SaveABunny volunteer Maitreya shared this story – enjoy!
I thought I was doing them a favor. Rob and my husband Mark were looking for a Shop-Vac with which we could vacuum up the pellets in the big pen where Little Joe, the svelte and handsome black bunny who, unfortunately, had to have one hind leg removed, lived with his compatriots. I wanted to get started on my work of massaging Little Joe’s sides and muscles, which were developing unevenly because of the lack of his leg. So I hunted around Marcy’s art room and found a Shop-Vac in the little laundry room right next door. I lugged it out to the bunny area and vacuumed up the pellets and hay in Little Joe’s x-pen, and then I put the Shop-Vac to the side, stepped into the pen, and started petting bunnies. It was heaven – everywhere I put my hand, there was a bunny under it. Nothing is more enchanting than being surrounded by bunnies: their little paws on my legs; their twitchy, whiskery noses bumping into my hands and sides and thighs asking politely, as bunnies do, for pets and attention; their soothing little honking sounds that tell me they’re happy; even their little nips when they want me to move or when they have, as Little Joe did, an amusing obsession for my shoelaces.
Nothing, I thought, could spoil this delight. How wrong I was. Rob and Mark came back into the room, bringing the giant Shop-Vac from downstairs when Rob noticed the little one I’d brought in from the laundry room. He asked, “What’s this? Where did –?” and I told him that I’d gone to the laundry room to get it. Alarm immediately flashed across his handsome, careworn face.
“No, no, that’s wrong; that can’t – no,” he said, and he leaped across the room to the little Shop-Vac, which was innocently squatting in the corner, blissfully ignorant of its complicity in my guilt.
“What’s wrong? What…?” I stammered. Today seemed like a day for incomplete sentences.
“That’s the vacuum for the toxic materials from Marcy’s kiln,” he said intensely. He was trying to grab the venomous vacuum cleaner and get it out of the bunnies’ room as quickly as possible, but he was struggling; it was still plugged in. I, still penned in Little Joe’s area, sat back on my knees, too aghast to unplug it for him or help him. In that small area, if I had stepped out of the pen, I would be standing on Rob’s back, and at that moment, more dead weight was the last thing he needed.
He got the Shop-Vac unplugged and raced out of the room with it. I had no idea what he was doing; presumably, he was emptying out the contaminated materials. I, however, was crying with humiliation and shame. When Rob came back in, calm as ever, I couldn’t even look at him. What an idiot I was, I thought. They’ll never let me come and groom bunnies again.
But Rob was unflappable. He bent over and showed me the proper way to massage Little Joe, who had taken cover – as any smart bunny would – during the chaos. He made his way back over to me and gave me a strength-restoring bitie, as I call bunny bites, to make me focus my attention on Rob’s ministrations. Rob told me how to massage Little Joe, and, once I had the hang of it, told me that Scooter, one of Little Joe’s pen-mates, could use some Maitreya-therapy as well. And then he left me to my mêlée of emotions: chagrin, embarrassment, cramped self-esteem, and calming bunny support.
And support was the right word. Poor Little Joe had only a stump where his left hind paw had been, so it was part of my job as deputized physical therapist to support his left side, allowing him to stand upright and hop that way. I had some trouble with that; Little Joe is a fast and active bunny, and I could barely keep up with him as he hopped/scrambled his way around the pen, through the water dish, into a cardboard tube, and then finally to the safety of the litterbox. I let him be and turned my back so that he could have some privacy, and petted the other bunnies until he came back to me of his own accord. It was not long before he did, and he announced his presence by giving me a double dose of bities. He had made it clear: he was the alpha bunny, and I was there to attend to his needs, feed him bits of carrots, and amuse him with my shrieks of pain when he bestowed on me his mighty bities.
Part 2 of “Grooming Little Joe” coming soon… stay tuned!