped.

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