Rescue rabbit is this family’s other kid
By Cathryn Rakich
Dakota, a fluff ball of a rabbit, has made himself right at home with his new family. In fact, he has pretty much taken over their Carmichael residence. A large wire pen has a permanent place in the great room. Cardboard boxes of varying sizes line up to form a tunnel in one corner. Small, inexpensive rugs are strewn about for better traction under those bunny feet.
“He lives in the center of our activities,” says Yunny Chen. “Rabbits are very social, and we try to have him as close to us as possible, whether we are on the computer, enjoying a TV show or eating a meal.”
Chen and her husband, Jerry Huang, and their children, Olivia and Gabriel, adopted Dakota when he was 10 months old from the Sacramento House Rabbit Society, an all-volunteer, nonprofit rescue organization.
“My kids always wanted a pet,” comments Chen. As first-time pet owners, the family elected to start out small. “Fish and hermit crabs,” Chen notes. “But they were not very satisfying as far as interaction goes.”
Then, about three years ago, the family had the opportunity to bunny-sit the elementary school’s class rabbit over the holiday break. “We got a good taste of what it was like to have a rabbit at home,” says Chen. The bunny returned to the school, but the kids were smitten. “My daughter kept bugging me,” adds Chen, who still had concerns about how a cottontail would fit into their busy schedule. Finally, at the end of last year, the family went to an HRS adoption day at a local Petco.
“I warned the kids that we were just going to visit with the rabbits,” notes Chen. “But my son saw Dakota. He was being walked around the adoption area on a leash like a dog. That was a sight to behold. And that was pretty much the end of ‘just looking.’”
Dakota is a mix of two breeds: English Spot and Lionhead. He shows his Lionhead side with a silky mane that encircles his head. As with all HRS bunnies, Dakota was neutered prior to adoption. “There are so many rescued rabbits—the shelters are overwhelmed,” says Chen. “Even if you have a preference for a specific breed, you’re almost certain to find what you want without going to a pet store or breeder.”
Chen is also quick to give kudos to HRS, which she says was “incredibly supportive.” Brandon, the HRS volunteer who fostered Dakota, “guided us through the purchase of new supplies and offered us his invaluable experience as a longtime rabbit owner.”
With good care from the Chen/Huang family, Dakota can live to be 8 to 10 years old. He is an indoor-only bunny and does his business in a litter box. “He is super clean. He grooms all day,” says Chen.
The family can attest to a rabbit’s natural instinct to chew: carpet, wood floors, baseboards, door moldings. In his quest, Dakota chewed through a TV cable and lamp cord. As a result, the great room is now bunny-proof, including the addition of cord protectors on all electrical wiring. “He’s fast,” says Chen. “You turn your back for one minute and he’s already chewed through a cord.” According to HRS, “it’s like bringing a chewing and digging machine into your house.”
To satisfy Dakota’s need to annihilate, he is gifted with recycled toys made of pressed cardboard, such as egg cartons and coffee-cup carriers. When he starts to chew on the furniture, the family was instructed to just say no. “But it doesn’t work,” notes Chen with a grin. “He just looks at us and goes back to what he was doing.”
What do the bun loaf, the Superman and the dead bunny flop have in common? They are Dakota’s sleeping positions. “There is the loaf,” explains Chen. “He tucks everything in and looks like a loaf of bread. Then there is the splayed-out Superman position: arms and legs straight out.
“The dead position is where he flops over to his side and looks dead,” Chen says. “The kids will poke him—is he alive?” According to HRS, the family should be proud that they have created a blissful environment for their bun. Because rabbits are prey animals, the flop is a sign that their cottontail feels safe enough to let his guard down.
Dakota, like most rabbits, tends to be active in the mornings and late evenings. “He flies around the house,” says Chen. “You can hear him. He’s fast. Two bounces and he’s up on the couch. He does crazy runs and twists in midair. It’s an expression of happiness.”
What is the most frustrating thing? “Hair all over the house,” laments Chen. “I don’t bother putting away my vacuum anymore. I’ve bought one year’s worth of lint rollers.”
Chen refers to Dakota as their other kid. “Being a first-time rabbit owner is daunting, kind of like being a first-time parent,” she says. “You don’t know what is normal and what is not.” But the adoption has been a positive experience thanks to HRS. “They made the entire process less of a mystery so that we could enjoy Dakota more.”
For information adopting a bun yourself, visit the Sacramento House Rabbit Society at allearssac.org.
Cathryn Rakich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.