Object Lessons from Some Rabbits

Lola Rapunzel, taken on her fifth birthday, Dec. 31, 2019.

If you have read this blog from the beginning, you are aware I have four rabbits. Each one of them got a post within the first month of going live.

I’ve been fortunate enough to share my life with many animals over the years; several dogs, a few cats, pigeons, doves, parakeets, love birds, fish, ferrets, and even a horse for a little while.

What catalyst caused me to bring home bunnies? Angora wool. It’s soft and nearly weightless, not to mention seven times warmer than sheep wool. What’s not to like if you’re a spinner/knitter/crocheter? Yep, that’s how those folks become “extra”. They bring home livestock. The lucky ones who live in the country can get sheep, goats, llamas and alpacas. Suburbanites, like myself, settle for rabbits. Though I wouldn’t exactly call it settling. Did I say bunny wool is soft?

My two English Angoras are pretty much retired from fiber production now. Angus is getting old. Every once in a while, he gives me a scare that he may not be with us much longer. While I wish I could keep him forever, there is no cure for age. He deserves a break from constant brushing. In fact, he’s being trimmed again. Between him, and the 5 yr. old doe, Lola Rapunzel, I’m set for life with bunny wool.

Bunnies generally have a hard time as pets, because most people don’t want to take the time to understand them. Unlike dogs and cats, who are predators, rabbits are prey animals. They require a different approach when attempting to make friends with them. Unlike a horse, which can literally knock you on your butt, when they’ve been spooked or upset; rabbits don’t have quite the same power. Though they bite hard enough to draw blood and can leave some nasty scratches with their strong back legs. One must be willing to learn rabbit language to gain their trust. A hand on the head is a sign of respect, and generally calms a rabbit who isn’t certain they want anything to do with you. You can’t be an emotional basket case when working with rabbits. Calm and patience are the order of the day, before you even get close to them. Their radar is always going for signs of threats, which indicate something might be about to attack and eat them.

They are also ruminants, not rodents, meaning they are grass eaters and strict vegans. Their systems are not designed to process sugar. (When I look at my waistline, I’m not so sure I am either.) My rabbits do receive a piece of dried papaya at bedtime, but it does dual duty. Besides being “candy”, it serves as a digestive aid to prevent wool block; something even short haired bunnies can get, if the loose hair isn’t kept off them. Rabbits can’t throw up, so everything which enters their digestive track only flows in one direction.

Most rabbits, with the exception of German Angoras, blow their coats four times a year. So, if you don’t like animal hair in your house, don’t bring a rabbit into your home. The stuff floats and will reach places, like light fixtures and the highest corner of a vaulted ceiling. (Angel hair) Daily cage cleaning is a must, as well.

Besides the uber-soft bunny wool, there would have to be other trade-offs to make the work worthwhile, wouldn’t there? It probably helps I didn’t get my rabbits until I was in my forties. After raising two daughters, and working with a variety of people from different backgrounds over the years, I learned patience. But my rabbits still had plenty to teach me, and were actually a major part of working my way through the grieving process after my mom died. Four hours a day, I had to put it aside and concentrate on my obligations to the bunnies. Since they wouldn’t cooperate with me while exhibiting strong emotions, they provided a bit of rest, even though I was doing chores. Taking time to earn their trust when I first got them, paid off. They have been bonded to me for several years now, and rabbits are actually playful, affectionate critters when they have confidence in you.

Other than being fed regular meals and being given a safe environment, rabbits don’t have high expectations for life. They’re pretty humble. Of the four rabbits I own, my sassy rabbit, Benjamin, might be the only exception. They don’t worry about changing the world or leaving a legacy behind them. I will always have fond memories of all four of them. Angus and Lola, however, will leave heirlooms behind them, even though it was never planned by them. All that wool I’ve saved up will last well beyond their lifetimes. It gives me an opportunity to provide blessings to others, while still having plenty to make something for myself occasionally. Provided a recipient of an item I’ve made with their fiber, gives it just a bit of care, they would be able to pass it on to another for their enjoyment someday.

Quote of the Week

Autumn passed and Winter, and in the Spring, when the days grew warm and sunny, the Boy went out to play in the wood behind the house. And while he was playing, two rabbits crept out from the bracken and peeped at him. One of them was brown all over, but the other had strange markings under his fur, as though long ago he had been spotted, and the spots still showed through. And about his little soft nose and his round black eyes there was something familiar, so that the Boy thought to himself:

“Why, he looks just like my old Bunny that was lost when I had scarlet fever!”

But he never knew that it really was his own Bunny, come back to look at the child who had first helped him to be Real.

The Velveteen Rabbit or How Toys Become Real, by Margery Williams https://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/williams/rabbit/rabbit.html

I call Angus and Lola my Velveteen Rabbits after they get a haircut.

Kristal DeJong

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s