fuzzy thoughts

Last night, I attempted to give Junior a haircut. Junior has grown, and so has his coat, so incredibly over the last month. Since I was told he just had "baby fluff," I didn't worry so much about his coat, although it seems to matt terribly just like his mother's. I've been brushing him out and cutting out matts every week or so. Now, with this damp weather, his coat seemed kind of clammy and proliferating, growing right before my eyes, so last night I decided to go ahead and take it off.

One problem I've found, and this was particularly true with Junior, is that even once I scissor off the coat, or what looks to me like the coat, there is another entire coat underneath. What I mean is that I'll trim off the long hairs that look like "angora," and what is left at first looks like just some fuzzy wool of about a half inch. But then, when I brush that fuzz, a whole new coat emerges - long hairs pop up, not as long as the first batch, but long enough that I have to start the process over again. I suppose this is webbing or something like matting close to the skin, evidence that I'm not grooming enough before clipping. I'm sure the blower will help, once I can get them accustomed to the sound. I guess I could groom each rabbit every day until I'm sure that they are well cared-for.

I was also stressed and confused by Junior's little boy parts. They looked messy and a little swollen. Not to sound like a total gump, but I don't have much basis for comparison with bunny anatomy - the hand-drawn diagrams in the rabbit books are useless - but Junior's looked problematic in comparison to Butch's tidy little package. I tried to clean him up as best I could, but trimming in that area when I'm not even sure what I'm looking at caused me some serious anxiety.

I was remembering the angora ram I had years back, Austin. He was such a magnificent goat, and sweet. But every couple of months, I had to trim up the area around his groin or else the urine collected in the fiber and was a magnet for maggots. This chore was not my favorite part of goat-keeping, especially since he weighed almost 200 pounds and it was quite the task for me to wrestle him to the ground. At least Junior is easier to manage than that. But I've never heard of people keeping those areas trimmed on bunnies and it would be helpful to know if that's typically done.

I am still enjoying the bunnies, enormously. Every time I feel depressed, which is at least a few times a day, I tend to them or hold them. They fill me with love and hope and the grief recedes. I used Prissy's fur to make the trim on my new knitted gauntlets, so she's always with me. But then there's this stress as well, this terrible fear that they'll be matted, urine-soaked or maggot-infested, if I'm not diligent or knowledgeable enough. This seems a little absurd, since surely bunny care can be managed. Why do these bunnies hold such psychic significance for me?

I've been trying to write every day and it has been so damaging. Yesterday afternoon, I tried to revise a section of about thirty pages in hopes of sending something off to my advisor for feedback. After the first few paragraphs, I was back to that dark place, curled up on the bathroom floor. In these moments I tend to look for answers, flaws, people to blame and ways to change my life, but I think it's important to realize that I'm feeling the effects of PTSD. Which puts me in kind of a bind, since my academic career depends on getting this damned thing written. Everyone says to just write it, as if self-discipline is really the problem, and I'm sure it is since I've never been good at producing academic writing without structure and deadlines. Still, I don't think that the people who blithely direct me to write have any clue how fucked-up I am about it, or how fragile I feel. Yesterday, I only felt a sense of calm return when I thought about taking a break from the whole mess of it.

I'm also back to staying up all night and sleeping until mid-afternoon, my default schedule when other responsibilities don't intervene, but it always breeds a nasty self-loathing in me. I'm not sure why it matters, since I'm obviously a nocturnal sort of creature. At least I've been getting dressed, so that's some progress. Once my fellowship begins, I'll have a new venue and community and a different sort of support for writing. Maybe by then I'll be ready and it'll come. In any case, I need to protect my mental health, what's left of it. This may entail rethinking my approach and maybe my topic altogether. For now, it requires my total immersion in rabbits.


  1. I don't know of anyone who trims the wool around the rabbits groin and it usually doesn't get too matted there. What you are describing with juniors wool sounds pretty much normal and he is blowing one coat (the longer hairs) and his new coat is growing in. It's maddening. Some individual lost their coats all at once and there is no question what is old and what is new. Others lose it in stages and look raggedy for months. Those are the ones that depress me because it usually happens right about the time I want to start showing for the season. This may be of help-if you can blow into the coat and see skin you don't have webbing or matting in that area. Mats are firm lumps of wool. Webbing looks like literally a spider web and is all strung together but not matted. You can't see through to the skin but you can see through parts of it to other wool. I'll see if I can get a picture of webbing to show you although I think mine are all past that stage at the moment. If you wouldn't mind sharing I would love to know -what is the title of your dissertation?

  2. Thanks Annette - I was just brushing Cosset and she has three different coats going on, I think. I'll have to post some pics. So is the idea to remove all the webbed wool? Or just brush through it to remove loose hair? I'll email you about my diss.

  3. I usually brush through the coat and remove the webbed stuff or else it might later turn into a mat. Once you start doing that the coat starts to get uneven and patchy. Usually there will first be signs of webbing which lets you know the coat is past prime and is going to start to shed. Ideally you will be able to see tiny sprouts of the new coat coming up but sometimes you don't and this is what I was referring to as the stages of moult that I hate. Some breeders select animals for breeding that neatly shed their coats right from one to the other and avoid the stages. I have one animal I won't breed because his wool is always a mess no matter how much attention I give it. But he very affectionate and I like him so he gets to stay. You may want to think about treating for mites. That's not to say that you have them but sometimes mites can reek havoc and you wonder what you are doing wrong and really you aren't doing anything wrong but you have a mite infestation that you aren't aware of. Many breeders treat preventatively for mites. I just started doing that last month. I can give you some instruction on that via email if you want.

  4. I trim the hair around my rabbits' back ends, and I find that each one is different - the white German does get really dirty back there and I've read that the Germans have dirty butts more than any other breed and people who don't show them generally keep them trimmed short, only letting it grow out for showing. Do what works for you - they aren't show bunnies, so being comfortable is the key. They certainly won't freeze if you trim their hind parts ;-)

    Can't help you with the webbing, as I haven't experienced that yet...

    As for the writing and related stress - can you write something else (short) for awhile to get into the habit but without the stress? I find that doing something "mindless" makes the "real" task easier later on. Having a reward (something fun to write) might make the job go smoother if the happy stuff is there near the surface. Don't beat yourself up about it! Other people don't know your pain and people who haven't experienced it can never understand.

  5. That's good advice on writing. Blogging is about the only writing I've been able to enjoy. I used to post pieces of my dissertation on an old blog and it did help because I was able to get feedback and it made writing less of a lonely task. But mostly it seemed like putting a lot of bad and embarrassing drafts online, which made me a little uncomfortable.

    I've also tried having rewards, like new yarn or a new knitting project, when I've done a certain amount of writing. Knitting helps so much though with sanity that it has totally eclipsed the writing! I like the idea of keeping happier writing close at hand - that may be a workable strategy for me.

    Thanks so much, both of you, for your thoughts and support.

  6. Hi Jere, I don't know if this helps or not. When I was writing I set up meetings with my major professor weekly....I would give him crap to read. We went through it sentence by sentence and paragraph by paragraph. He was really patient and great to work with. So I wish for you that you have a good advisor to help you through the process like I did. What I turned in was by no means perfect...but it got the ball rolling so to speak. Writing does not come easy for me either so I have a sense of what you are going through... Enjoy your bunnies for stress reduction and take care of you.

    I don't know what to say about the bunnies behind :-) I've had urine scald before in a female that was kinda wooly down south. I trimmed hair and cleaned her up. I read that baby powder without talcum, rather the corn starch variety of baby powder is good for urine scald. Not sure though if that is what you are dealing with.

    be well

  7. But, if you post drafts and ask for advice, don't we (the readers) understand that it's just a draft and may go through many changes before it's finally done? Why is refining your ideas embarrassing? Would it be any different if we were reading in person? Some of us like to live vicariously, ya know? ;-)

  8. denise, my advisor is great but much more hands-off than that. last year, we met once! she was on leave for most of it. i've thought of this as not necessarily bad since too many academic advisors want to shape your work around theirs. mine was my best option at the time and she is a lovely person who can help a great deal, but not in the way of daily (or weekly or even monthly) support. you're right about the huge difference this can make - i'm sure i only completed my MA due to the support of my then-advisor (at a different institution) who became a great friend and workout and yoga buddy. so i'm not sure what this means for me now...

    mary, those are interesting questions. i guess when i was posting in the past, it was usually research and reading notes, random thoughts and stabs in new directions, trying to make sense of my dissertation, career, etc. it seemed like no-one was interested in all that, especially since academic-speak can be so off-putting. but there are a few blogs in that vein i follow and enjoy. i guess a blog is an indulgent thing anyway. so, maybe!