*Bunny names have been changed to protect the fluffy.
The husband knew better than to interfere. I was on a mission and, wisely, he left me to my own devices. Many hours were spent on Humane Society and rabbit rescue websites looking for a four-legged friend after the gut-wrenching loss of our dear Stanley. Many trips were made to branches near and far of the Humane Society (where, prepandemic, it was easier to meet buns in person on your own schedule), but I always came away with a “meh” feeling. Don’t get me wrong—there was nothing wrong with all the rabbits I visited. I was just looking for that feeling, that je ne sais quoi, and I wasn’t getting it.
Buns that seemed to hold promise from their website pictures and descriptions just didn’t scratch my itch when we met in person, er . . . in animal. At one point in my search, I’d come across an adorable Dutch, and he was even housed at the branch of the Humane Society closest to our home. I remember showing his heart-melting profile picture to the husband. But I also remember saying, “No way.” He was a Dutch, you see, and our second bun, Gertie, was a Dutch. It would just be, I dunno, too weird. Also, his age was guesstimated to be around one year. All our previous rabbits had been adopted when they were three years old. I wasn’t up for the unknown challenges of such a young bun.
One day, while at the Humane Society for the nth time, I stood in the Small Animals room awaiting my chance to meet a bun that had caught my eye online. While standing there, a volunteer carried in a Dutch—the one-year-old I’d seen online, in fact. Sure, he was as cute in person as he’d been online, but I was resolute: no Dutches. But then she said something that caught my ear. She mentioned that she’d never encountered a bun who tolerated being carried and held as much as he did.
Hmmm . . . I guess it couldn’t hurt to meet him seeing as I’m already here.
I don’t have to tell you what happened next, but I will anyway. I fell head over heels within seconds of our time in the meet-and-greet room. I called the husband and said in a tone that blended excitement with don’t even try to stop me, “I’ve found our bun.”
Long story short, he’d been found by a good Samaritan and surrendered to the Humane Society. In cases like that, and the rules stated that we couldn’t adopt for two weeks in case the owner came forward. We were already a few days in, so we submitted the requisite adoption paperwork and then waited, biting our nails, for ten long days. We visited rabbit #29878431 as often as we could (the husband was instantly smitten), simultaneously cheering and breathing a sigh of relief when the ten days passed without a human coming to claim him. Then, more waiting. He had to be neutered, followed by a recovery period. I can’t recall how long that took—two or three additional days, I think—before we could officially adopt him and bring him home.
Funny small world story: Before all this transpired, I’d made an appointment to attend an adoption event with a local rabbit rescue. Once the Humane Society’s waiting period was over and we were just riding out the neuter surgery, I called the rescue organization to explain why I was cancelling our appointment—because we’d found the most adorable one-year-old love-bunny at the Humane Society—and I got this response: Is it a Dutch?
Why yes, I replied. Why? Well, it turned out that one of that very rescue’s volunteers had been out walking her dog near a local Petco® when a small but spunky Dutch rabbit had brazenly hopped right up to them, clearly alone, out of his element, and needing assistance. The volunteer, unsure what to do, called a higher-up at her rabbit rescue organization, who told her to bring the two-toned critter to the Humane Society (I never did find out why the rabbit rescue organization didn’t just take him in) and that’s the bun we were getting ready to adopt.
The rest, as they say, is history . . .
Walter finally came home with us and we were a family of three again. I don’t have any grand stories or funny anecdotes about this particular bun. Instead, what I got was a rabbit that was—more than any of our previous buns—like my child. My baby, really. He adored me and I adored him. He loved not just being petted, but snuggled and—as was suggested at the Humane Society—held. While not totally unheard of, it is pretty rare for rabbits to actually enjoy being held. Over time, we developed a communications system: When he raced around my legs in a figure eight, that meant he wanted raisins. And when he nibbled my pant leg, that was his plea to be picked up and held (with constant head rubs thrown in, naturally).
In adopting Walter, we won big, not just in terms of affection, but in the Furniture/Woodwork Destruction department as well. You see, rabbits are lagormorphs, not rodents as many people think. But lagomorphs (rabbits, hares, and picas) have one thing in common with the more ewww!-inducing rodents: a nonstop need to chew on things. Both orders of animals have teeth that never stop growing, so unless they want to look like any of several characters from Fat Albert, they need to continually chew away.
If they neglect this need to gnaw, the vet may have to file down their teeth, or worse, the teeth will grow straight up/down through the tops/bottoms of their mouths. It’s a condition called malocclusion and Bugs Bunny is well on his way.
But Walter wasn’t a chewer. Oh, sure he did a little chewing—enough to keep the file at bay, and he mostly did it to the back of our armchair (though Stanley got the job started for him).
Instead, Walter had the unusual habit of licking everything. He just licked and licked and licked: the hardwood floors, rugs, pillows, furniture, us . . . The world was his
oyster ice cream cone. This propensity came in handy during our mutual grooming routine: I would kneel on the ground and pet (groom) him. After a while, I’d stop, and he would lick (groom) my legs. Back and forth we’d go, taking turns, until he felt sufficiently groomed and bonded. If I ceased my stroking too soon he would just sit there, stubbornly refusing to lick me until I’d given him what he deemed an equal amount of rub time.
Fair is fair, even in the rabbit world.
I know you’re not supposed to have favorites, but more than any other rabbit we’d had, I missed Walter when I was at work, I missed him when we traveled, and I woke up every morning excited to pick him up out of his rabbitat and snuggle him, even feeling a little envious on those rare mornings when the husband got to him before me.
The first rabbit we’d allowed on the furniture, he’d come running up the pet stairs and settle on our chests as we lay on the couch watching TV in the evening. Alternately, I would lay on the floor in front of the fire and he’d seek out the cozy nook where my arm meets my torso (known in some circles as the armpit) where he could be squeezed and petted at the same time.
Because our other Dutch, Gertie, had lived for an astonishing 12½ years, I had high hopes that Walter would also amaze us with his longevity, but sadly, his turn ended at a younger age—not quite six years old—than any of our other buns. Walter died of kidney failure a week after we returned from a trip—a trip I will now always regret. Some of you read the posts about what happened, but I just can’t bring myself to link it here. It’s still too painful.
As many of you know, we have another bun now—a furry English Angora who will some day leave us and break our hearts all over again. It took longer for me to bond with her than any other of our rabbits, in large part because I still miss Walter. I don’t have much of a maternal instinct, but what I do have, Walter coaxed out of me and fed. And for that, he will always be special.
I miss you, little guy.
Rest in peace, until we meet again . . .
For the complete picture: