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Shark Week is not the same as Easter

26 Mar

Rufus the shark has been feeling a bit down lately.

Rufus the shark, all alone.

Easter is coming up, a holiday that is epitomised by rabbits (amongst other things: painted eggs, fluffy chicks, quaint baskets, etc).  Peabody and Emerson have been getting a lot of attention and it has made Rufus realise there isn’t a holiday that he feels a part of.  Peabody and Emerson have tried to help Rufus feel welcome to celebrate Easter with them, and while he appreciates the effort it’s just not the same.  I mean, he knows there is Shark Week, but that’s not very big over here.  And besides, it doesn’t come close to something like Easter.  He has needs too, and they aren’t being met.  He is tired of being misunderstood.  He longs for a family to open their home (and hearts) to him.  But just like sharks, rabbits can be misunderstood creatures too.

Around this time of year it is impossible to move without seeing a cute fluffy rabbit.  They’re everywhere: in adverts on telly and in magazines, on packaging in shops up and down the country, and rabbit-themed merchandise is rife.  It is no wonder that sales of pet rabbits explode at Easter, and pet shops up and down the country have already ‘stocked up’ with baby bunnies to maximise opportunity; it is at this time of year that children beg, nag, and whine to their parents for a lovely fluffy Easter bunny, until they finally give in.

But new rabbit owners often realise they have made a mistake in the weeks and months after Easter when the reality of how much time and money is required to care for their new rabbit hits home.  Rabbit welfare group Make Mine Chocolate! is once again campaigning hard to put a stop to the Easter rabbit impulse buy.  “By asking people to consider a chocolate or toy rabbit instead of a real rabbit at Easter, potential new owners have time to think about the commitment they need to make before it is too late” reports campaign manager Lisa Whitty.

The current rabbit welfare statistics are worsening year on year, with now an estimated 67,000 rabbits passing through rescue each year (RWAF data).  A Make Mine Chocolate! rescue survey revealed that 60% of rabbits entering rescue do so within a year of purchase and it is no surprise to those involved in rescue the main reason being given is the ‘child has lost interest in the pet’.

Make Mine Chocolate! has produced a short list of things to consider before getting a rabbit:

• Accommodation needs to be big and predator proof, with space to exercise and also to stay warm and dry.

• Rabbits need annual vaccinations against Myxomatosis and Viral Haemorrhagic Disease (VHD).

• A rabbit can cost over £1000 a year to look after correctly – and that’s if they stay well!

• Rabbits should live in neutered pairs for companionship and other species are not suitable companions.

• Rabbits can live for 10 years or more.

• Rabbits must eat a diet of mostly hay – a pile at least the same size as the rabbit every day.

• Contrary to belief, rabbits don’t like being handled and are not suitable pets for young children.

So you see, just like sharks (but actually for completely different reasons), rabbits may not be the best choice as a pet for you and your family.  Please consider the commitment it takes before adopting or buying one.  A rabbit that is.  Not a shark.  Although you should seriously think about the commitment (and logistics) if you are considering adopting or buying a shark.  Can you even do that?  I mean, sorry Rufus, you’re cute and all, but I think the whole point of this is that not all animals make great pets, depending on your situation.  And sharks are probably better off in the wilds of the oceans.  Whereas rabbits are best off in a safe and secure home, with someone who understands their needs.

So beware of the Easter Bunny and think carefully before taking on a rabbit as a pet, and if you are going to buy one, then think about going to your local rescue shelter first.  Good rabbit rescues are a great place to learn about caring for rabbits correctly, and can often offer advice on their life-long care.

We recently adopted two rabbits from a local rescue centre and while they are a glorious addition to our home, I completely support everything that Make Mine Chocolate! are about.  In the short-time that we have got to know Peabody and Emerson I have learned a lot about rabbits as a species, their individual personalities, and the level of care, vigilance, and commitment it takes to provide fully for them.  And even despite the best level of care and concern, we have already had to visit the vet practice once for a case of bunny illness (and yes, we also pay for rabbit insurance, so add that to the list of costs).  They are wonderfully intelligent creatures, who are a joy to watch and interact with, but they certainly aren’t for everyone.  I hope this has given you some helpful information on a subject I think is incredibly relevant this week and coming weekend.  If you know someone considering a rabbit for Easter, please pass this along so they can make a fully informed decision before bringing one home to join their family.

Happy Easter!

Peabody, Emerson, and Rufus together for Easter.

Alison (and Peabody and Emerson and Rufus)

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Forget-Me-Not

10 May

On my walk to the train station yesterday I passed through the wood near our house and it was filled with forget-me-nots in full bloom.  It turns out their name is more appropriate than I had previously given it credit for.  As I walked down the path, the air warm, fragrant with the smell of Spring blossoming, the flowers swaying in a gentle breeze, and the sun peeking out behind the clouds, a memory was conjured up from the depths of my childhood in River John.

I am not sure how old I was, but I must have been five or younger.  My mother had gone to the shop and taken us with her for one reason or another (in this particular instance I think it was my brother Ryan and I).  We parked near the shop and she went into the Co-op and specifically told us to stay in the car.

But, while she was gone we sneaked out of the car and into the lot beside the shop.  We walked through the unkept greenery and trees and began to pick handfuls of forget-me-nots; pink and purple and blue… but mostly blue ones.  We gathered our handfuls together into a bunch and placed them on the steering column, for my mother when she got back into the car.  Then we got back into our seats and pretended like nothing had happened.

I am not sure what happened next, but I do have a vague memory of my mother getting back into the car, seeing the forget-me-nots, then presumably (rather quickly) deducing our actions, and turning around to smile at us in the back seat.

What strikes me most about this memory is not that it was so abruptly brought to mind when I saw the flowers yesterday morning, or even that I remembered it happening so clearly*, but the sensation that I get when I cast myself back into that memory; the feelings of being five years old again and taking part in a secret act to surprise my mother – the pure joy of knowing that despite my actions being in direct disobedience to her instructions, it was for the best of reasons and therefore it was terribly exciting, fun, and right.

*And if this memory turns out to be untrue (I am never sure if I can trust the memory of a five year old, let alone the memory of a five year old after twenty years have passed – maybe it never happened, maybe I have got all of the details incorrect, maybe…), it doesn’t really matter to me, because I know that yesterday morning for a few minutes while I walked through the woods I felt like I was five years old again and all that mattered was that I was going to let my mother know I loved her.

Happy (early) Mother’s Day Mum.

I love you.