Mother of a Man-Child

My life with teenage boys

A life lesson with family pets June 14, 2013

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rabbitsA little over a year ago we finally took the plunge and got the first ever pets in our family. The men-children were a little peeved by the fact that Sister of a Man-Child was actually allowed to have pets, when they never had been – clearly a moment of weakness by us, influenced by some very cute baby rabbits at a friend’s house one weekend. We were soon afterwards the proud owners of Hazel and Squeak, two very cute Mini-Lop rabbits bought from the pet shop – we even got two because we didn’t’ want them to be lonely (yep, totally sucked in).

Like all good pet-owners, we bought everything – the hutch, the pen, the toys, the special bowl and drink bottle. At night we were so worried they would be cold we initially kept them in the laundry, then when eventually we realised they stank out a small room pretty quickly, we put them outside, and covered the hutch in an old blanket. In summer, it was ice block containers to keep them cool and wet towels – yep, totally besotted.

The up side of rabbits is they clean themselves, eat the grass, and don’t make a noise. But as anyone with pets knows, there’s always some responsibility. They need feeding regularly, they should visit the vet at least once a year, they need their hutch kept clean, and they need to be kept safe.

Of course, like all good plans, they are prone to fail. So you can imagine pretty quickly who ended up feeding them, cleaning out the hutch, and caring for them – yep Mother of a Man-Child and Father of a Man-Child!!

When you have a pet, you learn about animals through close observation. We learned their joy at freedom – they would literally pirouette with excitement as they ran around the garden, and we knew when they were angry or scared – thumping their feet. Like any child caught doing the wrong thing, they knew when they were in trouble (Squeak caught digging again)! And they knew just how to nibble at your ankles to make you forgive them everything and give them an extra treat.

We did make a funny discovery some months after we got our two female rabbits from the pet shop (the owner even double checked the sex at my insistence), when we worked out that Hazel was actually Hamish!!!! A very angry call to the pet shop resulted in him paying for the snip for Hamish, fortunately before Squeak was pregnant (much to the disappointment of our kids). Seems Mr Pet Shop also didn’t tell us that these Mini-Lops were anything but Mini – they’re bigger than any rabbit I’ve seen!

Anyway, Hamish (post-snip) was actually pretty placid, but Squeak was a bit more work. I wonder if she was in need of the “snip” herself, as she became an incessant digger, constantly trying to dig her way out of their enclosure. When we eventually relented and let them be free range, she naturally dug her way into the next-door neighbours, with Hamish following close behind – never mind the dog. Ratbags!

When we overhauled the backyard, replacing the never-growing grass with a wonderful deck, it did create a challenge for our rabbits. Initially they had a ball, under the deck and house constantly, always coming back for dinner, until we discovered they’d eaten through the telephone wire!! Our Houdini’s seemed to find a way everywhere, including out into the front garden one day as well.

Eventually as we kept them confined to the backyard and realised they were slowly eating the garden, and digging their way to China, we decided the side of the house (100% concrete) was to become the rabbit run. And so it was, until just recently. Not ideal, but the best option we had. And then the last straw – we discovered that they had started eating the weatherboards, probably in protest and boredom, not in hunger I assure you!!!

It was then we finally discussed getting rid of the rabbits, for two reasons, one, to save our home and two, because quite frankly it was a bit cruel keeping them in a concrete enclosure (even though they were well fed and kept). And as you would expect, gradually Sister of a Man-Child spent less and less time with them too, which was a sticking point every weekend when we cleaned out the hutch.

So we broached the subject with our daughter, who understood our point, but was adamant they stay. Eventually, we made the decision for her, and said they had to go. Our ad for two free rabbits along with all accessories was responded to very quickly (Gumtree + “Free” guarantees success), and they were picked up the same night, with tears from our daughter and also some genuine sadness on our part. It was like giving away your children. I spent a sleepless night worrying about them – did we give them to the right person? Would they be well looked after? Were they cold, hungry, scared in unfamiliar surroundings?

The next day I sent a quick text to the new owner, checking on them under the pretence of my daughter’s anxiety (not my own of course). Thankfully he assured me they were fine, and in fact because it was raining he had them inside. Music to my ears!!!! I was so happy they were in an environment where they will be cared for, looked after, and even spoilt, alongside his other many pets.

So is it a happy ending? Well sort of. We have experienced the joy of pets, good for all of us, and also the loss of them in a roundabout way. Our holidays will be easier, as we won’t need to worry about finding someone to feed/water them every day (I even had them booked into a holiday camp over Xmas), and our house and garden will remain intact. To appease my daughter I am framing some photos of her and her rabbits for posterity – they are all very cute!

She’s already asking if she can have a cat, or dog – NO!! Been there, done that. As I said, we’re all better for the experience, but also wiser. 🙂

So tell me are you a pet family? Did you stop at one, or is there a growing menagerie in your home? Who cares for them in your house – the kids or parents? Have you ever given away a pet?

Here’s my post when we originally got our gorgeous bunnies: New Additions to the Family


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