Bunny Love, the Second Time Around
by Amy Odum
It is August 1993. I’m sitting on the kitchen floor of a house in College Point, Queens. Perched on my lap is the reason for my visit—a small white female rabbit who had been rescued from the streets just days before. It was clear that her rescuers, with one infant, two preschoolers, and at least three dogs that I could see, were in no position to keep her.
I had been contacted through a network of acquaintances, and now I was here to meet her as a prospective mate for my male bunny, Potter. (This was years before I knew the advantages of prearranged “meetings” for prospective bunny mates.) Eventually little “Lily,” so named for her perfect white fur, was bundled into a carrier, and off we went for the meeting with her intended and the beginnings of what I hoped would be a long and happy life together.
That was a little over nine years ago. Lily and Potter bonded and became inseparable, but, sadly, her beloved boy passed away after six happy years together. Lily, however, is still very much with me. She was not a baby rabbit when I adopted her, so she’s certainly not less than ten years old, and she may be older.
Always an independent little cuss, she began to mellow a bit with age. She became more affectionate towards me with every passing year, even more so after Potter died. It was touching, but a bit sad too. After Potter had been gone about a year, I began to wonder if she didn’t miss having a bunny companion to snuggle with, no matter how much she also enjoyed human attention.
I made a few attempts to find her a new sweetheart. I tried some introductions, and at times she’d tolerate the occasional “play date” with one of my other resident bunnies. But for the most part her reaction to potential suitors was a mixture of apprehension and irritation. In addition, about a year ago, after eight years of looking the same from one year to the next, Lily suddenly began to show her age.
Though her general health was, and continues to be, almost uncannily good, in what seemed like a matter of weeks she began to have noticeable difficulty with certain movements and positions. She was no longer able to stand on her back legs. Getting in and out of a litter box was becoming a bit of a challenge, as was grooming her lower body or bringing her back legs up to scratch her ears. Occasionally a little sitz bath became necessary, since assuming the position to urinate was becoming difficult. She occasionally wet the fur on her back legs and tail. A monthly trip to the vet for an injection of Adequan to ease her stiffness became part of our routine. She also seemed to need quite a bit more rest and sleep.
I began to feel ambivalent about even her play dates, let alone bonding her to a new male, since I knew there’d be a certain amount of chasing, mounting, and general stress. I wasn’t sure her old bones were up to it. Lily seemed destined to live out her days as a little widow woman.
Gus Drops In
Around midsummer, 2002, we were joined by another senior citizen, a no-longer-young gray lop affectionately known as Geezer (alias Old Man, Gloomy Gus, or just plain Gus). Nobody’s ideal “calendar bunny,” he was a warty, bony, scrappy little ragamuffin. Curious and friendly, he seemed to greet this the latest in a series of living arrangements with easygoing acceptance, and quickly made himself at home.
Perhaps it was the result of a lifetime of being caged, perhaps it was just an extension of his curious nature, but Gus soon proved himself difficult to confine to a single area. One evening, weeks after his arrival, he apparently decided he’d had enough of the hallway play area. In two seconds he’d scaled the baby gate and dropped down almost right on top of Lily, who was resting peacefully in the living room. I jumped up from the sofa, expecting fur to fly, ready to break up a free-for-all, or at least some vigorous chasing. Nothing. Nobody batted an eye.
Lily didn’t even seem surprised, although from her perspective it must have seemed as though this total stranger had quite literally dropped out of the sky. They sized each other up calmly for a matter of seconds, and then each proceeded to go about his or her business. For Gus this consisted of checking out the new space. Lily retired to one of her preferred napping spots, and within minutes was snoozing away.
Not love at first sight by any means, but almost equally far removed from the declaration of war I’d expected. Since then they’ve spent hours a day together. They’re not a particularly passionate couple, and frequently are half a room apart. My feisty girl is surprisingly deferential around her new friend, and lately has offered the occasional kiss and nuzzle. Unfortunately, Gus seems to respond to her overtures with his customary affability, but not much more.
But they seem to be comfortable with each other. They spend quite a bit of time resting quietly, and sleep seems to be a big part of the relationship. Even the dreaded indignity of “buttbath night”—another aspect of life with senior buns-doesn’t seem quite so bad with a companion to sympathize and help re-fluff a damp bottom.
I doubt Gus has ever had a bunny companion before. As for Lily, Potter may have been her one true love, but Gus is the companion of her old age, and each seems to draw comfort from the other’s presence. I’m not sure what the future will bring for these two. Lily is in good health, but a very senior girl; Gus is probably not quite her age, but he’s not young and has some health issues. Technically, he’s a foster, though, because of his problems, his adoption prospects are limited and he may live out his days as a sanctuary rabbit in foster care. And frankly, either one of them or both could die any day. At this age, things change fast and without much warning.
So the three of us, Lily, Gus and I, have decided not to decide, not to think about the future too much. We simply enjoy each other’s company for however long we have it. Along with the blessings of a long life come inevitable losses, but if you’re very lucky (and your next door neighbor is a really good climber), somebody may just drop out of the sky when you least expect it.
BACK TO INDEX (From 2004 NYC Metro Rabbit News)
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