It’s still hard to believe he’s gone. He was with us for eight-and-a-half-years; almost his whole life. He was only four months old when we found him at Zany Zoo in December, 2004. He was in a pen filled with young lop rabbits and he got our attention by climbing into the food bowl and standing up. I think he was begging for pellets, but the sight of him in the bowl was so cute. Our decision was made.
We brought him home to be a companion for Jellybean, who we’d adopted the previous August. Jellybean is a girl so when we put them together, Oreo decided to make his move. Being spayed, Jellybean had no interest and the two of them started fighting like bunnies.
Fighting like bunnies isn’t as cute as it sounds. They bite and growl and jump all over each other. We pulled them apart and quickly had to figure out a way to keep them in the same house. We were less worried about bonding them than just keeping them from killing each other.
So we set them up in side-by side pens with a large piece of cardboard between them. Jellybean hated Oreo so much that the sight of him would send her into a biting, growling frenzy.
Following his own trip to the vet (sorry buddy, but we can’t have little bunny babies), Oreo grew up over the next few months. He no longer fit in the palm of my hand. He was a four-pound Holland lop. Now that he was bigger than Jellybean, we figured he could hold his own so we tried bonding them again. We read that the best way was to let them out and explore an unfamiliar area together. We opened their pens and the fighting began.
Picture, if you will, The Matrix with an all-rabbit cast. They were biting, scratching, growling, and spinning in mid-air all at once. About ten seconds of bunny fury. Then they stopped and headed off in separate directions.
A few hours later, we found them together in Jellybean’s pen. They were bonded, and from then on they only fought over food. Bunnies don’t like sharing food. They will if you make them, but they won’t like it.
Each rabbit has a different personality and Oreo and Jellybean, while bonded and mostly compatible, were very different. Jellybean was the runner, the adventurer, and the curious one. She wouldn’t last five minutes in the wild.
Hmm, what’s that.
Sniff . . . nudge . . . CHOMP!
No more Jellybean.
But she has lived indoors her whole life, and has always been safe.
Oreo was shy, but he always begged first when food was offered or just nearby. He ran, but not as fast as Jellybean, who was a sprinter even among rabbits. Oreo was the strong one, the bulldozer. We had a couple of plastic igloos which we bought for them to curl up in and he loved pushing his across the carpet—from the inside.
Oreo had a unique way of relaxing. He would stretch out his whole body, sticking his feet out way behind him. When he was younger he would flop too, just like Jellybean. Flopping is a sign of a happy bunny. So are twitches. Jellybean was the twitchier of the two, but they would both run and hop around when the mood struck.
Oreo always put his feet in the pellet bowl. It was his way of saying “mine,” though he begrudgingly shared with his sister.
I know this is hard to believe, but I think Oreo taught Jellybean how to beg. They would always come to the edge of the kitchen when it was time to eat (or when they thought it was time to eat). Oreo would always stand up and beg just like he did in the bowl the first day. It took several years, but eventually Jellybean started standing up too. It was so cute watching them alternate.
Then they would run in circles around each other until they got fed.
As Oreo got older and couldn’t beg anymore, Jellybean took over. Looking back, that was the first sign. His back legs weren’t strong enough anymore.
He was the younger rabbit, but something in his genes made him age faster. maybe is was because he was male, or bigger, though he was never overweight. Who knows?
But he had a long life for a rabbit and a good life. He never had any health problems until about a year ago, and ultimately he just got old. It’s part of life, and it happens faster with animals.
He’s gone now, but we have the pictures and the memories. And we still have Jellybean for a little longer. She’s slowed a bit too, but except for one scare about three years ago, she’s done well.
But she’s nine years old and before long she’ll start to slow down too. All we can do is appreciate whatever time we have left with her.