So I continue to go to the Fat Fluffs rabbit sanctuary on a Wednesday morning when I can, which is about 3-4 times a month. Officially Fi and I take it in turns so I don’t have to go every week, but I like to. This is quite something as it involves voluntarily getting up at 8:30 on what is now one of my days off from work. I try to avoid rising during single-digit hours, but I’ll do it for those buns.
Our motivation for going in the first place, beyond wanting to help, was to learn how to look after our own rabbits more effectively, so we specifically go when the health checks happen. Each rabbit there gets a thorough look over at least once a week, starting with the eyes, nose, teeth, ears, feet and bottom. A few of the permanent residents have front-end issues but mostly it bright eyes and clean noses. The back-ends are another issue.
Problems mostly arise in rabbits that, for some reason, can’t clean themselves. Some are old and arthritic, some are stupid and don’t realise they shouldn’t sit in their wee, some are overweight and can’t reach the nether regions (these are mostly new arrivals who’ve been loved a bit too much). And when this happens they need some help.
I’ve found that not only am I very good at cleaning a rabbit’s bottom, I really enjoy it. Which is not something I thought I’d ever type.
Here I am with Walt, a white rabbit who should not be that yellow underneath. He will be joining the permanent residents soon but for now is on his own. He had quite the mucky bum.
My hands are in this position because the fur on Walt’s back legs has matted hard. This is effectively the palms of his feet and the fur is needed to protect his skin as he walks around, so we can’t just cut off the matted bits as you might elsewhere. They gunk needs to be worked free by rubbing it between my fingers before combing it out.
It’s quite slow work and I need both hands so the rabbit needs to be fixed in place. Unfortunately the best way to do this is to “trance” the rabbit by putting it on its back. This puts them into panic mode where they “play dead”, so while Walt looks all snuggled up here, he’s actually terrified. Ideally I should have him sitting upright in my lap, but he’d kick and wriggle too much and this job is more important. With the rabbits that need extra care it’s a bit of a trade-off and trancing is usually the only way to go.
They do get their revenge sometimes though. You’ll notice this hoodie has lots of holes. These were mostly made this morning by blind Sweep who had a particularly pooey bottom which needed extra work from which he kept wriggling free from and biting the shite out of my clothes. Later on Rupert, a very grumpy 11 year old rabbit, bit my bicep through three layers leaving a little red welt. And, of course, I still have the awesome face scratch from Bert last month.
But it’s worth it. Last week there was a shortage of volunteers and I found myself health checking about 30 rabbits, and what’s great is my diagnoses are getting better and better. I check everything with the staff, obviously, but more and more my assumptions are correct. And that’s really reassuring.
Back home, Bunminster has been getting a bit arthritic. It’s nothing major and he’s still running around the garden but we’ve noticed he sits funny, or doesn’t lift himself fully when he doesn’t really need to. As with the older rabbits at Fat Fluffs, he’s been getting a mucky bum. Sometimes it a wet tail, sometimes it’s mud from the garden that he can’t clean, rarely it’s a full-on poo fest. So after work I’ve been heading down to the shed, wedging him on my lap and gently teasing his fur clean with my fingers and an increasing collection of specialist brushes.
He hates it, of course, but I find it oddly relaxing.