Tuesday, May 15, 2012

To Love a Prey Animal

I had been saving this reflection for Sogna’s gotcha day on May 17th, but it seems appropriate to share it now.

Every evening, before I go to bed, I give each bunny a papaya tablet and pet them for as long as they like.  Biff was usually disinterested with the petting part, but Sogna almost always appreciated a good, long snuggle before I retired to the bedroom. 

One night, Sogna was particularly eager to snuggle.  I wish I had a picture but instead I will try to describe.  Sogna’s tail was in my belly.  My legs were wrapped tightly around one side of her, my face was in her other side.  And I was reaching my hand up from behind her and stroking her, pressing gently on the sides of her cheeks and then moving backwards, the way she liked.

Rabbits are prey animals, as we know.  They don’t like to be held, because if they are so restrained, there’s a chance a predator can swoop in and snatch them up.  And yet my girl was completely enclosed by my body wrapped around her.  And she was far from fearing for her life.  She was tooth purring. 
I always think back to moments like these when people ask me, “why rabbits?” I have always been fascinated by animal behavior and psychology, and I have a particular interest in unlikely interspecies relationships.  We take an animal whose every instinct tells her that other animals are dangerous, and at any moment she could be made someone’s dinner. We capture her in the home of a lanky, omnivorous beast, perhaps five or six or seven times her size.  We then not only manage to eliminate the perpetual fear that plagues her (and for Sogna, it took over a year before she stopped feeling the need to take cover under the furniture any time someone new would visit, although she was always an affectionate girl with me). We teach them that we are friends.  We show them love, and somehow, inspire love in return.  The fearful creature that once hid from all other beings learns to relish the interaction.  She comes to seek our attention at all times and will head bonk, show off, and even nip to get it.  She has learned to love her predator.

I believe there is nothing more incredible. 

I’m not knocking dogs. I think dogs are great. But it is no accomplishment to teach your dog to love you or seek your approval.  It is ingrained in his DNA.  Provide your dog with the bare necessities of life and he will consider himself your slave, he will worship you and live for you.  With rabbits, we manipulate nature, and we teach an animal whose every thought is of her imminent demise that people are good, or at least people can be good.

But loving a prey animal has its draw backs.  For even if you leap the hurdle required to gain her trust, she will always hide her pain from you.

Sogna showed her first sign of trouble on Easter Sunday.  It didn’t seem serious: she had eaten her breakfast, but refused the treat I tried to give her Sunday afternoon before Jon and I left to spend Easter with my family.  When I woke up the next morning, she was hunched outside the bedroom door.  Just waiting for me to wake up and help her. She passed in my arms at about 5:30 that evening, about 28 hours after the first signs of trouble. 

I thought she was about four years old.  When I adopted her, I asked how old she was and her fosterer said that the people who surrendered her thought they had had her about a year.  But given her near-death condition, they obviously didn’t pay much attention to her. It’s possible they had her much longer. I don’t like to think about that.

She was an incredibly special girl.  I guess I’m not much of a writer because I can’t translate all the special things about her into words.  She was the queen of the head bonk. We would get bonked constantly.  In the past few months she developed this new habit of standing up on her back legs and boxing us as high up as she could reach when she wanted something.  But her boxing was gentle, not real boxing but more of a caress.  It kind of tickled and made us laugh every time.  She would flop around the place with a look of pure bliss on her face.  She wanted to groom Biff or be groomed by him every second of every day—I couldn’t imagine her being a single bun and am thankful that I was able to give her a bond mate.  When both buns were all groomed out, she was content just to sit with her body tightly pressed against his.  She and Jon had a special relationship: she was his little girl and she loved him right back.  She was a flirt, too: if a man came over she would lay down across his feet. She had the softest coat and on the rare occasions when she would take a break from shedding, it was silky and beautiful. She loved this apartment: it was probably the first time in her life she had ample space to really stretch her legs and run as fast as she could, now that she finally had full carpeting.  And as a result, the evidence of her past life of suffering—her slight splay leg and muscle atrophy and calcification of her tendons—recovered dramatically.

Jon and I spend our evenings reminiscing about all of the wonderful things we like to remember about her.  We try hard not to dwell on regrets, or what if’s, or whys. We try to focus all of our energy on Biff, making sure he stays happy and healthy.  Biff is coping very well. I had forgotten how much he craved my attention before he had Sogna to dote on him at all times. 

We consider ourselves lucky that he is doing as well as he is. 

And now, I bombard you with photos, in no particular order, because I couldn't possibly choose just one or even just a few.  Most of them are of Biff and Sogna together, because I think that as much as she loved to be loved, by anything, her very favorite thing in the world was being a bond-mate.  I am thankful every day that we gave her the chance to live a happy, comfortable life, and that she had somebunny to share it with.

Very first picture of my Angel Girl


  1. That is so beautiful and touching. I am so very sorry to hear of Sogna's passing. It truly hurts my heart every time I hear of a bunny passing to the Rainbow Bridge. **hugs**

  2. Love every single picture of her Lisa. She was a beautiful and precious girl. Everything you wrote was perfect because it came straight from the heart.

  3. It's such an amazing feeling/privilege when a bunny accepts you as a member of their family and gives you their trust. As you say, even more so when you consider they are prey animals and we should be big scary threats.

    I'm so sorry for your loss.

  4. I'm so sorry, Lisa! I am belated in my condolences... Sogna was/is the most beautiful of buns. Patchy (my big lop) went much like you described...in my arms early in the morning. :( It was heartbreaking but I'm glad I was there for her. Sometimes that's all we can do. Many buns are there with her across the bridge right now. Someday we will all have a great big party together! :)

  5. The pic of Sogna with the "bunny ears" was just too precious for words. I'm so glad that Biff is doing well; some buns (like some people) have a hard time dealing with the loss of a mate. As always, you, Jon and Biff (and sweet Miss Sogna as well) are in thoughts and prayers. Hugs and much love from me, and Mr. Mick sends nose bonks and bunny kisses as well.

  6. I'm so sorry for your loss. Binky free sweet Sogna

  7. She was such a precious girl. I sit here with tears running down my cheeks. A beautiful post Lisa. Well said. I share your sadness and your joy of loving a prey animal. Sogna was so blessed to have you as her mom.
    Hugs for your heart.

  8. A beautiful tribute to a beautiful girl, Lisa. You and Jon gave her a wonderful home. Loving bunnies is so hard, they always seem to leave us too soon. Hugs to you all, and nose rubs to Biff.

  9. I'm so, so sorry for your loss. Just remember that you gave her a wonderful life and she knew how much you loved her. Kisses to Biff. You are all in our thoughts.

  10. I am very sorry for your loss. I don't think words can really help so I will send lots of (hugs) from me and nose bumps from Mario.

  11. I'm so sorry that you lost Sonja. That was a beautiful blog post I had tears in my eyes as I read how much you loved and cared for her, and most importantly UNDERSTOOD her. Not many people understand and treat rabbits in this way and its a pityful shame. I love how you wrote about dogs and how bunnies have to learn to trust and love humans, where as dogs already instinctively have it in their DNA, I couldn't have put it better myself.

    I do hope that time will heal and you can remember all these lovely memories you had with her. She had a great life with you.