I find it truly amazing how much comfort I find in having a pet around me. And I think it’s only fair to say that many of us who suffer from depression feel the same way about their pets, whether it’s a cat, dog, rabbit or bird. They are so undemanding, affectionate and loyal… and a huge source of comfort when I am feeling at my lowest. As a result they are recognised as being more than just a pet, but part of the family.
For those of you who already know me, you will be aware I love my rabbits (no, not those rabbits!) I’m talking about the furry little creatures with big floppy ears, known in the animal kingdom as lagomorphs.
Ever since I was a child I had always wanted my own rabbit, but with one thing or another I just never got around to it until about 6.1/2 yrs ago. I was approaching my 40th birthday and decided that I wanted something special to mark the occasion.
A friend of mine at the time owned six rabbits, and I could see how much joy they gave her. So the idea had come to me, although it had, I suppose been resting in the back of my mind for a long time, to have the rabbit I had always dreamed of owning. I got myself a few books to find out what I would need to get started and once I was satisfied I went to my local pet shop.
At that point in time the shop owner had a choice of four rabbits available for sale at the right age, but I instinctively knew exactly which one I was going to have as soon as I saw her. He allowed me to hold her, and she snuggled up under my chin and started licking my hand. She was THE most beautiful pure albino lopear you could ever imagine seeing. Holding her to my chest, it just somehow felt right. And so the decision was made, I took my baby to my friend’s house whilst the hutch and all the accessories were delivered to my home later.
The next decision was what to call her, being an albino the obvious names came to me such as Snowy, Snow White, Pinky (because of her pink eyes)….but some how they just didn’t seem to do her justice. Then it came to me, she was such a beautiful little creature that I decided on Venus…after the goddess of beauty.
She had the most wonderful character, was so affectionate and undemanding. She enjoyed being picked up cuddled and sitting on my chest she often used to make a purring sound, caused by them clicking their back teeth together…..a sign of contentment. When she came out of the hutch in the mornings and evenings for her exercise, it was wonderful to see her jumping and twisting around in the air. For a few weeks we had a very close one to one relationship. But then I started to feel a little bit guilty about leaving her on her own during the day whilst I was at work. I made the decision to get her a companion, another female, as I didn’t want to breed her. I went back to the pet shop where upon I saw this gorgeous little brown, sandy and gold bunny….which I was advised was definitely a female. So I settled on her and took her home to introduce her to Venus.
At first I was nervous about putting them together, I had read that because rabbits, like most animals can be territorial, this can cause behavioural problems. Over a period of a week I kept them in separate hutches, giving them some time together each evening until they got used to each other. I need not have worried as they took to each other so well and without any problems.
The new rabbit had a habit of sniffing and munching everything in her path, so I decided on calling her Munchkins. They both were such a great pleasure to have. Both extremely affectionate and loving, undemanding and so full of character. I bought a big playpen for them in the lounge for them to stay together during the day
After a period of about 4 months, as they both started to mature a little, I noticed Munchy was in the habit of chasing Venus around the playpen. I had a sudden suspicion that she was not a she……oh dear, how right I was. I decided to get Munchy neutered once he was six months old and in the meantime I had to keep them in separate hutches during the day, and of an evening put them in the playpen together completely supervised by me. The first sign of any hanky panky and I separated them. Despite Munchy’s efforts at chasing Venus, and trying to quench his sexual appetite, she just wasn’t interested.
One night in early July I was ‘supervising’ them when my phone rang, I went and answered the phone in another room and was gone for about 15 minutes. When I went back into check on them Venus was stretched out looking very contented and Munchy was stretched out next to her also looking very contented. I thought nothing of it at the time.
About a month later in early August, on arriving home from work one evening, I went and sat out in my chair on the balcony of my flat in front of the hutches to spend some time with Venus and Munchy. This had now become my normal routine, to go and sit with them, give them some fuss a cuddle and a treat. Venus was laid out in the corner of her Hutch and it was unusual for her not to get up and come to the door for her treat. As I was talking to her, I was feeling for her toy bell in what is called the ‘bedroom’ compartment of the hutch. My hand touched something warm and living. Quickly pulling my hand away in fright, I immediately thought it was a mouse or rat that had got in the hutch. I sat there for a couple of minutes wondering what to do. Then it dawned on me, that the hutch was so secure, nothing could get in….and the fact that Venus didn’t seem to be at all scared.
I plucked up the courage to open the compartment door again and put my hand inside and cautiously have a little feel around. There they were, two tiny little grey bodies curled up together and fast asleep. My first instinct, Venus you clever little girl. You’ve made me a grandma!! I remember looking up at Munchy in the hutch above Venus’s and winking at him
In all the excitement I rushed to get my reference book on rabbits, read up on them having babies what to do and what not to do. I found out that females are only pregnant for about one month and normally have a litter of ‘kits’ short for kittens of around 4 to 6 ( yes you have heard right, not just cats have kittens, and with the shock I had just received I thought I was about to have them too!) I panicked….where were the other kittens? I looked all up and down the hutch, but didn’t find any more. Venus trusted me enough to allowed me to touch them straight away. After that I let her get on with what she had to do until she was ready a week later to allow me to pick them up and hold them for a few minutes at a time.
What a pleasure is was to watch over the next few weeks as they started to grow and develop, and how Venus was such a wonderful mummy to them. I think Munchy smelled their scent and kept coming to the front of his hutch to have a look. After a while I was able to hold them in front of him and he would come up to my hand and lick them. At first I was worried in case he attacked either of his babies, but he was so gentle with them, and I somehow sensed he wanted to be with them.
After a few more weeks, I set up a bigger play pen in the lounge for all of them to spend time together stage by stage. Everything worked out perfectly for them, they became their own complete little family.
As the little ones started to grow, they both had noticeably black fur developing. So I decided to call them Sooty and Sweep. A few weeks later I had them properly sexed. One was male and the other a female. In the meantime poor Munchy had his little operation. But now I had to make sure I kept Sooty away from the girls, until he was old enough to be neutered. Sweep was very much like her daddy with the pointed ears, Sooty very much like his mommy with part lopears and extremely affectionate. I always said to venus I would take her out in the snow and play hide and seek with her!
Over these past 6 years they have played a very important part of my life. I unfortunately, lost Venus a couple of years ago age 4.1/2 yrs old (the same day as Micheal Jackson died) Albino lopears are known for not living long lives, but I m sure she was a happy little bunny whilst she was here. I lost my little Sweep last year to cancer and unfortunately I lost Munchy in October this year. I still have my gorgeous Sootykins.
Without any of these beautiful creatures, I feel my life would have been even more complicated than it already was. When I was at my lowest over the last couple of years, my bunnies were always there for me to come home to. It is surprising how they can play a major part in not only our recovery but the continuation of our well-being without them or us realising it. I have great deal of respect for my bunnies.