Hare Brains

     A PBS presentation about the intelligence of animals had just ended, and of course, being the animal lover that I am, had me reflecting deeply upon the story’s premise, that mammals other than ourselves also have stores of untapped intelligence. I thought about my dogs, past and present, and of the many times they’d really awed me with something they had done to communicate with me in their very unique way... and then, my thoughts focused on my rabbits, and I had to lay my head against the couch’s pillow and smile with great satisfaction over this program’s confirmation of my beliefs.

     Our very precious lagomorphs, quite timid at times yet so bold when they need to be, very logically wary but with the capability to be so trustful, soft spoken in their abilities to communicate, peaceful by nature, always curious, so playful, caring, loving... they are such underestimated, misunderstood creatures for the most part. How thankful I am that I took the time to learn about them and to understand them. How blessed I have been by earning and sharing in their love. It has been more than healing for me; it has been magical.

     My journey into the nature of the rabbit began six years ago when I started rehabilitating wild rabbits at a local wildlife center. Immediately I adored them. How could you not fall in love with such a beautiful, soft, gentle little creature in  addition to wanting to help preserve our own native wildlife. Thus the wild rabbit species that we have in our state, our Eastern Cottontail and Swamp Rabbit, taught me their needs, their desires, and their preferences through caring for, handling, and feeding them. I wanted to do the very best job I could of making sure they had a second chance at life (which was my commitment to them), and in return I got so much back in acquired knowledge, wisdom, love, and understanding for this creature.

     My focus started to broaden even more when my neighbor introduced me to two juvenile domestic rabbits that had been abandoned and desperately needed a home, which I optimistically provided. I felt that my knowledge of the wild rabbit would help me deal with whatever needs these two domestics had, and it did. Within a few months I was just as relaxed with them as they were with me, which included daily hugging session on the loveseat in our living room. Additionally, I was watching these two little boys interact with each other daily and so I was growing in the understanding of what having domestic rabbits as pets is truly all about. There is actually a lot to learn if you take the time to truly listen and watch. They are incredibly sensitive and smart. They can and will tell you when they are happy, when they want to play, when they’d prefer to be left alone, and even when they are bored, hungry,  or scared. They will often let you know when they desire your special physical caress, when they’d like your company in conversation and song, and even when they’d like to play with their toys. The real challenge is to take the time to watch and listen to them, to abandon preconceived notions about what rabbits can or can’t do, and to become aware of the gift of love that is your to take within...their gift to you.

     Cotton and Satin were my first two adoptions. Later, after losing a second adoption to a very unfortunate, unforeseen disease, I got another domestic of the same breed, a regal “Silver Fox”, and named him Gossamer. Like Wedgie, the one who died, Gossamer is a gentle giant full of frolic, life, and love. I’ve let him show me how he’d like to  be touched and loved. I’ve let him show me what he prefers for his snack. I’ve given of my time to stroke him, massage him and groom him., Now he hops up onto the couch and performs little rabbit kicks and binkies when he sees me coming with his nighttime snack. His exuberance is so entertaining. His gaiety is so comical. His happy heart is so satisfying to my soul. He truly is my buddy, my friend, my loved one.

     January, 2011 brought to me yet another opportunity to experience the magic of rabbits, and this particular experience has proven to be uniquely priceless. The two little hours-old neonates that were dropped off at my front door, mistaken for wildlife, were actually domestic neonates. The umbilical cords were still attached. They were hairless and had canal birth bruising covering their heads and backs. The rehabilitator in me very much wanted the chance to see if I could care for these babies sufficiently enough so that they could thrive. Today I have two 6 month old gorgeous Himalayan rabbits with snow white coats, bright blue eyes, and so much trust in me that I receive kisses on my nose daily and warm salutations every time I step into their play area. Piper and Polkadot have become the apple of my eye due to a bond that reaches ever so far back in time to almost the hour they were born. They knew no other mother. I play that role. I can feel the affection in their butterfly kisses and gentle hops onto my lap. I can see the calmness in their auras as they hop all around me while I sit amongst them. They were there with love, kindness, and needs while I was nursing a broken heart from the loss of my young daughter. They gave me purpose and kept me going many days when I felt like crashing, and now my commitment to them is everlasting and filled with loving gratitude.

     Absolutely then, I wholeheartedly support the position that mammals other than ourselves are vastly more intelligent than man once thought. My own animals have taught me that. Their style of communication is just a bit different from ours, that’s all. It is different, but truly there. Are they time consuming? Yes. Are they sometimes expensive to keep? Yes. Are they worth it then you might ask? Well, I can honestly say yes, a thousand times, yes, if you understand that just like ourselves, they too have needs that require commitment, and wants that warrant acknowledgement out of respect for their uniqueness and value for their little lives. So, whether this article brings an awareness to you for the first time, or is just a gentle reminder to you to renew your commitment to animal ownership, become a part of this special relationship that nature has to offer us, and let the magic begin.