Friday, 26 March 2010

Another Lesson Learned

Having spent the week at the rescue learning new skills, I returned home to have my own bunnies teach me something too. Never EVER hold an open container of treats within striking distance of tiny paws.

I also learned that bunnies can clear up spilt snacks much faster than I can.

"Well, I've cleared up that mess for you - do you have
another you'd like me to mean clean??!!"

Holiday at the Rescue

There are lots of ways to spend your annual holiday entitlement from work – lazy days on sundrenched beaches, skiing through the picturesque landscapes of Europe or even seeking out some of the more interesting local tourist attractions. None of this really appeals to me though, so when I was faced with finding something to occupy my week away from the drudgery of desk work I could think of nothing better than having a few days of training in bunny care at the Rescue. Hoping to some day be able to have her own holiday of the more traditional kind and know she was leaving the Rescue in capable hands, Caroline was more than happy to oblige.

The Rescue operates a small “hospital”, an area where bunnies needing daily medicines, or recently returned from the vets needing some recuperation time, can relax in relative warmth and be closely monitored. Where they are confined to a much smaller space than the healthy bunnies, they require more frequent cleaning so the first task of the week was a familiar one - cleaning out! Each bunny had to be removed from its cage and placed outside in an enclosed area on the grass so lesson number one from Caroline was how to pick up a bunny through a small door in the cage. This technique involved using a hand either side of the bunny and fingers slipped under the back feet with the bunny facing me. Next carry (cuddle) them to the outside enclosure, clean, bed, replace bunny.

Anda practises his ballet moves while
Sparkle waits for their cage to be cleaned

Once all the cages were clean and the bunnies happily returned to a fresh chompage of hay, next up was the special tasks. Each bunny has a list of medicines, cleaning and grooming requirements. Santa’s propensity to stasis has given me lots of general experience here but still I had lots to learn. Highlights of this section of the day included cleaning out the site where Marbles’ jaw abscess was removed from and the foul substances that are emitted from Anda’s ears (yuck!). As usual, the things we see Caroline do every day that look SO straight forward when she does them are suddenly revealed to be highly complex when we attempt them ourselves, even with Caroline’s direct guidance. Not helped by grumpy bunnies that aren’t happy about the extra time you are taking over it of course.

Lacey likes meeting new friends in the hospital.
And weeing where you've just cleaned. She likes that alot.

After the hospital it was on to the main site of the Rescue where the tasks are more familiar. The only extra bit here was administering eye drops. I had had some experience already as I had been trained to do Whisky’s, but whereas Whisky is pretty used to being picked up for this it is a different story for Lucy Liu, Snow White and Sneezy. But bunnies are full of surprises – Whisky started resenting me once I started his eye drops but Snow White and Sneezy became more friendly. They had always been cautious around me at the Rescue before, but now it seems I’ve proved to them that I can be trusted to pick them up and not to cause them harm.

So that was my week on holiday at the Rescue. I don’t know if Caroline has seen any difference in my handling of the bunnies, but I have certainly found it a useful experience. At the end of the week I even found that I was holding and carrying bunnies differently without having made any conscious changes, which I see as a good sign.

And for my next holiday? I guess I should go away somewhere. I hear there’s some quite good rescues in North America…

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Chubby Bunnies

"Wake me when the grass has grown back"

Rabbit Awareness Week is next month and it looks like this year they will be focusing on rabbit obesity. For much like us humans, a rabbit who is overweight is at much higher risk of all sorts of quite serious medical problems. And this is something we see not only in the rabbits that have been removed from bad situations and passed to us by the RSPCA, but even rabbits subsequently adopted from us into otherwise idyllic situations.

Part of the trouble is, when trying to make friends with an animal, or even just trying to get them to pay you attention on a daily basis, it is all too easy to fall into the trap of bribing them with snacks. With bunnies, it can be the choice between sitting patiently on the floor for what might be an hour before they decide to give you any attention, or rattling the snack jar and immediately having bunnies clambering all over you. But at the end of the day, we love our bunnies and their health has to be paramount - with just a little more patience we can soon be enjoying a much deeper friendship with our bunny friends that is not based on treats.

Which brings me to Jemima. Yes folks, I myself am the parent of a very porky bunny. I know I am to blame, since every bit of food going into her has been put out or given directly by me, but I'm seriously trying very hard and running out of practical ideas. She has a reasonable amount of space (6ft by 3ft house attached to 6ft by 10ft run), at least twice daily access to the garden, a healthy diet of veg and some "lite" pellets with unlimited hay and grass. Since I realized over a year ago that she was scoffing more than her fair share of the food, I have been separating her from Santa for mealtimes and despite being twice his size gets less food than him, especially pellets and carrots. And yet after all of this, she is still a fatty.

I think I know the main source of her problem though - much like me, she's incredibly lazy. All winter, if they were out for playtime you would find Santa grazing, exploring or tearing round the garden like he's on fire. Jemima's pastimes rarely extend beyond chomping and napping. Sometimes she even lies down to eat the grass in the garden.

At least Spring is just around the corner and I know that she is about to perk up. In just a few short weeks she will no doubt be chasing Santa all over the garden demanding his "romantic" attentions and his highly developed skills of evasion will hopefully help her burn some calories. And on top of that, I will be looking forward to all the exciting events that are taking place in Rabbit Awareness Week and looking out for some helpful tips!