Bunny family

From The Selby. The watercolor is wonderful too. The Selby is always so great anyway, but this was some good inspiration for living the bunny lifestyle.

I've had so many mixed feelings about integrating a bunny, or bunnies, into our lives. In a way, it seems so simple, and I can imagine friends just saying "For God's sake, woman, just get a freakin' rabbit already!" And I'm sure I will. But I do want to look before I leap, so to speak (this blog is likely to be full of bad rabbit puns), because I just haven't been sure that rabbits were such great pets. I mean, that they were happy being pets. Don't get me wrong, I hate PETA as much as the next PETA-hater, and I'm a big fan of pets in general. But as I've alluded to before, I didn't have great success with them. One escaped, and probably died, and the other died in a terrible way. She was very old, and I think she had a pretty good life as captive rabbits go, but she died badly. I'm working myself up to tell that story, but I'll have to have a few drinks first and screw up my courage.

We hardly need more pets. I have dogs - too many dogs, really, although I love each and every one dearly - as well as donkeys (yes, other longears) and chickens. We used to have cats, fish, birds, an iguana, and I've even had goats. Just a few months ago, we just lost my 16-year old cat, and found a home for our foster cat who hated dogs. We also placed our huge iguana in a reptile rescue. My hub would have continued making iguana salads for years, but I was the bad iguana owner who didn't want to deal with such a big, boring, labor-intensive, tail-whipping, finger-biting pet. We were also ignorant - Maurice turned out to be a girl after we'd had him a year. All this transpired due to a radical lifestyle change where most things were overturned. So with all the downsizing and the move to simplify and go green, blah blah blah, whence comes my desire for rabbits? It just seems like one more responsibility, one I'll handle poorly and that will become a huge drudgery, but that will live badly and suffer unlike my other neglected responsibilities. Bad, bad idea, right?

Then there's the fact that I feel like I'm betraying the dogs. They need me - they want way more of my time than I give them. And what willing companions they are - none could be better. I probably do need to deal with my dog-related guilt before taking on anyone new. And it seems like psychic betrayal too, somehow. I've been obsessed with pit bulls for years. And now, rabbits? What about the poor pitties who need adoration and advocacy as much as they do a warm bed?

Part of it has to be that I'm tired and traumatized by the whole pit bull thing. The web (and the whole world, it seems) is just chock full of pit bull controversy. As much as I love them, the concept of them and their real-live wiggly warm selves, they stress me the fuck out. I will never willingly get rid of my pit bulls, but having them has led us to have some extreme problems. Extreme. And the lifestyle choices we've had to make as a result have been significant. I'm wondering if we'll ever be able to adopt a child during the lives of these dogs. Can you imagine our home study being approved when we have more pit bulls than you can count on one hand, two hounds and a chi?

And the dogs, they don't have anything to do, really. We're just not into show culture, although we tried, and we don't really get into weight pull either. My husband raised them in a past life, I did pit bull rescue, and neither of us is interested in doing either of those ever again. But we love to play with them, take pictures of them, and go on walks and car rides. While I totally support the rights of pet owners and responsible breeders, I don't think that just hanging out is a great life. Our dogs long for a job to do.

Which brings me back to the rabbits. Compared with pit bulls, rabbits are pretty apolitical. Their status is so ambivalent. Even in this culture people eat them, wear them, harvest their fur, and litterbox train them. Probably not the same people, but still. And all decisions regarding pets and animals are fundamentally political any more - if one farms them, makes money off them, they live in the house or outside, there will be someone there to judge.

The two rabbits I had as an adult, they depressed me. They didn't look happy. They hung out in their hutch looking annoyed or scared. They came in the house sometimes and that didn't seem to help much. I just had to wonder if the whole rabbit-keeping prospect was just fundamentally flawed. The thing about them being a prey animal makes for such a different relationship. There doesn't seem to be the same sort of mutuality as with a dog or cat, who generally seem to really enjoy human companionship. Maybe they shouldn't be pets, not for me anyway. And then with angoras, I've heard the theory that they are basically mutants and their bodies don't work right. They can't throw up like a cat, but they clean themselves and ingest wool, and easily get wool block, and so they are just genetically doomed. I need to research that some more, because then plenty of people swear that their rabbits never get wool block and they live out healthy, happy lives.

The thought of raising rabbits is completely different from getting one or two just for pets and spinning, but it's not off the table. Part of me just wants to farm and raise animals, it's a pretty strong urge. Not dogs. I started reviving my sheep and fiber farm fantasy from years back, but the economics of sheep are not easy. I don't want to sell any animals for meat, and I don't want to mass-produce anything. Then I got the glimmer of rabbits in my mind's eye, as if they would be part of my future. Maybe it's because rabbits couldn't be more different from pit bulls, and something in me needs to heal all that pain, I don't know.

We visited a rabbit lady today. This was a big deal for me, the first time I've seen angoras in person in years. It was a well-kept fiber farm, with a knowledgeable shepherdess. Her rabbitry had about 25 French, German and German cross rabbits outside that we could see (she said she had clipped rabbits in the basement so they could stay warm). The rabbits were all suspended in cages about waist-high in a pole barn with a top and lattice sides. It seemed functional, clean, and the most striking thing was that the rabbits seemed happy. Most of them came to the front of their cages to see what was up. And they were gorgeous, of course. I didn't take pics because I had just met her and was afraid it would seem intrusive.

When I asked her about her rabbits being so friendly, she said that they were handled but that it was mostly genetic. I'm not sure I get that - and hub says that's friendliness toward humans is not supposed to be a genetic trait - but it would be important if one wanted to raise rabbits. There's only so much time in the day and if every rabbit had to be handled extensively to be tame, that wouldn't be possible, and then grooming time would suck. She said a lot of the temperament and health problems were resolved through good breeding, and that she had no trouble with wool block or fly strike. I would so love to believe her.

Of course, what is a big deal to me is probably not to most farmers. Farmers are used to seeing gross stuff. But she seemed very real and trustworthy. I had no plans to bring home a rabbit today, but I was drunk on all that softness and couldn't help but ask if she had any available right now - even one that was old or couldn't breed that she'd like to see in a pet home. And she said no! She said she'd have some babies ready in April, but none right now that she could let go. So she's not money-hungry or desperate. She likes her bunnies.

Overall, it was a nice window into how rabbit-raising might be done successfully. And if I can work through my doubts here, get my shit together and make sure I'm worthy, I'll bring home little French Angora babies in April. And then we'll have our own bunny family. I'm thinking that all this soul-searching, researching and dreaming are some of the more pleasurable aspects of pet-keeping, and actually part of the relationship we have with our pets. I mean, relationships with other humans are partly in our own minds - even sex is mostly in our heads. So why would it be any different with other animals?

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