Ever see that perfect little ball of fuzz in a shop window that you instantly connect with?
Nothing in the world is cuter than baby animals, and this leads some people to put their hearts before their brains. Sometimes that cute ball of fuzz grows up to be more "animal" than the person can deal with. And sometimes they grow up to be not quite what they at first seemed: health problems and hereditary conditions are often a consequence of breeding "mills".
I know that many EFA members have devoted considerable time and resources to picking up the pieces for these suddenly homeless, often sickly creatures. Most of us have had a special-needs feline or canine in our lives at one point or another. But today I want to talk about one very special special-needs bunny.
I work at a zoo. I don't know why, but many people seem to think that zoo = place to drop off unwanted pets. Let me assure you, this is not the case. True, the zoo I work at houses a large number of rescued parrots and primates. So many, in fact, that we can barely keep up with them all. But unwanted pets? Well, when was the last time that you saw a house cat in a zoo exhibit?
Shallot, the rabbit
Even so, many animals are abandoned by our back gate every year. Bunnies are a particular problem where I work; at one point someone dumped about 50 of them in the park next door. Everyone did their best to get them to a rabbit rescue, but not before they were traumatized by dogs, cars, and who-knows-what-else
I guess it was only a matter of time before I ended up with a hard-luck rabbit of my own. We already have something of a menagerie at our house, but this guy was just too pathetic to trust to fate. He was blind in one eye, emaciated, and had terrible problems with his teeth. Rabbit teeth never stop growing; they're supposed to get worn down by the hay and vegetables that make up a majority of their diet.
That didn't work for this bunny though. His front teeth grew so crookedly that they curved in four different directions, with the top two growing backwards into the roof of his mouth. No wonder he was so skinny! He couldn't chew vegetables at all. He was surviving by picking up small pieces of pelleted food with his tongue and pulling them into his mouth. He lived with some other bunnies at the zoo for a while, but it was obvious that he couldn't compete with them.
So I finally brought him home and named him Shallot. Turns out, he was a wonderful guy ! I was afraid that the fact that we had to take him to the vet every two weeks to get his front teeth trimmed would make him skittish. Far from it! He roamed my studio, groomed my ankles while I worked at my desk, and generally brightened up the place. He never seemed to mind his carrier, and was quickly designated a "well-mannered bunny" by my vet's office staff.
With a great deal of work which included chopping up vegetables into tiny cubes every day, he became healthier and more robust. The next step was to trim all his teeth. For that he had to stay at the vet all day under mild sedation, a dangerous situation for a rather fragile bunny.
We had a scare when they found that the gums near that back of his mouth were so inflamed that at first they suspected oral cancer, but it turned out that it was just the pressure from his screwy teeth that was causing the problem. He made it through the surgery to correct the overgrown gum tissue with flying colors too, and was soon back to hopping around my studio.
Usually, if you rescue a bunny, you'll want to get him or her a bunny companion, but Shallot was often bullied by other rabbits so he had to make do with my husband and I and our cat Emmett, who loved spending time with him. He lived with us for almost two years, sleeping on my feet when I worked on jewelry and sitting next to me on my couch while I worked on my laptop.
Sadly, Shallot suffered a brief illness and passed away while at the animal hospital last week. We'll probably never know exactly what finally overcame him, but the vet told us that he had probably suffered long-term damage from his days of near-starvation. We are very sad about his passing, but glad that we were able to give him a chance at a better life for a little while. Certainly our lives were enriched beyond measure by the time he spent with us.
A passing woman asked her what she was doing, given that there were far more sea stars than the girl could possibly save. "I might not be able to save them all" the girl said, putting another one in the water, "but I sure made a difference to this one". I hope that we made a difference for Shallot.