Thursday, July 5, 2012


that's the only word I can think of that comes close to capturing my experience over the past couple of years. It has been that long that I've been volunteering on a regular basis out at Heartland Rabbit Rescue. I still am unable to verbalize how I've been transformed or even why...but I know something has shifted irrevocably within me and some (if not most) of it has to do with being around these remarkable beings so regularly.
How could anyone not be affected? Certainly not me. To the left you see a baby recently rescued...she was about 4 months old when she came in and she begs for attention much like a puppy. When she spots a human she stands up asking to be picked up and fussed over. She was running the streets and someone took her and called Heartland.

But she is only one of dozens and dozens of abandoned and neglected and abused bunnies that live at the rescue. I've been lucky enough to come to know each and every one that live in the south warren (right now 78 bunnies I think). That's a lot of personalities, that's a lot of different rabbits to get to know. I've never ever known that many non-human animals all at once in my whole life. Some I am smitten with, others I strongly like...there are none that I dislike. If I were to become very familiar with 78 human animals all at once the outcome would be quite different. To know so many rabbits all at the same time is one hell of an experience. They are amazing individuals. And I don't know nearly them as well as I want to, I don't know them nearly as well as does Jeanne Patterson, the founder and director of Heartland...she's is with them many more hours a day than I am and has been surrounded by rabbits for many many years. I'm in awe of her knowledge about bunnies.

To the right is Cutie (again) and Simon and Dustin. Simon and Dustin are old hands at the rescue. Simon is pictured while he is running loose on the warren grounds...Cutie and Dustin are confined in outside enclosures so they can have some playtime. The confining is necessary because bunnies are very prone (especially when young) to engage in dominance activities (they fight) and separation in necessary to prevent injuries. Were it safely possible...we would let them all run free.

It is a phenomenal thing see all these guys and gals almost everyday.

We're able to get 20 to 25 of them outside each day for a couple of hours early in the morning...that's the only time the temperature is low enough for them to be that the blistering days of summer are setting in here in central Oklahoma. Bunnies can't sweat hence temperatures over 80 degrees Fahrenheit begin to be risky for them. They dig and binky and play when they first go out then as it warms up many will dig out an area and lay in the cool dirt.

 Here's Pippin, about whom I wrote back in August, napping in an area he scooped out so he could be next to the cool earth.

The level of play and running and jumping and nosing around is fairly closely tied to the age of the bunny. Just like human animals...if you go to a first grade playground you're going to see very different behavior than if you go to some park area where a bunch of 50 or 60 year old human animals are hanging out. The outdoors is enjoyed by everyone of all ages...they just act differently while doing the enjoying.

I guess that's a big part of the transform. It has become an indisputable fact to me as a result of my interaction with these bunnies that they are as different from one another as human animals are different from one another. Each one is a unique individual who shares some similarities with the other rabbits, just as we humans share similarities yet at the same time they differ each from the other...just as human animals do. They are as complex and as sensitive and as emotional and as intelligent as human animals...they just show these phenomena differently than human animals do. And, just like us, they vary one from the other on the range of sensitivity, emotionality, intelligence that they possess and those features vary in strength and precision depending on how the bunny is feeling and what situation the bunny is in...just like human animals. Some are elegant and graceful, others are sort of clumsy and galumphing, some are acrobatic, some aren't.

They tend to be full of beans and boisterousness and play when very young, when they're adolescents they can be real jerks and are prone to stir up trouble, once they reach adulthood they tend to be calmer and more mellow but still full of energy...(and some are feistier than others) as they enter their later years they may get grumpy and cranky and quirky. They may get arthritis, they may like to doze...their senior years are so much like humans that if you dressed them up in a human suit you probably wouldn't notice much difference at all. Except the rabbit would probably be more appreciative of dinnertime...they do tend to enjoy their food. And they don't talk much...although they do have a rather wide range of grumps, honks and growls (or a scream in an emergency) they can trot out...and some talk much more than others.

Their interests differ from us...because...well because they are rabbits. They have a different evolutionary history than we do...they've traveled a different path...learned different things...developed different skills and strengths. But...where they are identical is that they are children of this planet...just like we are. They have feelings, they think, they feel joy, they feel attachment, they feel fear, they feel hunger, thirst, heat, cold, illness, sleepiness...and on and on and on. They love their children, sometimes they love their brothers and sisters and parents...sometimes not. Some have a good sense of humor and like to tease and be teased...others do not.

Howard for instance...the big galooty white fellow I wrote about in an earlier post has as mellow and fun a personality as you could ask for. He often likes to be chased...he will put on the most excellent head-fakes and high-jumps you could ask for and then he stops and watches you to make sure you are still participating in the game.

And then there is Brett, who has a disposition that is so amazingly sweet and friendly. He patiently will let a human hold him and if you sit down near him he will climb up in your lap and put his hands on your chest asking you to pet him. He also likes to tease Marshall and Russell...two sort of macho acting bunnies that live at the warren. 
And what I'm now certain of is if I had the opportunity and time to get to know 70 dogs or bats or weasels or pigs or cows or horses or wombats or sparrows or or or...I would find exactly what I have found with the rabbits. Each one is different from the others, each one is an individual.  Each one is unique....and yet...we're all the same in that we're all just trying to get by, the best way we know how.

In the end, it is the emotional universe we inhabit that matters most to us. We tend to seek that which increases our good feelings and tend to avoid that which prompts unpleasant feelings. In this respect (and many others)...a rabbit is me and I am a rabbit. We each are children of Mother Earth. We each were valued enough by her to bring us into being.

Ingrid Newkirk is supposed to have said:  "When it comes to having a central nervous system, and the ability to feel pain, hunger, and thirst, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy". There are lots of other feelings that are common to all of us...probably all feelings....whatever I can feel...any living being with a central nervous system can feel. Time for us human animals to step off of our self presented pedestals and realize that all of us...all living beings are in this living stuff together...and no one is any more equal or better than anyone else.

Well, except for the bunnies that are called Dutch. Many of the Dutch bunnies (who originate from England...go figure) I have met seem to be pretty impressed with themselves.
Here's Griffin, he's Dutch...and I must admit he's quite an impressive fellow. He may well be better than all of us...but he isn't an a**hole about it...that's better than many human animals do when they get bitten with the superiority virus.

Living as an ethical vegan is the only way I know of that honors the lives of my brothers and sisters, the rabbits, the gophers, the birds, the kangaroos...all the many sorts of children that Mother Earth chose and living as an ethical vegan also honors Mother Earth's power to choose the children she wants. She's much more wise than I am...and wiser than you too...I betcha!


Christina said...

This is a wonderful post. The pictures are great and I dont have anymore words that can do it justice.

Anonymous said...

I loved this post. It's a fantastic bunny biography with photos.

Have Gone Vegan said...

I agree -- great post.

"...their senior years are so much like humans that if you dressed them up in a human suit you probably wouldn't notice much difference at all." Human suit, ha! I'm gonna steal that phrase sometime... :)

Funny too about the Dutch bunnies. I know some Dutch people like that, snort.

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting Christina. The pictures tell it all.

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting DEM. And the buns thank you. :-)

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting HGV. No theft necessary...use anything you like. :-)

Beware the Dutch. :-)

Harry said...

Beautiful. Thank you.

Yes, all children of Mother Earth. One large family ... and we should be looking out for each other.

Anonymous said...

A bunnography :)

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting Harry and DEM.

Harry: You're welcome! Indeed we should.

DEM: The bunnies are pleased. :-)

Bea Elliott said...

Of course Heartland is blessed to have such a caring person in the roster of volunteers... But you've made it evident that your rewards are beyond calculation. It's odd that in such a harsh world the therapy is often in helping others. ...And yet they try the drugs instead - Sounds like they should opt for the bunny-cure instead. :/

Thank you for sharing these great photos and the stories of their dear lives.

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting Bea. I've often thought that the buns could do lots of healing for folks if only they had the opportunity. For that to happen humans have to put themselves in a position to be around bunnies. That means a human has to seek out and volunteer at a rescue.

I can only hope more are motivated to do this. And while bunnies are terrific...the fact is most any of our animal relatives (cats, dogs, cows, sheep, and on and on) can heal if we allow them to do so.