Friday, October 30, 2009

GIMME SHELTER a post from

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Suzy Q: Our shelter bunny

Every six months or so for the past three years, Lilly (11) pulls out the phone book, opens it to the Yellow Pages section of Animal Shelters and begins her calls. "Yes, I was wondering how old you have to be to volunteer at your shelter?" she asks politely. In between rejections (you have to be 16) she comments to Grace (14) "They don't get it. They think we just want to go and cuddle the kittens." "Well don't we?" Grace asks.

No. That is not what Lilly wants to do. She wants to play with the friendless, wash the dirty, clip the long-nailed, clean the dirty cage, sweep the poo, scrub the grungy food dishes. In short, she has a calling and it is to care for shelter animals. But no one gets that. They just think she's another kid who wants to pet a puppy.

That is until we met Toni. Toni runs Red Door Shelter a rabbit sanctuary in Chicago. This wonderful place rescues the homeless and unwanted bunnies (think of the Easter pet that turns out to be more work than someone thought). It was to this shelter that Lilly dragged me about a year ago for "rabbit spa day" a fund-raising event where crazy bunny people get together to have their rabbits groomed and photographed and oh yeah, maybe take another homeless bunny home (which is how we got Suzy Q). Thanks to that event, adoption, and subsequent emails, Toni caught on pretty quickly that Lilly was not your average "can I come play with the bunnies" kid. Which is why she so very, very graciously said yes when I asked if she would make an exception to the age requirement and allow Lilly to volunteer.

The first day of volunteering was last Wednesday. All the way to the shelter Lilly was saying under her breath, "Oh yeah, Heartland Shelter, I'm too young? Oh really, too young you say!? Well aren't you sorry now." She was so excited she nearly binkied (that's rabbit talk for jumping with joy) out of the car as we pulled up to the shelter. I left her there in Toni's capable hands agreeing to return in four hours.

And it was there I found her four hours later, covered in rabbit fur and ecstatically happy about her new job. All the way home she told me about the rabbits she met and played with. About their (often sad) histories but their (almost always) happy endings. There was one bunny in particular she was taken with. Avery.

Avery, she explained, has been there for three years. No one wants to adopt him because he cannot be neutered. He has a heart condition and if they put him under for the surgery he most likely would not survive. So he stays there but not many of the volunteers want to play with him because un-neutered male rabbits have, ahem, some hygiene issues.

"Oh Mom," she gushed, "Avery is so great! I went in his pen and he binkied, then he sprayed to mark his territory, then he pooped all over, and then he humped my leg. I just love him! He's so full of life!"

From the backseat her big brother offered this advice, "Don't go falling for every guy who humps your leg."

Lilly ignored this and began in earnest on another story about two rabbits who were saved from Afghanistan. Seriously.

I know, I've said it before, but I have to say it again, there is no joy like the joy of watching your child find his or her bliss and by God Lilly has found it at Red Door Shelter. Here, at this magical place, she can finally spend time with her beloved buns AND the like-minded, dedicated people who care about them as much as she does. And since I am not so inclined to spend time with rabbits I am mighty grateful there is such a place that welcomes her.

So here's to Toni and her shelter and if my small tale moves you maybe you would consider a small donation to Red Door to thank those who take care of God's smallest creatures --like Lilly and

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Inside the mind of a rabbit

People who aren't familiar with rabbits as pets are always asking me what they do. Do they do tricks? Are they fun to play with? Do they know their names?

It's a little hard to answer some of these, though they are definitely fun to play with. Rabbits vary widely, just like dogs and cats. I had one foster rabbit who was incredibly responsive to commands. He would come running at top speed when you called, jump up on the couch when you patted it, and even stand up to "kiss" your cheek when you offered it. I don't know if he understood the words so much as the context and gestures, but he definitely understood.

My current foster bunny, Avery, isn't quite that responsive, but I can't tell if it's because he doesn't want to listen or doesn't know. One thing he definitely knows is the word "no." He quickly learned that the sound of the refrigerator opening or a knife hitting a chopping block often leads to food! But he also had to learn that it could lead to disappointment, when I walk out of the kitchen saying, "No, Avery. No. People food." "No" also means "stop chewing!" Avery is a bit of a chewer, so I do have to keep an eye on him when I let him out. (It's very easy to bunny-proof the key things against chewing, though, and they don't chew randomly.) As with most animals, bribery works very well to get them to move around when words fail. Bits of apple or carrot are all the communication you need sometimes!

I sometimes wish I knew what Avery was thinking. For example, he doesn't mind me playing the guitar, but he does mind A LOT when I walk past him holding it. I've gotten into the habit of keeping my body between the guitar and the pen when I have to move it around. My best guess is that he sees some weird object approaching (not human-shaped) and doesn't know what it is, so he gets scared. I've noticed this a couple of times when I'm carrying other large things. I'm just glad he can stand to listen to me play!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What a Spooky Day! Update on Spa Day

Oh what a spooky, scary day this past Spa Day was! For those of you who missed it, here is a glimpse into the vampire-twilight-inspired set we had for photos. More spa day snaps will be posted in the future here, including one featuring Lunchzilla the frog who was one of the special guests at spa day.

We will be offering to do more photos of this set in the near future.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Spa Day reminder

Don't forget, Vampire Bunny Spa Day is tomorrow from 12-4pm at Red Door! Rabbits, guinea pigs, and cats. Click on the website link to the right and look under Events for more info.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Track star

I let Avery out of his pen for the first time on this visit last night. He's a very active rabbit, and even though the pen is big, I notice that he's much happier if he gets at least a good run in. It's been a while since I last fostered him, so he had to investigate the room thoroughly last night while I kept one eye on him to make sure that he wasn't chewing anything he shouldn't. Once he had nosed his way around, including the space between the DVD player and the TV, he took off on a sprint around the perimeter of the room. Behind the TV, over the wires, behind the radiator, under the sofa, through the clear space past the door, and a grand finale by surfing his way the length of my guitar case. Hilarious.

There was quite a bit of slipping and sliding in the run, because I don't have carpeting. Active rabbits LOVE a good gallop on something that gives their furry paws some friction. Still, Avery doesn't seem to mind as long as he gets to explore!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Introducing Avery

This is Avery, one of Red Door's special needs animals. Avery is an active, adorable Dutch rabbit with an enlarged heart, so he gets drops twice a day. But aside from that, he's just a normal bunny, eager to be out and exploring, and always looking for a treat. He's lucky that it's apple season right now, and he's getting all of my pear peelings and apple cores!

I'm Heidi, and I'm fostering Avery right now to give him a break from the shelter. Even though Red Door's facilities, staff, and volunteers are great, it's a nice change for some of the rabbits who have been there for a while to get more individual attention and a quieter environment with no other animals around. I'll be posting some updates on him to help give a little look into the life of a foster bunny. Don't forget, Red Door also has cats and dogs, and even the occasional farm bird!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Happy Birthday, Bo!

Bo Obama isn't from Red Door. He isn't even a former shelter dog. But he is the first dog as well as a beloved family pet. And since today is Bo's birthday, we want to shout out some birthday wishes to him--and to all the family pets all over this country.

Vampire Bunny Spa Day Oct. 17th

Your bunny won't want to miss this Spa-De-Dah Day on Oct. 17th. It's a scary one: Vampire Bunny is the photo theme and every animal (rabbit, g-pig, or cat) gets the chance to dress up like Bunnicula. Also, there are nail trims, grooming, massages--with all the money going to the homeless animals at Red Door.

Spa Day is from 12 p.m. - 4 p.m. No reservations needed.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

AJ -- Bunny's Disability Doesn't Keep Him out of Hall of Fame

AJ came to us as the nicest guy you can imagine. But he has a disability: splayed front legs, which means he can't always stand up straight or move quickly. But his winning personality carried the day. And we're excited to add AJ's name to the Red Door Adopted Hall of Fame.

Frank -- A New Bunny in the Adopted Hall of Fame

Frank was just a baby when he was saved by Red Door. His adoptive family had to wait until he was big enough to be neutered. But now Frank can be added to the Adoption Hall of Fame! We're thrilled he went to his new home.

Ronan joins Bunny Adopted Hall of Fame

Ronan is the sweetest guy ever, so we're happy to announce that he is the first bunny in Red Door's new Adopted Hall of Fame. We'll keep you posted on this blog for all the new members.