|Nessie Rae (Nester) lounging in the living room...April, 2011|
In fact she could be considered, like all those not descended from Native Americans, one of the European invaders that now call themselves American (or whatever). One difference here is that Nessie (or any of her kin) pretty much would be doomed if she tried to live on her own here in America. Another difference from the other European invaders (the human animal types) is that her ancestors didn't choose to come here...they were brought here with no choice or say in the matter. So, strictly speaking, she is not an "invader", and I have no doubt, if she could travel to Europe and could survive with her ancestors that haven't been "domesticated", that she would opt to do so in a moment...with my best wishes for her.
But such is not possible. Domesticated is defined, should you take the time to click over to the wikipedia article about it, as: "To be considered domesticated, a population of animals must have their behavior, life cycle, or physiology systemically altered as a result of being under human control for many generations." Her physiology (especially external appearance) and her behavior is different from her "undomesticated" relatives because of human interference. For instance, she, like all "domesticated" rabbits, tends to be more trusting (hence less adept at predator avoidance...this due to human interference) than her wild relatives.
She is stuck with dependency on the human animals that robbed her (via manipulated breeding) of the skills, etc. that she needed to survive on her own. Now she lives at our house.
Her story is not untypical of domestics...she was running loose and was picked up off the street and taken to a municipal "shelter". I enclose the term with quotation marks because I have a difficult time applying the word shelter to anyplace that manages space issues by execution of the beings that reside there. We don't call death row at a prison a "shelter". It is not known how or why she was on the street and never will be...likely she was released by a human because they didn't want to care for her...who knows?
Then, Nessie Rae got lucky and avoided death because she was accepted for residence at Heartland Rabbit Rescue (a no-kill rescue shelter). Lucky, because it happened that there was room at Heartland, lucky because Heartland was made aware of Nessie Rae, lucky because this happened before her time for execution came up.
So now this lucky bunny arrives at Heartland, and there she stays. There are dozens and dozens of rabbits there needing forever homes and she lived as one of them. Then, a family shows up and wants to take her into their home as a companion for the rabbit that already lives with them. Hooray, she has a family...oops...wait...she has to get along with the rabbit already there. She doesn't, they don't hit it off, they conflict, fight, have to be separated at all times...too bad for Nessie...after 18 months or so of trying she is returned (luckily) to Heartland.
So she languishes at the shelter along with the other family-less rabbits. She copes, she survives, she lives. We chose her because she really had never had a family and she was getting on in bunny years. We wanted her to experience the possible goodies available in a family before she completed her life. So she is here, and wow, just wow.
First of all, she went from what appeared to be a mellow, laid-back fur person to a growling, griping, biting grump almost instantaneously. Enough so that initially we were worried that she simply did not want to be living with a family or at least ours anyway. The switch was amazing.
This change was a bit surprising and the intensity of it was unexpected but not totally unanticipated. My thought is that beings (I am including humans here) living in somewhat constrictive situations tend to adapt by sort of hibernating (emotionally). The environment is not conducive to nurturing all aspects of their uniqueness and beingness so part of that uniqueness and beingness goes to sleep (so to speak). I could use more technical and psychological terms but this language serves. Then, if and when a situation arises where nuturance is available, that environment has to be tested and explored before it can be trusted to provide for that sleeping uniqueness. So, you might raise hell and push the limits for a while, then if things stay pretty good...maybe you can trust it. Or you might just stay semi-asleep for a while in the new environment, then if it stays good you can wake up (this is sort of what the resident rescue cat Bob did...he slowly just came alive).
But, in the fullness of the days (about 3 weeks or so) all that disappeared and now living in our house is a bright, interesting, affectionate, mischievous, willful and assertive bunny being who is a delight and a treat to hang out with. She likes routine, bunnies are crepuscular (like cats), so she wants to go outside for some activity in the early morning, then again in the evening. She mostly naps or lays about the rest of the time. She eats lots of greens in the morning, again in the evening and around lunchtime she gets some oats, pellets, a few pumpkin seeds and a few raisins. Lunchtime is exciting for her and she zooms around in anticipation when her bowl is sighted.
She likes to dance with a human in the morning (running around some human feet or chasing back and forth with a human) and likes to play chase...she will pursue someone who is willing to run from her and will run from someone willing to chase her. Often she makes a quiet, sweet and peculiar humming sound when dancing. She sometimes likes to twirl around and around until she gets dizzy and begins to stagger a little (much like human children sometimes do).
When she is wanting to be groomed (petted) and is getting the kind of stroking she likes she will reward you with teeth-chatter (a bunny version of applause) where she rubs her teeth back and forth and makes a quiet sort of grinding sound. You know you are doing well when she gives you teeth applause. When you displease her or irritate her you might get a thump, a growl, a front-feet slap or maybe a nip on the arm or any other place she can reach. She is mildly moody and sometimes is cranky and irritable...this seems to be more predominate when she is molting but I haven't been around her long enough to confirm the correspondence of molting and bitchiness.
She dances with delight when she first sees you in the morning and after getting to stretch her legs some is always interested in a good long petting session. She is scary smart, already knows her name, knows what the human word outside means and when outside knows what you are wanting when you ask her to go inside. Most of the time with a little coaxing she will run right to the door and wait for you to open it for her to go inside, sometimes she doesn't want to go in and then you get to have something of a workout. These knowings and respondings evolved over time as she settled in.
She detests being picked up (many bunnies do, usually being lifted off the ground means death from some predator or other) and the first few weeks she was here she was outraged if you picked her up and would sulk for hours after such a horrid experience. Now she protests if it is necessary for you to pick her up, but immediately recovers with no sulkiness or carryover of bad mood. Generally, it is not needed to pick her up since she has learned the geography of the house and of the yard and will go on her own to wherever she needs to be.
She is not a dog, she is not a cat, she is not a human. She is a rabbit, a particular and unique rabbit. She is her own being and it is an honor and a privilege having her live here, from what I can tell she is happy and I hope that is true and hope that continues to be so. I am learning a lot from her and the learning is ongoing and interesting. I am pretty sure she likes my wife's voice more than mine and she seems to want to hang around my wife more than me. I do know other beings can distinguish differences in human sexes and some have preferences for females or males. It is all interesting and intriguing.
By the way, you haven't really lived until you have been given the stink-eye by a bunny. They can give looks that make you wonder if you aren't on the verge of bursting into flames. Well, I can't sum up a sentient being in some writing, but at least this provides a flavoring of this particular bunny being.
Do not take on living with a rabbit unless you have some time available (2 to 3 hours a day...minimum), they are complex and intricate beings that are less "domesticated" than either dogs or cats. They are closer to their wild ancestors in temperament and personality and correspondingly less interested in pleasing any humans around them. If you think cats are independent, just go hang around a rabbit for a while, your perspective will probably change.
I'm serious about the stink-eye thing....