Friday, May 20, 2011

New being in the household...

This is Nester (although I call her Nessie Rae). She is now sharing our home. She has been here for several months now and seems to be settling in to her new place. Nester is around 7 years of age (likely around 40 to 60 in human animal years, uncertain what that is in dog animal years).

Nessie Rae (Nester) lounging in the living room...April, 2011
Nessie is descended from a long line of living beings classified as lagomorphs. Nessie is also a member of a tribe of rabbits called "domesticated". Her ancestors evolved on the European continent, she is not a Native American (domestic rabbits cannot even interbreed with native cottontails or jackrabbits).

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....


Bea Elliott said...

What a series of events for Nessie Rae! Shuffled from one dire situation to the next! Her twist of good fortune landing in *your* home is the happy ending I longed to hear!

So super happy she's having the chance at stability and the touch of human affection! That's so cute too that she likes to play chase! Sounds like rewarding exercise! Does she let you win sometimes? ;)

I send the hugest bunny {{{hugs}}} and binkies your way for providing her with a break at last! I'm all a tingle with the happy's! :)

Anonymous said...

Wow. I've been thinking of adopting a bunny after my 20-year old cat goes to cat heaven (but my guess and hope is that he'll hang around until he's 30)... but I want a bunny because they're vegan ;)

Thank you for this post. I will come back to it when the time comes!


Christina said...

Hmmmm, we might have seen that stink eye here once in a great while. What? Wait! I see that stink eye everyday from at least one of the tribe on a daily basis.

Nester has always been a doll. Rabbits really do change your household dont they?

veganelder said...

Thanks Bea, DEM and Christina for commenting.

Bea: Thanks for your good wishes, I'll pass them on to the Queen. :-)

DEM: One unexpected side effect has been that our two cats who aren't particularly friendly toward one another have moved much closer than they were...some sort of alliance against the long-eared interloper I think. They both are a bit frightened of the bunny but she wants terribly to get close to far he can't take it though. Bunnies are territorial as hell and she gets in a snit if you fool with anything in her enclosure...they are a trip.

Christina: Stink-eye city it is. Nessie is still great but she is much more formidable and assertive than she was at the warren (she was biding her time).

Indeed, changes everything all the way round.

Harry said...

I wish every animal could have an individual Nessie Ray-type name and their very own story told. Letting us world of humans know that every other living being is an individual too - and not a mass-produced machine (be that production for consumption, work or play) - is probably the best tool we have to stop such insane treatment of those we should be living in harmony with. Thank you for giving us an insight into her.

And good luck Bob - frightened Abbey took to Thomas the moment he met him and each time he runs inside through the rain she stands prepared to lick him dry from head to tail; quite a sight as although Thomas is no small cat Abbey's tongue is so large he almost disappears beneath it as he gets rocked from side to side by the force of it!

Have Gone Vegan said...

Sounds like quite the adventure your household is going through! But I'm so glad Nessie has found a good home. :)

Was reading just yesterday that cats tend to prefer women over men and they hypothesize that it's because women have higher-pitched voices, so I wonder if the same might be true for rabbits?

Krissa said...

Oh wow! I am very excited to read that Nessie has her forever home with you guys! That is really great! And it sounds like you all fit together nicely. At least you understand that ALL beings have moods and deserve respect. Many times at the shelter here I had to hear the phrase "it must learn" when connected to cats and things that were ridiculous to expect of them - especially in a shelter environment, but I'm going on a tangent. Nessie looks beautiful in the photo. I'm just happy for all of you that the world brought you together. :) ... Very interesting about the diversity among rabbits genetically. I had no idea.

veganelder said...

Thanks for commenting Harry. Each life is a journey and there's always a story of that journey. I tried to tell Nessie mine but she didn't seem impressed. :-)

Seriously though, maybe knowing the story helps perspectivize (neologism) the fact and reality that no ones story is any more important than another...we're all caught up in the same situation, life, and trying to cope with it and navigate it as best we can. When large numbers come into play, abstracting occurs and details are disappeared...and we live in the details.

Bob will survive, he's already much less bothered by it all, and he is just as valued and cared for as he was before she came...I doubt tongue baths are in the near future though. :-)

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting HGV. It might be the voice, I figured it was because my wife is much better looking and a much better dresser than I am. :-)

veganelder said...

Hi Krissa...thanks for commenting. Ouch, you touched on a sore point with the that "must learn" crap. My rule is if I hear that phrase then I figure I have a good chance in being in the presence of someone with some serious emotional deficiencies (or blindness or issues or whatever).

My experience is that this person is probably struggling with control and power issues and their encounter with a being they see as weaker or more helpless than themselves gives them a chance to act out their dominance fantasies. (This is not always correct, but it sure is too often to be an accident). Watching how a human behaves around beings they think are "weaker" than themselves can give you valuable clues as to how they deal with themselves internally...with their own emotions. Symbolically our fellow animals quite often represent our more powerful or our more tender feelings...if someone tries to "boss around" a cat for instance then they likely try to do the same to their own feelings. (sorry, I had shrink attack :-) )

Nessie Rae is beautiful, she is astonishingly attractive (as is Gracie Rae and Bobby Ray)...I am flabbergasted by how stunning so many of our fellow Earthlings wonder we humans are so often worried about our appearance...we don't stack up well compared to many of those other beings we share the planet with.

Genetically diverse, yep. Nessie is probably a German bunny with some French and Italian thrown in.

Bunnies tend to put cats in the shade in terms of independence...we are pretty sure Gracie Rae is thinking she can learn some good strategies from Nessie. :-)