Friday, May 30, 2014

Central Bark - A Place to Call Home

Charles was brought to me by Red Door when his previous family could no longer care for him. Red Door needed a foster for Charles, and I* agreed to take him here at Central Bark. Charles was very timid when he first arrived, but he immediately attached himself to me. I believe in these situations, homeless dogs do that as a survival mechanism; I am so happy that he did because I attached myself to him, too!

Charles fit in right away when he came to the day care and even when he came home with me. He has a strong personality and is the boss of my pitbull!! I could tell that he was so grateful to be with me.  He loved me and showed his love to me immediately.

It was clear what would happen next - I adopted Charles in September. Although his paperwork says age unknown he looked to be about 8 years old. He is not big on play time, and his favorite thing to do is to be in my arms.  When he sees me through the playgroup window at the day care, he starts jumping uncontrollably for me!!  As far as treats go, he eats anything and everything!!  He actually was overweight when I first adopted him. Now that he is a slim boy, I cannot believe when I see his chubby pics!

Charles has been an absolute treasure to me.  I cannot even imagine my life without my boy!

*Bonnie ,Charles' human, runs Central Bark, a doggy day care in the Avondale Chicago neighborhood. You can find them at:

3358 N. Pulaski
Chicago, IL 60641
Phone: 773.736.3641
Fax: 773.736.3695

Friday, May 16, 2014

Let's Get Vertical! Cam's Story

Our rabbit adventure began when we first got Mac, a 3lb. mini lop we had gotten from family who could no longer keep him. He went from a bunny who lived for 2 years in a cage to being cage-less and hopping the house “free-range” within a few weeks. After a 1.5 year battle with various ailments that took away his mobility and visiting Dr. Horton at Chicago Exotics every 3 weeks, his time ran out.

It took over a month to even bring ourselves to go to Red Door just to meet some bunnies, but one afternoon we finally did. My partner sat with 20 different rabbits but I stayed with the same one, Cam, the entire time. Cam was taken in by Red Door when his previous owners surrendered him to the Animal Welfare League. He would have been put to sleep had Red Door not gotten a hold of him. Cam was on his back legs desperate for attention when we walked in. He climbed on me and groomed me, did big binkies and even gave me kisses! When I switched places with my partner Cam did the same, and we knew he had chosen us. We adopted Cam from Red Door in April of 2012.

In a lot of ways Cam was completely different from our beloved Mac. Mac couldn't judge depth so he only spent time up on the couch when we put him up with us watching TV. Cam on the other hand jumps easily from the floor onto the back of the couch from behind it. When we brought Cam home we used a folding fence to give him a run while we bunny proofed the house. Mac also didn't chew anything but Cam thinks chords are a delicacy so we had a lot of work to do.

Cam was all about getting vertical as soon as we got him home. He would sit up on the back of the couch and try to figure out a way to get up higher. Mac was terrified of heights, and Cam is fearless. Cam’s jumping across from one couch to another like he’s Superman with his paws outstretched scared us. It was hard to get used to him wanting to climb everything at first because Mac couldn't do those things. Once we realized his cat-like abilities it went from “oh no he’s going to fall” to a cute Cam thing. He just loves heights!

I'm on top of the couch, so this is my couch.

Then we discovered 1 tiny/big problem: Cam can jump a 4-foot fence with ease. His very short stay in a pen was over, so we watched what he might get into and picked it up or got rid of it. He was our little shadow; whatever room we were in he wanted to be in so we went through our process of elimination based on what he seemed interested in destroying. Because he is an expert Cord Sniper we actually ran cable wiring that had been down low up to the ceiling and put in conduit to protect other wires we couldn't move.

What's up there?

It took Cam a month to realize that the bed was just 3 feet off the ground and an easy jump. He has slept with us ever since. He is our little sentinel guarding us most of the night. He goes out on patrol around the house and out to the living room to eat a little, play with some toys, and eventually comes back to bed. All we have to do is ask, “Cam, are you ready for bed?”, and he tears off into the bedroom and waits for us (he LOVES bedtime!). Lately he’s taken to flopping on my pillow and snuggling with my head. By morning he’s usually out in the living room playing, but when he hears the alarm he sprints back to the bed excited that we’re getting up.

You will feed me breakfast in bed, humans.

Cam enjoys his routine of napping in the afternoon on the dining room chairs. He eats his salads in the living room and brings us food off his plate from time to time to share (usually a piece of Romaine or a cilantro stem or Italian parsley). Once in a while I wake up with a piece of lettuce or a toy he’s carried in to leave for me. He hangs out with us at night on the couch watching TV and playing in the living room. We have a litterbox in every room we/he spends a lot of time in, so he has perfect litter box habits. So perfect that 2 years ago when we put the Christmas tree where his litter box should be and moved the box about 4 feet over, he wouldn't use that box all month and instead went all the way to the bedroom to use the box there instead. There were no accidents, but he wouldn't use the box in the wrong spot out of protest! We moved the tree location last year, and he was thrilled. We also had to build a fence around the Christmas tree. Mac used slept under it, ran around it, unwrapped presents, and do other cute, harmless bunny things, but Cam wants to climb it and eat the light strings. He does spend a lot of time in December trying to brainstorm ways to get inside the fence. He’s quite the little problem solver.

Look at this rude fence.

Cam loves when people come over. He assumes everyone is there for him and makes his rounds for pets and attention. I take that back - Cam loves everyone except our cleaning lady. We love her, but to him she’s the woman who moves his toys and gets him locked in the master bedroom, bathroom and office for 3 hours once every 2 weeks and “it is so rude that I am being confined” (he wanted me to make sure that was a direct quote for all you humans out there). She adores him and cares so much about our rabbits that she will dust off Mac’s ashes and paw print mold. Cam repays her love and affection for her by grunting and charging at her. He really thinks he’s tough when it comes to defending his turf!

Cleaning is so stressful.

I was in the hospital last summer for a month because of pneumonia. I had been getting sick for weeks (lesson learned, go to the doctor and don’t assume it’s a bad asthma year!), and when the paramedics took me out of the house unconscious Cam knew something was really wrong. Once I came home he never left my side for more than a few minutes. He brought me lots of food from his salads, and he would wake me up every 20 minutes to make sure I was breathing. It seemed like he was barely sleeping at all trying to take care of me. He is one of the best nurses I have ever met.

People who've never had a bunny or had one and locked them in a cage/didn't interact with them are missing out. Both of our bunnies had huge personalities and were eager to be part of the family. We never planned to have a bunny when we agreed to take in Mac all those years ago, and we knew nothing about them. Both Cam and Mac have shown us how loyal, caring, thoughtful and funny rabbits can be. I can’t imagine our lives without a bunny in it now that we've had 2 amazing little guys to share our house and lives with! 

Friday, May 09, 2014

How to Let Rabbits Take Over Your Home, Part 3: The Resilient Rabbit

The rabbits, they have taken over my home! It started with Squid in March, then Orca the foster-turned-permanent-bunny in August. We were almost a full house with two rabbits and their pens and Squiddy's general goodness and Orca's unpredictable bladder. And my pup with anxiety. And my husband's busy life and my busy life. I did not fully understand what a "takeover" meant until Pilot came along.

In the fall of 2013, a young girl witnessed two boys/monsters actually throwing and kicking a small brown rabbit around in a school yard and told her mom (what an awesome girl!). Mom brought the rabbit to Chicago Exotics where he was treated for cuts and abrasions on his abdomen. He was transferred to Red Door and affectionately named Tumble after his ordeal with the boys. I'm not sure what it was about his story and his survival and resilience, but he seemed like a very special rabbit and one I very much looked forward to seeing when I visited the shelter. Although I very much wanted to adopt him, the practical side of my brain spoke up and told me no, he'd find a wonderful family and a wonderful home to call his own. He will be ok.

Ouch! Pilot's badly injured belly.

Pilot enjoying exercise time at Red Door

Red Door is very crowded around the holidays with boarding bunnies. At Thanksgiving, volunteers were asked to foster adoptable rabbits to make space for the vacationers. Liz, knowing that I was very fond of Tumble, sent me home with him. Friends and family joked, "Oh, by 'fostering' do you mean you're adopting him like the last one?"

Shut it.

Pilot on Thanksgiving hanging out in the bathroom.

Tumble was an excellent house guest; he was (to my surprise) a snuggler and would crawl into anyone's lap to get some nice pets on his head. He was not as in your face like Orca, and he was not shy like Squid. We joked that he was a 'medium' bunny and that he would be a good middle ground between our two rabbits who had very different personalities. His run time took place in our small bathroom, and we found him on top of our toilet a few times (thank goodness the seat was down).

It only took a week in our home to decide that we were going to adopt him. On the day we made the commitment we noticed that he was having some GI issues, and because he was still a foster rabbit at the time, we brought him back to Red Door so they could have him vet checked before his adoption. His GI issues were minor: sensitivities to certain greens and treats, so we just had to keep his diet mild with Romaine and flat leaf parsley. Phew. He was going to be ok. We also found out he was much younger than we thought - only about 8 months old. To this day it is still so unbelievable that he was so cruelly abused at such a tiny age (6 months).

All three of our rabbits have new names; we loved the names that Red Door chose for them. They were clever and fit a part of their physical description or story. But we felt like new names should come with the new chapter in their lives, the new home and the new family. And all of our rabbits have ocean themed names, so Tumble is now Pilot Renji Tumble, or more commonly just Pilot... or Pi... or P-Pi. Or Piiiiiiiiloooooooooooot when he is getting into something he's not supposed to.

The only photo of Pilot, Orca & Squid being uncivilized rabbits.
Since Orca had effectively gotten himself kicked out of the pen he shared with Squid we thought to try bonding Squid and Pilot. The first time we put them together things seemed ok; Pilot humped Squid and Squid just kind of laid there like a bunlump. The second time did not go as well. Squid decided being humped once was enough, she tried to retaliate, which made Pilot aggressive, and their date ended with my husband and I halfheartedly joking that Pilot tried to eat Squiddy (in the wild the main food source for pilot whales are squid).

We tried Pilot and Orca together, and guess what? They got along as if they were old friends! The first day they spent a few [monitored] hours together hanging out in the bathroom, munchin' on hay and making lots of poops in Orca's litterbox.

Hi friend!

We eventually moved them into a pen together, but the happiness didn't last long. In early February 2014, I heard rumblings of a scuffle going on in the kitchen - and much to my surprise (and horror) Orca and Pilot were in a full out spinning rabbit fight. Both came out of it ok with only a few missing tufts of hair, but we immediately split them up into different pens. We are still unsure what caused the rift, but to this day they are still out to get each other. About a month after their separation Pilot stealthily wiggled his way into Orca's pen on Pen Cleaning Day and got pretty beat up. After all that beautiful fur had grown back from his first injury he lost it all again so that the wounds Orca inflicted could be treated. Pilot's injuries were [thankfully] only superficial. After an overnight stay at Blue Pearl he was happy to be back home and, despite his new stitches and abrasions, was eager to binky around the house and continue his explorations.

Pilot's new 'do courtesy of Orca's teeth.

Everyone is happy now. Each rabbit has their own pen, and there are more rabbit pens than places to sit in my living room. Now that Pilot is fully healed he is the busiest rabbit in my warren. Every day when he comes out to check things off his to-do list (which is neverending, much like this story, omg) you can find him bouncing from the front to the back of the house, up on the couch trolling Wicket-the-dog-brother, on the kitchen chairs and table, inside the linen cabinets, UNDER THE FREAKING COUCH, and a myriad of other places we most likely don't know about. He's like a runner on the stock exchange floor. And he is so unbelievably fearless. But he still snuggles sometimes, so that's nice - but, oh, sorry mom, I gotta go check something out.

Bye! Thanks for reading my story!

And that is how rabbits took over my home.
Pilot says, "My mom is such a sucker, lol."

Thursday, May 01, 2014

How to Let Rabbits Take Over Your Home, Part 2: Orca the Rabbit that Peed (But Is Really An Awesome Bunny)

Before I tell the tale of Orca the Rabbit That Peed (But Is Really An Awesome Bunny) I should tell you that I have never fostered an animal in my entire life, largely because I could never wrap my head around "But I have to give it back?". Obviously I did not bring Orca back to Red Door, since I am about to tell you how he ended up living with us all the time forever.

So. The tale of Orca the Rabbit That Peed (But Is Really An Awesome Bunny). 

Orca waits for lettuce to fall from the sky
After adopting Squid in March 2013, I thought I'd offer up some fostering space in my home to give a Red Door bun a break from shelter life. Liz and Toni were super stoked; "Rayn Man" was a shelter favorite and had a very rough start when Red Door found him.

Rayn Man was Easter Bun #4, found in late April after Chicago received an absurd amount of rain, hopping around in Gompers Park. His weight was low, he was dirty, but worst of all were his feet and the underside of his body: Rayn's feet were blackened and burnt by a chemical or hot asphalt and those burns affected some of his genitalia and belly. He was in so much pain.

Poor little guy.

Was he even going to survive? Red Door wasn't sure. But after several visits to Chicago Exotics, cold laser therapy to his injured feet, and many oral and topical meds later, Rayn Man started to improve. In August 2013, after Rayn had grown most of the fur on his feet back (yay!!) and he had his neuter and was healed, he came home for a spoiled vacation with my family. He was friendly to everyone who visited with him. It was clear he loved people. When we had to put cream on his bald hocks he let us trance him to treat his feet. Wow - so easy!

Orca's first day

But then there was his pen, which after the first 24 hours was soaked in pee. He was using his litterbox too, but in his brain I think he was under the impression that the entire pen was his litterbox. And anything else soft, like carpet, was also a litterbox. And people were his litterbox. In short, the entire world was his litterbox. So we changed the blankets and cleaned up the vinyl and cleaned the carpet. No big deal. New living space, new territory to mark. I get it. I'm just glad that humans don't pee on things to establish themselves. Ew. Anyway.
How to make sure no one steals your food: stand on all of it
My husband left town for 4 days for work. In the 4 days he was gone, I went from being completely overwhelmed by Rayn and his pee (and jumping out of his 3' pen when he heard a bag of treats shaking and not being able to trance him on my own to get his foot cream on and cleaning up pee after pee after pee) to asking my husband over the phone if Rayn could become a permanent rabbit in our home.

Rayn Man is now Orca Kenpachi Rayn Man, because of his black and white coloring, his [secret] intelligence, his size, and predatory drive for food. He has gotten loads better about using his litterbox exclusively. It is still funny when I hear "ORCAAAAAA" from the other room because HE HAS JUST PEED ON MY HUSBAND, but it is not so funny when he pees on me. Despite his accidents he is my only rabbit that understands "go potty"; he will jump in his litterbox and pee or give you a look kind of like a 2-year old does when he/she doesn't have to pee. He juices lettuce, is a little green around the mouth sometimes, and then makes Jackson Pollock paintings on everything in my home with lettuce juice while he air drums his paws dry. 

Have you ever seen a green rabbit? Well now you have.

Orca has zero rabbit etiquette and has [unfortunately] been rejected by both of my other rabbits as a suitable penmate. However, Squid has decided that he is ok to share her living room with, so they can both be out together, even if she's poking him in the butt with her nose every few minutes (I secretly think that she does this to provoke a giant Orca pop-straight-up-in-the-air binky, which happens every time).

Squid thinks, "Dude, you are such a mess."

We're not exactly sure if Orca is a rabbit. It is very possible that he is an alien like the Disney character, Stitch. It's ok though - he is the best snuggler, he will periscope to kiss your nose, and he is the most expressive rabbit in our warren. Despite his resilience to, well, almost everything, he is still terrified of thunder [most likely from spending all that time outside in the storm], and he loathes the screech that cardboard boxes make when you are folding the sides of them in.

Stitch and Orca: separated at birth

So I failed with my first foster. That's ok, right? Because he got a furever family? Maybe I'll try fostering again someday...
Orca today - cleaner than ever with his trademark green chin