Tag Archives: rabbit

Dallas Developments: Day #8

26 May

It’s been just over a week, and Dallas is definitely a different bunny than when he arrived. He’s far more settled, he’s harder to spook, and he’s more curious about his environment (which has its positives and negatives, if I’m being honest.) He’s got the clicker all figured out, and he’s responding well to the behavior modification. There are some things he’s still working on, but it’s been a good past few days for him.

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An action shot, as he scales my legs to explore the rest of his pen.

It hasn’t been such a good few days for Hatter, however. My goofy little Rex has always happily played the little-brother to his bond Alice’s schemes. He’s the one who gets caught, but gets away with whatever he’s doing with an adorably innocent pose. He’s sweeter than Alice, who is often too busy to stop for mere affection.

Recently, though, he’s decided that he does not approve of Dallas. He’s been marking outside of Dallas’s bedroom whenever he’s out of his pen, and he’s even chased Alice away from the door a few times. He can’t reach Dallas, but they’ll snort at each other if they catch sight of each other through the 3-fence deep barrier. This has meant some restricted play time for Hatter and Alice, as well as more time with the bedroom door closed for Dallas.

If he were a human, I’d say Hatter is suffering from Middle Child Syndrome. Since he’s a rabbit, he’s being territorial, and honestly, a bit of a brat. I rearranged his and Alice’s pen to put their litter box near the front. That’s cut way down on the marking. I also make sure Dallas’s door is closed whenever the Dastardly Duo are out. There’s now a tenuous peace in the house, and all bunnies are happier.

All of this hasn’t impacted Dallas’s training. In fact, it’s brought to light an interesting personality trait: Dallas WANTS to be around people. Whenever his door is opened now, he’ll run right over if he’s not already waiting by it. He doesn’t grunt at anyone entering the room anymore, but he will demand to investigate shoes. He does get testy if those shoes step onto his blankets, however. Petting is more likely to be tolerated, but he’ll let you know when he’s had enough with a grunt and a quick but deliberate hop away. There hasn’t been a Dallas Dash in days.

If it’s been a few hours since he’s seen anyone, his reaction is more excited. He even threw a binky this morning when I arrived with breakfast. Below is a video of him running over to me this afternoon.  Please excuse the baby voice- that’s my own behavior modification project.

We’re still working on some territorial issues, and he’s still guarding his food pretty intently. He’ll take a treat from my hand about half the time, but he immediately runs off with it all of the time.

His biggest test is coming tomorrow. I’m leaving for a week for a family vacation. A good friend of mine, who is a vet tech, is staying at the house with the Terrible Trio. She had a good introduction to Dallas last night. He investigated her shoes, and then spent quite a bit of time inspecting her scrubs while she sat on the floor with him. She’ll keep up the clicker training and stick to his usual routine. I’m hoping that his new social behaviors hold up while I’m gone. If he can adapt to having a new person around easily, it’ll be a huge leap forward for his adoptability.

I’ll post an update next week based on her reports. I’ll also post any photos she sends me on my Instagram: @zombiesandbunnies. Until then, fingers crossed that the Dallas Developments stay as developments.

Dallas Developments: Day #4

22 May

Today was a big day for Dallas. Before going into his room every morning for breakfast, I measure out all his food into separate containers. There’s a cup of his pellets, a tablespoon of the Kaytee Exact blend, and 1/2 a Probios treat (which he may or may not eat, depending on his mood. Alice & Hatter will literally stand on each other to get theirs. Dallas couldn’t care less.) I do this because it gives me three opportunities to pair a click with receiving food, and therefore three more chances for Dallas to learn the connection.

However, when I went into his room today, something was immediately different. Usually Dallas is in his hidey box, staring at me from the far corner of his pen with wary eyes. Today, he was at the front of his pen, in full periscope mode. (For the non-bunny crowd, “periscoping” is when a bunny balances on their hind legs to get a better look at their surroundings. Some call it “prairie-dogging,” because it’s the same behavior.) He knew what was coming, which shows that he’s adjusted to the daily schedule here. That’s a good sign.

Even more exciting, as soon as I hit the first click, he ran to his food bowl and looked back at me. He knew what that click meant- FOOD! I poured in his pellets, and waited for him to get a few bites in. Dallas dives on his food like a football player after a fumble, and it’s best not to try to interfere with that. Then I gave a second click, to signal that the Exact was coming. He didn’t stop eating, but for the first time, he didn’t grunt at me when I put a scoop near his face. He didn’t even flinch- just kept eating whatever he could get his little teeth around. He wasn’t interested in the third click and the Probios treat, but he didn’t grunt or flinch when that was offered either.

Based on this, Dallas has likely learned to associate a click with the arrival of food. He knows to expect food when he hears the click, so he doesn’t feel threatened when it is immediately offered. This is a huge step in his training. It’s not the end of the pairing, as he needs to show the same reaction for a couple more days to be sure that he really understands, but he’s on the right track.

It’s important to note that even though there was a success today, Dallas still has a long way to go before he’s ready to be adopted. When I went into his room this evening, I took a few treat options with me. As you can see in the videos below, he was very social at first. He even put his front paws on me to get at his preferred treat faster. It may be hard to hear in the video, but he got a double click for that, to signal a “jackpot” reward for such a social and trusting behavior. He did take his treat and run off, though, showing that while he’s willing to climb on me to get the treat, he’s not trusting enough to assume I won’t try to steal it back.

 

A few minutes later, he was at his food bowl. I wanted to see how he’d react to my hand entering his “space,” even after a click. As you can see, he didn’t like it at all. He grunted and lunged at me. While he didn’t make contact, he made it very clear that I wasn’t welcome around him at that moment. That’s a territorial display, and it was a reversal from this morning’s behavior.

 

In this third video, taken about 10 minutes after the second one, Dallas approaches me again. He even allows a quick few seconds of petting. This is the first time he’s allowed me to touch him, and he got another jackpot reward for that- double clicks and a new Timothy hay twist chew.

 

I ended the training session at that point, as it’s always good to end on a high note. I closed up his pen, said good night, and turned off the light on my way out the door. We’ll see what tomorrow morning brings. When it comes to Dallas, anything is possible.

Dallas Developments: Day #3

21 May

It’s Saturday, which means cleaning day at the Anderson Used Book Emporium & Rabbit Salon. For Alice & Hatter, this is nothing new. Every Saturday morning, they get fed, they get released from their pen, and then they sit at the edge of the kitchen and supervise me while I clean out the pen. Even though today was the first Saturday in the new house, they stuck to their schedule. Those two are nothing if not punctual.

Dallas, however, was a completely different story. It’s day 3, which means he’s just getting used to the schedule around here. Cleaning day predictably threw him into a tailspin of territorial behavior and general unhappiness. He’s still learning to associate the clicker with a reward, but his mood today meant that he wasn’t interested in any extra pairing sessions, or with having me anywhere near him at all. Instead, I left the door open to his bedroom so he could see me moving around the house, but otherwise let him be. He hung out by the door for a bit a few times, but kept pretty close to the back of his pen most of the day.

As there are no training updates to report, I thought I’d talk a bit more about how clicker training works. Basically, it replaces an actual reward, such as a piece of food, with the sound of a click. The reward and the click are paired together repeatedly until the animal learns to associate the sound of the click with the happiness of getting that reward. Once that’s been learned, the reward is offered less and less often with each click, until just the click is reward enough to reinforce a good behavior. This makes it easier to train an animal, as over-feeding or distraction from another reward isn’t a concern.

Dallas, as a VERY food-motivated bunny, is learning to associate a click with a food reward. He hears a click every time he is given food- breakfast, greens, hay fills, night-night treats, and anything else he is given during the day. If it’s edible, he hears a click before it. He’s starting to get it, but he’ll need a couple more days at least for the lesson to really sink in. Once he starts looking for food every time he hears the click, he’ll be ready to move onto the next step.

Clickers come in all sizes and sounds. I use a small one with a very quiet click, so that it can be hidden in a hand and not startle Dallas. I used it previously on Alice, and it worked very well. The problem now is that she remembers the sound and keeps hanging around the outside of Dallas’s room, waiting for her treats. Hatter didn’t respond well to clicker training at first, and as he didn’t need any behaviors modified, I didn’t pursue it with him. He hangs around with Alice, though, so it’ll be interesting to see if he ever picks up on the connection between click and food.

Here are some pictures of Dallas’s pen. He has the guest bedroom to himself, and has about half the room to play in when his pen is opened. At some point, I’ll run out of other boxes to unpack and will have to tackle setting up that room for human guests. Until then, he seems to think it’s a pretty nice bachelor pad. I agree, now that it’s all clean. 🙂

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You can see more pictures on Instagram on the #DallasDevelopments hashtag, or by searching my username- @zombiesandbunnies.

 

Dallas Developments: Day #1

19 May

I’ve taken on a summer project, y’all. His name is Dallas.

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He’s a year and a half old, and he’s a Georgia House Rabbit Society bunny. He was rescued from living outdoors (likely after being dumped by a previous owner), and he’s got some issues that he needs to work out before he can find his forever home. My job this summer is to teach him just that, via clicker training and a whole lot of patience. Here’s where we’re starting from.

Dallas currently:

  • Gets spooked randomly by unseen things and bolts. He will bolt in whatever direction he is currently facing. This means it’s not always away from whatever spooks him. It’s called the “Dallas Dash.”
  • Is territorial. He doesn’t like humans or other bunnies in his space. He’ll grunt or charge, or just plain bolt whenever he feels threatened. This includes feeding time. He also leaves a poop trail to mark his territory, but is otherwise very litter-trained.
  • Is very food-motivated. Dallas loves to eat. Pellets, hay, greens, treats- you name it, he’ll munch on it. This is actually a good thing for training.
  • Is not a fan of loud noises or sudden movements. Either of those will result in an immediate Dallas Dash. Unfortunately for him, he’s living in a house with Hatter & Alice- the King and Queen of Rabbit Mischief. Dallas now has his own bedroom for this reason.
  • Has a silly personality underneath all that fear & aggression. He’s been here less than a day, and is already binking and flopping around his play area when he’s not Dashing. He seems to prefer soft places, and is currently dozing on a pile of baby blankets as I type this.

Dallas needs to learn:

  • To not spook at unseen things. It makes his behavior unpredictable, and his tendency to bolt in any direction could be dangerous for him in an unsecured environment.
  • To share his space, to an extent. All bunnies need a safe space, where no humans or other animals are allowed. However, a bunny shouldn’t grunt or charge during feeding time. Dallas will have to learn to tolerate hands in his pen at least twice a day.
  • Where his safe space is. It’s perfectly reasonable for a bunny to spook at loud noises or sudden movements- after all, they’re a prey species. It’s what they do. However, Dallas will need to learn where he should run when he gets scared, so that he doesn’t hurt himself.
  • How to let his silly self shine. He looks like he may be a New Zealand White rabbit, which is a breed known for being silly and sociable. If he can learn that it’s OK to play around the humans, he’ll have no trouble finding a forever home.

I’ll post regular updates on his progress over the next couple of months. You can also follow along on my Instagram (@zombiesandbunnies) for photos and videos of Dallas’s progress.

Rabbit-Sized Hole

13 Sep

Eppy Box

I remember being out in the backyard at my dad’s house when I was 13 or so.  There was a privacy fence running along the back, and it captured my OCD attention because it didn’t match the post and rail fence that enclosed the sides of the yard.  One day, I was inspecting a hole at the bottom of the privacy fence when my dad came outside and asked what I was looking at.

Keep in mind, I was 13. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets had just been released, and I was also reading the Chronicles of Narnia to myself for the first time.  Every hole in a fence was an instant portal to another world, if I could just figure out how to get through it.  That’s exactly what I was looking at, but I also had enough sense to not admit to that in front of an adult capable of having me committed.

Instead, I just pointed to the hole and said that I thought a chipmunk had made it.  My dad knelt down and looked at the edges for a moment or two before proclaiming it, “a rabbit-sized hole.”

This was probably the worst thing he could have said to me. After all, I had just read Alice in Wonderland, a story that would fascinate me to this day.  Now that hole was not only a portal to another world, but a portal involving magical rabbits that led to Wonderland!

Sometimes I feel like I owe my parents more than just verbal thanks for buying me books and letting me dream as a kid.  (Aside to dad- this story is coming out the next time you look at me and ask where I got my skills from.  It’s not just mom’s fault for buying me all those books.)

The point of this trip down memory lane is that the concept of a rabbit-sized hole stuck with me.  Not necessarily literally, as I’ve never been good with spatial concepts (see The Bureaucracy Strikes Back for proof of this), but the inherent magic in it.  Now, a literal rabbit-sized hole can be any size, as rabbit can range from 2 pounds to over 25 pounds and can compress their skeletons like cats to fit into smaller spaces.  But as I learned recently, a rabbit-sized hole can also be metaphorical- a chunk of a heart stolen away by four lucky feet and a wibbly nose.  But most of all, a new rabbit-sized hole can be appear when you least expect it.

10 days ago, I submitted an application to be considered to adopt another rabbit.  The process normally involves multiple levels of approval and several classes.  However, my application was fast-tracked and I find myself getting ready to go pick up a bonded pair this afternoon.  I went through a lot of emotions between then and now- excitement, grief, panic, anticipation, anxiety, joy, and fear all cycled unpredictably.  One minute, I’d be happily browsing the website and reading bunny bios, and the next I’d be in the library holding one of Eppy’s favorite toys and unable to deal with how it still smells like her.  I spent almost an hour scrubbing down her old cage and exercise pen, and alternated between fear that the new ones would still smell her on them and not settle in right, and excitement that the things were no longer packed away on the bottom shelf of a bookcase and hidden behind a chair.  I worried over names- how do you name somebunny that you’ve never met? I stressed over how I don’t have any new toys for them, or soft blankets or pet pads for them to sit on, or even a bag of food that they’ll like.  I thought how nice it will be to have someone to say good morning and good night to everyday, and to hear soft hops across the floor again.  Essentially, my every thought was affected by the new arrivals and if I was really ready to bring them home.

In the end, it’s the memory of looking at that fence 15 years ago that is going to get me out the door today.  After all, the magic is not in the known world on this side, but in the unknown waiting just on the other side. A new rabbit-sized hole has appeared in my heart, and it brings the promise of an excellent adventure with it.

To Eppy

30 Jul

Dear Eppy,

I often wondered what your last day with me would be like.  Would I know that it was almost over?  Would we spend the day snuggling and playing? Or would it come unexpected, on a normal day, or even a day when I was annoyed with you for chewing something of mine up yet again?  Would I have time to say goodbye?  Or would I have to make the most difficult decision of my life?  Most importantly, would you know and would you be in pain?

As it turned out, it was so much more unexpected and yet so much better.  I did get to say goodbye, and we did have two wonderful last days together.  We spent time snuggling and playing, you got extra treats and attention, and none of it had the cloud of death hanging over us.  Then again, maybe you knew it was coming.  You were always so much smarter than me.

But now I’m left here alone, and while I know each day will get easier, I can’t stop the tears that come with every small reminder.  Your cage has been cleaned, your favorite toys packed away, and your treats and hay sent to the guinea pig next door. (I’m sorry about that last part- I know you didn’t care much for Maisy, but I couldn’t bear to throw away the yogurt chips and baked pretzels that you loved so much.)

Now it’s the little things that get me.  When my mom asked me to come to the house tonight so that I wouldn’t be alone, my first thought was, “I can’t- someone has to feed Eppy.”  Then I sat on the edge of the couch and cried.  When I left the apartment tonight, I did so with my usual refrain of “bye Eppy, be a good girl.” It stopped me cold in the doorway when I realized that you weren’t there to hear it anymore.  I cried the whole way down the stairs.  The dog rustled her wicker toy basket tonight and it sounded like you chewing on your hay basket.  I looked over automatically, but you weren’t there. (And neither was the hay basket.  That also went to Maisy.  I’m not apologizing for this one though- you know how she felt about it.)  No one now will come bounding around the corner of the couch to frolic with a toy.  No one now will wait until I fall asleep on the couch to leap onto my chest.  No one now will be there for a snuggle when the day has been hard and people have been too much, and that is the part that hurts the most.

But maybe I’m not completely alone.  You did tolerate the hundreds of photos that I took of you over the years, especially the ones when I made you wear a scarf.  (Don’t think I missed the thinly-veiled hatred in your eyes at those times.)  Those photos tell your life story better than I ever could, and they remind of who exactly you were.

You always knew how to pose for a camera, even at 9 months old.

You were the one who knew how to pose for a photo, even at 9 months old.

IMG_20130903_093331_742-1 Eppy hide and seek

10 months, 4 years, or 7 years old- it didn't matter. You always won at hide-and-seek. If there was a box or a blanket, you would be inside it.

You were the world champion at hide-and-seek.

You really were smaller than your food bag when you came home with me.

You were smaller than your food bag when you first came home with me.

begging for food

And thus began a life-long obsession with treats, from 2 years old to 8 years old. Not even a table could keep you from your treats.

But you were also the one who always knew where to find a treat.

Once I made you wear a scarf and pose for a holiday photo.

You were the one who once had to wear a scarf and pose for a holiday photo.

Ok, maybe I did that twice. But even though I waited 6 years in between the two, you didn't forget.

Ok, maybe you had to do that twice. But you never forgot the injustice of it, even though the two events took place 6 years apart.

You loved to be outside

You loved to be outside.

But inside was OK too if there was a sunbeam to sleep in.

But inside was OK too if there was a sunbeam to sleep in.

Eppy thieving

Sometimes you stole things that didn’t belong to you.

And you apologized when you stole things.

But you always apologized afterwards.

You could snuggle with the best of them.

You could snuggle with the best of them.

You were my constant companion, always welcome even when it made working difficult.

And you were my constant companion, always welcome by my side even when it made working difficult.

Now as you move onto the rabbit heaven perfectly made for you- a place of endless grass and puzzle balls to break into- know that a very large piece of my heart goes with you.  Rest well, my bunny girl.  There will never be another like you.

Eppy last day

Epinephrine “Eppy” Anderson 2005-2014

 

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