Bunnies rarely live as long as a dog or a cat. They can be delicate creatures—a rabbit, for instance, cannot breathe through its mouth, so a respiratory infection can be deadly.
Those who adopt bunnies will have their hearts broken, on average, every five or six years.
A hard-core rabbit person accepts this and loves anyway.
Mistreated or abandoned rabbits don’t get nearly the amount of press that dogs and cats do, but they’re out there, and they need help. If you’d like to make a donation, or sponsor a bun currently being fostered, or maybe even foster a bun yourself, please visit http://www.therabbitresource.org/
Rabbits and I were an accident. I didn’t have a rabbit as a child, none of my grade-school classes had them. My father told stories of raising rabbits in hutches in the back of his preacher-daddy’s house in rural Tennessee. One female—or doe, as I would learn, much later, to call them—was especially forthright in demanding attention when he went out to feed them and clean their cages. For my father, raising rabbits was like having a paper route—he bred them (or they probably bred themselves) and then he sold the offspring, and the adults too, once they got too old to breed. I don’t think he sold them as pets. Which, though he never said so, maybe bothered him (he was a hunter, but that was different): we never ate rabbit in our house.
My first bunny, Tamerlane, was a peace offering after a weeks-long fight with my then-boyfriend, eventual husband, and now ex (I was a bit of a slow learner in that relationship). I lived in Princeton during the week, at the Institute for Advanced Study, and spent weekends with him in his loft, west of Broadway, between Canal and the financial district. I decided that we should adopt a shelter dog (his loft was a fifth-floor walk-up, but that didn’t seem like a deal-breaker to me). In fact, I was insistent that we should adopt a shelter dog. Adamant. I’d talked to a shelter, they had pit-bull mixes that no one wanted. One of those dogs was for me. I bought a leash and a bowl, and chose a name: Persephone. I made an appointment with the shelter. I was excited (possibly more by the prospect of a dog than by the future ex).
The night before the appointment, future ex brought down the hatchet on my plan. Fifth-floor walk-up, dog couldn’t come to Princeton with me during the week, mess, responsibility, time. All of which, to be fair, were valid points. But he had no idea what he’d unleashed (sorry).
Ours was a relationship with a whole lot of problems, some still latent at that point but I knew they were there. And I was, I suppose, planning to fix them with a dog. And I knew very well without calling the shelter to ask (I couldn’t bear to) what had likely happened to Persephone and her litter-mates, which didn’t help with the problems—when I’d had too much to drink (which was practically every night we spent together, thankfully weekends-only), I’d accuse him of condemning Persephone to the needle. Which wasn’t entirely fair, but wasn’t entirely off-base either. All this happened right after New Year’s. The future ex was still trying to appease me on Valentine’s day.
To which end, he made a date with me at an address in Chinatown that I figured was some restaurant he’d discovered. Instead, it was a pet shop, tiny, and filled mostly with raucous birds.
Future ex’s idea: guinea pig. Mine: the adorable bunny in the window, engrossed in grooming his long lop ears, was coming home with me, and future ex could do as he pleased (more than a little bravado on my part: the loft was his and I didn’t have keys).
Pet-Shop Lady Linda—who was a little deaf, because of the birds, so she talked in shouts—removed the rabbit from his grass-filled fish tank and put him in my arms. He immediately nestled into my shoulder and began a chittery bunny-purr.
Linda, loudly: “Hasn’t done that with anyone! Looks like love!”
Future ex was smart enough to shut up and pay up and that was that.
I had no idea what to do with a bunny and I have spent the last fifteen-or-so years learning.