Early one morning, before the holidays, I was starting my day. The fires had been lit, coffee made and I shuffled into my office to sit in my favourite chair and do a little reading before opening my laptop and starting the day in earnest. I love the very early morning because no one is up; the animals also still sleep and I am not disturbed, it is very quiet. I usually sit in near darkness, with only one light on near me to see what I am reading. I jolted into alarm to hear a ruckus upstairs. It was a series of loud noises completely foreign and it sounded like an intruder. Only it couldn’t be, I didn’t see any lights or signs of someone coming near. I put down my coffee and crept upstairs. I found our pet rabbit running in circles in his cage around and around tossing all his shavings, food and debris out of the small area. He was going so fast he nearly tipped the cage over. It was a sad sight. I was overwhelmed with sadness. How could we think that keeping this animal caged was the right thing to do. Over the summer, I had special cages built to withstand the elements by Carpenter John so that the bunnies (we had three guests over the summer) could stay outside in the grass and enjoy the outdoors and each others company. Now our bunny was back inside and alone. He was not happy. So I let him out.
I brought him downstairs and put food and a litter box in the corner and watched to see what would happen. We have two cats, one is a hunter and regularly drags large rodents onto the front porch for us to admire. The dogs are getting older. I wasn’t sure what to expect. The bunny spent the first day in the corner, trembling. I worried about the evening and the cat feeling bolder unsupervised by me, so I put him back in the cage and the next day, let him out near where I was working. Deanna and I kept an eye on him. He spent the day under the table not going back to his area to eat or to drink. Maybe this wasn’t going to work. This behaviour lasted about one week – he was fearful. I also thought he probably didn’t know how to use his legs or body since being confined for so long.
The girls arrived home for Christmas. There was a lot of commotion. Olivia and Grace took one look and remarked “Mom honestly? you’re letting the bunny free?” Yes I am. The bunny is now free. Christmas Day things changed. The girls went into Toronto and Shawn and I settled by the wood stove and contemplated life. All of a sudden, Molly our aging beautiful golden-doodle Molly leapt into puppy mode and began chasing the bunny around the room. First it was a short chase back and forth, then the chase became running around the entire downstairs at a high speed. Shawn and I watched as first Molly chased the bunny and then the bunny chased Molly and then the cats got in on the action and everyone was chasing everyone. It was hilarious to watch. We couldn’t quite get over how life was evolving where the animals were now our source of entertainment. The girls arrived home. They took one look around and gave us a bit of a “rolling the eyes” look like we had lost the plot, that Mom and Shawn were losing their minds. That they shouldn’t be left alone.
Since then, the bunny has gradually taken over the downstairs. Litter training has been successful some days and not so much on other days. Shawn remarked one day (Shawn who believed all animals should live outside when he came on board to the Gray Road household) that the bunny just wanted to belong and we should feed him with the other house animals. And so it is. The bunny just wants to belong. At night, we hear him and the cat racing through the house and in the morning, he’s ready for company when I get up. The other day, I came downstairs and was sure I saw him leap from somewhere out of the corner of my eye. Sure enough, a few hours later, he was settling on to the chair to cuddle up with the cat, Nickel. No go on that one. “The chair belongs to me” he said and threw him off.
What’s happening to my life? Maybe I’m worried that all the girls will be gone soon and we need replacement company. Maybe I am just becoming a little more flexible and tolerant. But this certainly feels like the right thing to do and there is no question for the rabbit. He can never go back to his miserable caged life. There are mornings when I think it’s gone too far and we should simply move out of the house and leave them all behind. Then I look around and think it’s a lovely thing that these creatures do just want to belong together and be loved like we all do. Meanwhile, I’m looking into some bunny furniture just so he also has something to sleep on…(that is a joke.)