We’ve had our latest foster, Mogwai, for about 2 months now.
Mogwai came from a huge angora breeder bust up in Canada where something to the tune of 100-200 rabbits were seized and were all in pretty bad shape. They spent almost a month in a shelter while rescues throughout Canada and the states scrambled to find room for them. Sadly, their time at this shelter was no better than their previous conditions: they apparently had not been sexed or properly separated, so many of the females ended up pregnant, and already poor health conditions (mites, eye infections) worsened without vet care.
When Mogwai came to us, his eye was so severely infected it was literally sealed shut with grossness. Our heaven-sent vet, Dr. Duggan, took care of him for over a week, treating his eye with antibiotics daily, until it cleared up.
The first 4 days after getting Mogwai, he hid–under the bed, in the corner behind the laundry basket. You barely saw this bunny. He was no more than a silent, fuzzy shadow, shaking in the corner. After a week, he began to peek out a bit, mainly looking to see if we brought food, but his interaction with us with limited and he was beyond timid. I seriously did not think this guy was going to recover from whatever trauma he had experienced before.
But, TLC and a haircut goes a long way, apparently. Whenever he could, D would hang out with Mogwai, making a little pillow bed on the floor so he could lay next to him or closeby so the bun could get used to people. We tried to interact with him and pet him while he ate so he’d be more comfortable with being touched (he would literally flinch if you put your hand up to him before. Based on the chunks taken out of his ears and the scabs I found on the back of his neck, it’s safe to say he had been pretty beaten up).
As time went on, progress was slow, but it was progress nonetheless. What wasn’t slow was this guy’s hair growth: being an angora, his hair is significantly long, and wild. He literally looked like Toto from the Wizard of Oz, but shaggier. I had been talking to Yvonne, the head of the rescue, about coordinating a time that I could bring him over to groom him, but our schedules weren’t working out. Although I was hesitant to attempt to cut his hair myself, I at least wanted to try to get the hair around his eyes, a) because I didn’t think he could really see anymore and b) if the hair isn’t properly maintained, it can cause an eye infection. I trimmed up that area while he ate, with little to no protest and felt better. And then I began to feel more brave…
Using the ultimate bribe of food, I decided I would try to trim the rest of Mogwai on my own. I wanted until D was working late because I knew he’d tell me this was not a good idea (there is a general house rule prohibiting me from using sharp things or things that omit intense heat), grabbed a handful of romaine and the trash can and set to work. I was happily surprised to see he was not resisting the haircut, but a little shocked at how infective my efforts seemed. Although his hair was shorter, it seemed like there was so much more still left. I didn’t press my luck though, and figured I’d try another day.
Since then, it’s been almost a daily ritual to come home and trim Mogwai’s hair. 4 days running and there’s still significant work to do in some areas, but his hair is now (mainly) SUPER short. And oddly, the process has seemed to have proven therapeutic for me and for him.
I don’t know why I’ve enjoyed cutting his hair so much, but it’s a pretty fulfilling task, especially because there’s so much and it’s kind of amazing to see the results. It’s also pretty cool to learn how to (and not) to gain the trust of an animal, especially one who has trust issues. I’ve also learned which bribery tool works best for which function: romaine is best if I’m trying to trim his back and sides, broccoli if I want to work on his chest and face, carrots if I’m trying to do around the bottom and the sides and back of his neck. It is a science, an art, a crap shoot, and a labor of love.
It also has seemed to bring Mogwai out of his shell 110%. I don’t know if it’s the liberation of losing about a pound of hair or the extra interaction time, but he’s been much more active and inquisitive (for better or worse… he’s now beginning to chew). Tonight he followed me and D around, went into the closet, poked around at my hanging clothes and the shoes on the ground, nudged the hell out of us and explored the dirty laundry pile. Afterwards, I laid on the floor with him a bit while he ran around me, sniffing and hopping about my legs, and trying to dig at my slippers. He even did a few binkies! (for those of you not schooled in rabbit lingo, binkies = random happy bunny jumps). I was totally floored, but so damn happy.
This is a prime example of why I do rescue work and why it pisses me off when people guffaw at the idea of “rescuing” rabbits. In general, it baffles me how people do not understand that all animals–not just cats and dogs–have unique personalities and intelligence–and that they all are sensitive to the treatment they receive. I recognize and accept the stigma that comes with being an “animal person,” specifically the “bunny lady,” but I think one of the main draws to animals for me is their incredible capacity to overcome and forgive mistreatment and abuse. There are SO many cases of animals of all kinds who have suffered mercilessly at the hands of a sickeningly cruel owner/stranger but who have been able to be rehabilitated and bounce back from the abuse. They love unconditionally and the forgive unconditionally, too. These are traits I’m still desperately working on, but I feel like I’m getting closer, one binky at a time…