Last Thursday night was ultra traumatic. Aaron and Victoria presented themselves in the office as I was preparing a new post on my other blog, and Victoria announced that Aaron didn’t want Graham anymore.
“She scratched me when I was just trying to feed her!” Aaron protested through tears. And then, sobbing, “I don’t want Graham anymore!” He collapsed into my arms and continued to sob buckets.
Poor boy. Graham has become aggressive to the point of worrying me. I mean, she’s a bunny rabbit, so I could so totally take her, but she would do me some damage first. I reached into her cage about a week ago to pick her up and play with her, and she jumped from my grasp. I reached again, and she scurried around the cage, sending food flying in three directions. Given her aggressive behavior, I did not want to let her win this one, so I reached one more time. Lightning fast, she bit the heck out of my knuckle, striking a blood vessel and causing intense pain to the back of my hand. Although she didn’t really break the skin, there were literal TEETH MARKS in my hand!!! The bruise lasted five days. I was peeved, to say the least.
Two days later, she bit Aaron though she did not leave a mark on him. She hits with her paws, scratches, and generally acts a fool. There’s another word for her attitude. Five letters, starts with a “B” and it ain’t bunny!! I asked Aaron to explain the circumstances of the biting so I would understand Graham’s nature and intent in Aaron’s particular situation. I don’t think the bunnies have much going on upstairs, so I feel all of their reactions are instinctively defensive. But still. The darn thing bit my kid. Yet even when Graham had bitten him, Aaron explained to me, “It’s okay, Mommy. I still love her.”
So I completely understood his enormous heartbreak Thursday over Graham’s (possibly final) betrayal. As I explained to Dom, Aaron has taken care of that rabbit, risked limbs to feed and water her, stood up for her defense, and loved her through every tantrum. And now, here he is, realizing that it is all for nothing. Graham has no intention of giving back to Aaron the love he bestows on her. It’s a one-way street to the heartbreak hotel. I ached for him as his sobs ebbed and flowed. He is grieving the sweet pet that Graham couldn’t be. He painted her portrait in art camp this year, he had plans to write a paper about her in class, and he even considered the possibility of a rabbit science fair project. He did not say as much, but I am certain that each of those thoughts crept through his mind as I held him, and were the catalyst for each new wave of tears.
I assured Aaron that he would not have to make any decisions permanent right then. We would move Graham from his bedroom and determine later how to respond to the situation. I want Aaron to feel that he has control of the situation. He’s been betrayed by a pet, and right now he seems willing to cut his losses. With both kids crying over the thought of sending Graham back to the pet shop (will they take her back?) I wished so badly that we had just stuck with fish and dogs.
But, once again, God bless the Internet! I found the House Rabbit Society who offer advice for rabbit owners. Honing in on the article about aggressive behavior, I learned many things about our Graham Cracker. I learned that most of the things we are doing are triggering a frightened behavior in Graham that CAN be modified. Things like reaching into her cage, with our arms near her face…rabbits are farsighted, and when all they can distinguish is this blurry hand reaching toward them, they might freak out a bit. I guess I would too, really. As long as Graham does not feel safe in our home, she will continue to act out. So we have to alter our behavior in order to impact Graham’s.
More household changes in the works: I have now cleared out the playroom of as much clutter as I could, reorganized the remaining clutter, and barricaded all cords and dangerous chewables. Graham can now play as long as she wants all over the playroom, even enjoying her new favorite: burrowing in a sleeping bag. We have changed the manner in which we feed and water Graham, taking care to clean her cage while she is out of it and enjoying her playtime. Then, when she realizes that there is fresh hay in her cage, she willingly goes back in and the door is shut. No more trying to chase a rabbit all over the room, scaring her and wounding us.
Aaron is thrilled to know this is no longer a lost cause – that we can keep Graham and work toward changing her behavior by first changing our habits. She already seems happier. Here’s to positive change and a happy, healthy Graham Cracker!