Brrrrringing up bunny

October 18, 2017

Ask a hundred people for the best example of “money pit”, and 98 of them will answer “children” or “old houses”! We love them, and they’re well worth the sleepless nights, endless toil, and cringe-inducing Visa bills. But holy heavens, does it never end???

We understand completely! Our sanctuary doesn’t need to fund little Sandy’s braces or pay the inevitable medical bills when brother Randy decides yet again to defy the laws of gravity and common sense. But we do have our fair share of challenges, with both kids and buildings. Especially in the colder months.

You know that sinking feeling every time you hear the furnace kick on in your home, as you anticipate another massive heating bill? Try keeping three vintage barns warm and cozy in the middle of what’s anticipated to be a harsh winter!

Have you ever seen a rabbit diving into a pile of hay? Blink and it’s gone! Our nearly 100 residents can raze remarkable amounts in a single week. And just like with most freshly grown items, hay prices spike outside of growing season. So do the greens our rabbits need to stay healthy.

Do you find yourself munching more as the days grow darker? Humans and animals alike have a biological urge to bulk up a bit for the colder weather. At our farm, this means an increase in the amount of rabbit and pig pellets we use, as well as food for the cats.

And then there are the surprise expenses. We suspect by the time we’re finished with the spay and neuter bills for our 30 new baby kits, our vet will have no problem paying off her student loans!

Here’s where we come right out and ask for your help. Our goal is to raise $10,000 by the end of October, enough to provide security for the tough months ahead. If you are willing to help with a donation, please go to http://www.rabbitsanctuary.org/donate-today/

If you’d like to see first-hand how your gift will be used, join us on Sunday, October 22, for our free GLRS Fall Celebration! Tour the barns, meet our residents, enjoy refreshments, and shop from our extensive selection of sanctuary memorabilia. Did we mention that our Farmer Dave has some of the most impressive pumpkins you’ll ever see? We’ll even help you load up your car!

Our Fall Celebration will run from 12-4, regardless of weather. Remember, the celebration is free, although donations are always appreciated. All proceeds from our sales go directly to the Winter Fund.

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Buns in Toyland

October 11, 2017

So you’ve brought home your new rabbit, and you’re sure you thought of everything. Little Pawla has a spacious, solid-bottomed pen. You’ve stocked up on the best quality hay, and your crisper drawer is stuffed with fresh herbs and greens. The litter in her box is dust and fragrance free, her water bowl is full, and you’ve got a reputable “bunny basics” guidebook on your shelf next to the nail clippers and grooming tools.

Pawla is destined for a very comfortable life, no doubt! You’ve made sure all her physical needs will be met. But there’s another facet to raising a healthy, happy bunny, one that often gets overlooked.

We all know that rabbits are extremely intelligent, curious creatures. They’re also social animals, with a ton of energy. And bored bunnies are destructive bunnies! Imagine spending all day in a room with a TV that only gets one channel (and that’s C-SPAN!) You might not gnaw your way to freedom like Pawla, but we’re willing to bet you’d be tempted.

Don’t let frustration build! It’s easy to entertain a rabbit. One of our former residents, Gordon, would spend hours burrowing, digging, and ripping newspapers. Phone books and cardboard boxes are bunny magnets, and they fulfill your bun’s innate need to chew. Want to get some use out of all that junk mail? Rabbit teeth are far more effective than any shredder! Pinecones, empty oatmeal boxes, clean laundry detergent caps are all quick and easy playthings.

Try to find time every day to get on the floor with your bun. Playing together is a surefire way to build or strengthen the bond between you. Make towers out of plastic stacking cups or wooden blocks, and let Pawla knock them down with her nose. You might roll a small ball across the floor for her to investigate. Hide treats in toilet paper rolls, lunch sacks, or tissue boxes and encourage her to dig them out.

Willing to offer yourself as a human jungle gym? Try lying flat with a treat on your stomach (if you’ve got a large bun, you might want to roll over!) and wait for Pawla to climb up and get it. Once she catches on, you can do this on your hands and knees. Believe us when we say there’s just nothing more entertaining than feeling a bunny bouncing around on your back!

Resting in peace

September 27, 2017

It’s the unfortunate reality of loving an animal. Sooner or later, they’re going to leave us. Illness, accident, old age…whether they’ve been with us a few weeks or several years, the loss is profound. If we find ourselves in the heart wrenching position of choosing euthanasia, the grief and guilt can be overwhelming.

The ensuing questions are universal. “What if I’d done this differently?” “Should I have tried harder?” “Did I wait too long/act too soon?” “Was it my fault?” And then there’s the big one: “Did my bunny know how much I loved him/her?”

When a beloved pet passes, it’s human nature to second guess any and all decisions we’ve made throughout their life. If we have children, they may feel confusion, and wonder what they did wrong. It’s these kinds of doubts that keep us up at night, long after the tears have stopped flowing.

Longtime animal rescue advocate and animal communicator Shelly Pinter has fielded hundreds of these questions both through her work with shelters across the state (including ours!) and from clients searching for some peace of mind. She’s compiled many of the most common into a new book, “Have You Ever Loved an Animal?”, available on Amazon.

This slim volume contains a wealth of information and insights to help readers gain a new perspective on their animal’s life and loss. Do our pets know when the end is near? What do they need from us? How can we ease the transition for them, and for ourselves? How can we be sure the decisions we make are the right ones?

If you’ve wrestled with questions concerning the death of a beloved pet, you’ll likely find them answered here. Especially helpful is the section designed to address children’s specific concerns. Written with empathy and respect for all belief systems, “Have You Ever Loved an Animal?” offers insight and comfort when we need it most.

One more time

September 13, 2017

Our neighbors to the south are getting pounded. Harvey, Irma, now Juan…the wild weather is relentless. No doubt you’ve seen the pictures of the destruction, flooding, the empty store shelves and crumpled buildings. You’ve heard the news reports confirming how difficult it is for residents to find adequate shelter, food and water for themselves. Imagine the challenge faced by families with animals!

We published this blog a few months ago, but it seems like a good time for a reminder. In northern states like Michigan, we’re not likely to ever face a hurricane. But that doesn’t mean we’re off the hook! Tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, flooding, gusting winds, hail…if you haven’t experienced any of these yet, give it a couple more months!

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It’s storm season in Michigan, and that means we’ve got to be prepared. Whether we’re getting by with candles and canned food for a few days during a power outage, or hunkering down in our basements waiting out a tornado warning, having a plan is crucial. It’s even more important if we have four-legged family members.

Think about the last time you prepared to take Puffball in for a simple 20 minute vet visit. First you unearthed her carrier from the back of the closet, wiped out the dried pee you somehow missed when you put it away last time, dug around under your bed to find her favorite travel stuffie, remembered she needs a brave bunny goodie for the trip home, flushed her out from behind the fridge, and wrangled her into the carrier. Finally, an hour later, you were ready to hit the road.

A quick response is crucial in any emergency. A little advance planning now can save valuable time and untold stress later. Don’t wait a crisis hits! Gather the necessary bunny supplies and have them ready and easily accessible, before you need them.

If a storm strikes, you may have to move your pet quickly. A stressed rabbit can easily gnaw through a soft-sided carrier, so invest in one made of sturdy, hard plastic. Line the bottom with a thick towel and puppy pee pad. You don’t know how long she’ll be confined, so you want her to be comfortable. Make sure your name and contact information is written on or securely fastened to the carrier.

Fresh water is essential, so stash a couple gallons in a safe place (along with a bowl). We recommend storing at least five days worth of hay and pellets alongside the water. Pellets will stay fresh up to three months in a Tupperware container or Ziploc baggie. Hopefully, you won’t ever need to use this food, so remember to rotate it regularly to keep it from going stale.

Does your rabbit take any medications? Be sure to have a backup supply on hand. Same goes for extra puppy pads, in case you won’t have access to a litter box for a while. And don’t forget about your bun’s emotional health. A snuggly toy with your scent on it will be a big comfort to her.

Our buns absorb our emotions, so the calmer we remain, the easier it will be on them. Here’s to a safe, storm-free summer!

Baby binkies

August 30, 2017

When it rains, it pours…and you can help us hold the umbrella! Please join us on Sunday, September 10th, for a Baby Shower to welcome our newestminiature additions.

You’ve heard the old phrase “raining cats and dogs”. Around here, it’s been raining rabbits! First our heroic hoarding survivor Nala surprised us with eight tiny kits. Almost immediately afterward the Michigan Five arrived, all impossibly adorable and all under two months old. The deluge continued with four babies from Belleville.

Then just to mix things up, along came Maisy the piglet!

18 youngsters? That’s a kindergarten class! That’s both sides of a Little League game! That’s most of the Duggar family (and even they procured their kids one at a time)! You can see how this might have come as a shock. But now that the sheer terror has worn thin, we’re ready to celebrate our fresh fuzzy furbabies. And we’d love for you to join in.

Our baby shower will run from 1-4 PM, with free admission (although “diaper donations” are greatly welcomed!) Start your afternoon with light snacks, punch, and of course, cake! Stay for shower games and a silent auction (win a box of goodies to use to “baby” yourself!) Enjoy a tour of the grounds and barns, and of course, meet our irresistible guests of honor.

For more information, or for the sanctuary address, please contact info@rabbitsanctuary.org.

Let me call you sweetheart

August 16, 2017

When you think of ancient Rome, what comes to mind? Many of us remember endless lists of names and dates, drummed into our heads by our teachers while we watched the clock praying the bell would ring soon.

Sure, Romans showed impressive military prowess, mastery of engineering and architecture, and progressive ideals regarding the rule of law—all remarkable for the time. But we might have paid a bit more attention in class if our teachers had thought to point out the most obvious example of Rome’s advanced culture—their respect for rabbits!

It’s true that Romans weren’t known for being vegetarian. And that respect wasn’t always enough to keep Fluffy off the dinner table. But rabbits were viewed much more highly in ancient Rome than they are in many places even today. Not simply “livestock”, Roman rabbits were revered not only for their practical value but for their grace, beauty, and cunning.

When Roman Emperor Galba “acquired” Spain early in the first century, he celebrated by issuing a coin featuring a lovely woman with a rabbit at her feet. The rabbit was thought to represent the desirability and usefulness of this new land. Later coins also featured rabbits on one side, with various other motifs on the reverse.

Rabbits were also a hugely popular subject for public art, mainly intricate mosaic floor designs. For the most part, these were peaceful scenes, with no hungry foxes or snares in sight. Artists took great care with shading and contour. Very often a rabbit was more than just a peripheral figure. It was actually the main subject.

Prominent Roman women with disposable incomes chose bunny brooches made of bronze and silver. One fascinating pin is in the shape of a rabbit, with two smaller rabbits engraved into its side. Rabbit figures were also incorporated into household goods, like this bronze handle.

When Rome expanded into Great Britain around the 11th century, they brought their rabbits with them. Thanks to British farmers, the bunnies enjoyed covered, free-range enclosures, quite a luxury for that era. And even in those hard, hungry times, some rabbits’ appeal and charm were sufficient to earn them a permanent place inside the home. The colloquial term for ancient British house rabbits? “Sweethearts”!

Sweet Sixteen

August 9, 2017

“It takes a village” is an apt phrase for raising children. It’s also the mantra of animal rescue groups everywhere. How else could you even begin to manage the nightmarish scenario that recently unfolded in southern Ohio?

Acting on neighbors’ complaints, authorities discovered over 80 animals crammed into a filthy, reeking house. There were some dogs and cats, but the majority were rabbits. A nearby rabbit shelter answered the call to help with removing the animals. By the time the day was finished, River Road Rabbit Rescue found themselves responsible for 53 bunnies!

As if finding pen space for so many wasn’t difficult enough, RRRR also had to deal with the various health issues that stemmed from the rabbits’ neglect. And they had to do it fast. Clearly, it was time to flash the Bat, er, Bun Signal and call in reinforcements!

Rescue groups around the country responded, including GLRS. We found room for eight of the rabbits, and willing volunteers drove them several hours to our sanctuary. At least, we thought we were receiving eight…Imagine our surprise when one of the females almost immediately presented us with eight tiny kits!

Our sweet sixteen are more precious than gold. They’re also just as expensive! Vet bills, medications, neutering, food (and these buns can eat!)…If you’re so inclined, we could definitely use some help. (You can donate here.) Many thumps of thanks!

 

On the road again

July 26, 2017

It’s a summer tradition, the road trip! What could be more relaxing than spending the day cruising cross-country, sleeping in quaint roadside motels, stopping to explore new and exciting places? We humans love an adventure. Our bunny friends, on the other hand…

We’ve met a few rabbits who actually enjoy hitting the open road. One lives six months of the year in a travel trailer, navigating the West with his retiree parents. Another regularly accompanies his family to a campground up north, where he hangs out around the tent with everyone as they roast marshmallows or walk the beach (in his harness, of course!)

These rambling rabbits, however, are few and far between! Most of our furry family members are quite content to never leave their home. It’s stressful enough braving the car ride to the vet and back, and that lasts maybe an hour total!

If you’ve ever taken human kids four states over to visit Grandma, you know that as heartwarming as these trips seem in retrospect, in reality there’s a lot of boredom, car sickness, fussiness, whining, and bathroom close-calls. And unlike your bun, your kids likely had access to travel games, iPods, videos, M&Ms, ice cream cone pit stops, and varied scenery.

This is not to say that we should never travel with our rabbits, but weigh the pros and cons. As a general rule, if you’re planning to be gone two weeks or less, it’s probably best to leave Pawla behind with a pet sitter. If you decide to bring her along, be mindful of a few bunny travel tips.

Stick together: If you’ve got bonded bunnies, they both need to come. If one isn’t healthy or calm enough to travel, they both stay. Choose a carrier big enough for both of them, and line it with a soft towel and pee pad. And keep that carrier close. Never leave your rabbits unattended in a motel room, campsite, rest area—and especially not a car, even with the windows down!

Location, location, location: The safest and most convenient position in the car is in the backseat, with the sides parallel with the seat back and the front opening facing the center of the seat. If you have to stop quickly or get in an accident, their heads and necks won’t absorb the full blow. You’ll also be able to access them easily, and reach in to comfort them.

Food for thought: You probably wouldn’t have much of an appetite for lunch after a few rounds on a roller coaster! So don’t be surprised if your rabbit doesn’t touch her food during the drive. The stress of traveling, the unsteady motion of the car, the unsettling sounds all tend to suppress appetite. Putting a few soaking wet greens in her carrier may entice her to nibble a bit, and provide necessary water.

Be prepared: When we travel, we often tend to play it by ear. Didn’t pack enough food? We’ll just grab something along the way. Need aspirin, bug spray, clean socks? There’s a Walmart around every corner. But find yourself at the bottom of a bag of timothy hay with three days left to go on your trip, and it won’t be nearly as easy to replace. Always stow extra food, dishes, pee pads, medications and syringes, bedding, and at least a gallon of fresh water.

Out of the mouths of buns

July 19, 2017

If we can chew it, say goodbye to it! That’s a universal house rabbit motto. And that can lead to some dicey dilemmas. Sure, we want bunnies in our home. But we’re also pretty fond of our upholstered living room set and wall-to-wall Stainmaster carpeting.

Even little things can cause big headaches. Ever tried to charge a cell phone with a frayed lightning cable? Or change channels with a remote that’s missing half its buttons? And it’s safe to say that every one of us has learned the hard way not to toss our dirty clothes on the
floor…unless we’re into the “distressed” look.

It’s a given that we love our stuff. And it’s also a given that rabbits love to chew. A lot. So how do we balance our desire for creature comforts with our creature’s need for comfort? Here’s a list of dos and don’ts.

DO:

–recognize that you’re dealing with the four-pawed equivalent of a hyperactive toddler. Frodo is not going to respond to “no, no, we don’t put electrical cords in our mouths, sweetie”. Try the old bait-and-switch. Distract Frodo with a willow ball or seagrass mat, and get that cord out of sight! Block it with other furniture, run it under the rug, duct tape it to the floor, encircle it with cord protectors, etc. Out of sight means out of mind, and out of mouth!

DON’T:

–yell, chase, or strike your rabbit. Sure, he’ll drop that cord and run, but what has he learned? Not that cords are bad, but that humans are scary. This is a tough one, especially when you round the corner and see him about to take a big chunk out of your favorite video game controller. One sharp “Hey!” to break his concentration, followed by redirection to something chew-safe, is generally all that’s needed.

DO: 

–go undercover. As in, cheap area rugs over good carpeting. Newspapers under food and water bowls. Incontinence pads positioned on inviting “accident areas” like the bed. Cardboard shielding the floor under the sofa or around baseboards. Tarps or shower curtains to protect wood floors or tile. Tin foil wrapped around table legs. Think of it as “shelter chic”.

DON’T:

–forget to think like a rabbit. Cunning, clever, and creative, that is! That two-inch gap in the fencing? Might as well be an open hangar door. The burrow box placed within a foot of the bookcase? Think of it as a trampoline, launching Bunny up to his choice of shelves. Are you convinced he won’t dare cross the shiny kitchen floor to get at that bag of bird seed? If your bunny can dream it, he can do it.

DO:

–use this as an opportunity to streamline! Not all of us are inclined to neatly fold or hang our clothes every night. But we can be selective where we toss them. Even a dedicated rabbit can’t jimmy open a fully closed closet door (and we’ll never tell what ends up behind it!) It’s easier to take a few minutes and put the chips away after a snack than it is to clean up the carnage that will result from Squishie discovering them on the coffee table while your back is turned.

DON’T:

–lose your sense of humor! Make a game of outwitting Voracious Veronica, and pat yourself on the back each day your home remains relatively unscathed. Trick her into chewing what you want her to chew—old ratty towels, margarine tubs, cardboard boxes, junk mail, toilet paper rolls stuffed with hay, balls of newspaper. Surround her with fun things, and she’ll never notice your treasures.

Something to chew on

July 5, 2017

As a rescue facility, we hear certain questions over and over. Two of the most common are “Why does my rabbit chew on everything? How do I make him stop?” The answers are easy: “Because that’s what rabbits do. You can’t stop them. And you don’t want to.” Let us explain.

There’s a reason that so many of us are addicted to our gum, our pretzels, our gummy bears. Chewing them just feels good! But there’s a difference between our buns and us. We enjoy using our teeth; rabbits NEED to chew and gnaw. It’s vital for their dental and emotional health. Don’t mistake your rabbit’s destructive desires to be willful Bad Bunny Behavior. They’re not!

You’d hardly blame your toddler for taste-testing that six-month-old jelly bean he retrieved from under the sofa. Or for deciding that Dad’s sunglasses are the perfect afternoon snack. We know that if something makes it into our kid’s hand, it’s probably going in his mouth next. That’s just the way young children work.

Guess what? Our four-footed kids have the same all-consuming curiosity and lack of boundaries as our human ones. Rabbits, lacking hands, can’t pick something up and look it over, so they rely on their noses and mouths to tell them what they need to know. Which is mainly, is this edible or is this useful?

Look into your bunny’s mouth. Those fangs are hard to miss! Did you know that unlike our teeth, rabbit incisors grow continuously? Without anything to grind against, bunny teeth will just keep lengthening, until it becomes impossible for the rabbit to chew at all. Without intervention, this inevitably leads to starvation.

A diet rich in fibrous hay is sufficient to keep the normal rabbit’s teeth in check, but that’s only half of the equation. Nibbling and gnawing is a rabbit’s main means of entertainment. It’s how they examine the world, how they interact with it, how they have fun with it! Chewing is instinctive behavior in rabbits. It’s what they were designed to do, it’s what they excel at.

Of course you don’t want Fluffy leaving her mark on Grandma’s heirloom credenza, and you’d rather keep your computer cord in one piece. And if she gets her jaws on your Hershey bar, you’ll have bigger problems than sugar shock. Many things in our homes should and must stay off limits.

In our next blog, we’ll give tips on how to keep Fluffy satisfied without sacrificing your furniture, shoes, textbooks, earbuds…and so on. It’s easier than you might think!