I began to foster Fiddy in early June, just a few days after my previous foster bunny, Malcolm, was adopted by a lovely woman and left to live the good life in San Jose. I was happy he found his forever home, but a little teary and depressed at his departure. Malcolm, you see, was an extra special bunny who charmingly dribbled bright green parsley juice all over his white chin and chest while eating his evening salad and had the most adorable turned-out front paws, like a furry ballet dancer. In short, Fiddy had some pretty big paws to fill.
I stopped by SaveABunny to pick up a new foster, and chose Fiddy, who, Marcy explained, had been turned into a shelter after biting a little boy. Labeled “aggressive” and “a biter,” he was taken in by SaveABunny.
I brought him home and he settled into his new space, a 4 x 6’ pen with all the usual accoutrements – blanket-lined floor, litter box, hay rack, water bottle, several cardboard boxes to hide in, and some plastic toys — then let him be for several hours, but chatting him whenever I walked by. This is my usual routine for fosters, to allow them time and space to become adjusted to their new situation and explore their living quarters in private. Besides, since he was an aggressive biter, I was so not looking forward to our first human-to-bunny encounter!
Later in the evening I dressed carefully for our first “formal” introduction – heavy fleece pants, thick wool socks and long-sleeved sweatshirt to protect every square inch of flesh that I possibly could. I considered fleece gloves, but figure that was overkill, since I would probably be too busy limping around with bunny teeth clamped to my ankle to worry about my hands.
I gingerly stepped into Fiddy’s pen and instantly he charged out from under his cardboard box heading straight for my leg. I braced for an attack. But…nothing. I looked down and there he was, sitting next to my ankle, and it sure looked like he was doing a little bow, which, in bunny language is a request for attention. “Ha,” I thought, “This isn’t my first time at the bunny rodeo, I ain’t falling for that trick,” and walk a few steps away. He followed and bowed. This is not going like how I expected.
I decided to carefully sit down, with my unprotected hands in the air, like a victim of a bunny hold-up. Fiddy hopped over and calmly sat next to my right knee, gave it a quick double nose bump, and looked at me expectantly.
Ever so slowly I lowered my hand and gave his head a tiny little rub, ready to snatch it back the instant he turns his head to bite. But he didn’t. He stretched out and closed his eyes, drifting off to bunny paradise. I thought, “Did I take the correct bunny? This Fiddy, right? The aggressive bunny?”
So then I really pushed my luck. I picked him up and put him on my lap. Hey, sometimes I like to live dangerously. To my surprise he stayed put, a limp and dreamy bundle of black fur, his tiny chin resting on my knee while I stroke his head, clearly reveling in all the attention and affection, absorbing it, and really taking it all in.
After about 20 minutes I needed to stretch so I gently pick him up and placed him on the ground and began to uncross my legs. He instantly jumped up and, running at full speed, leapt straight into my lap. As I sat there in astonishment (everyone knows that bunnies hate sitting on laps), he leaned over, kissed my leg and looked at me as if to say “More head rubs, pleeeeze?” I gave him a little pet and put him on the ground. Again, he ran and jumped right into my lap. After several tries, I finally manged to leave, with Fiddy throwing himself against the pen, begging for attention.
And so ended my first encounter with Fiddy the Aggressive Bunny.
Within the first day or so I learned that Fiddy does indeed use his teeth, but not aggressively. It is simply his way to explore. While most bunnies approach new objects warily, sniffing first, then licking, using their lips, then perhaps taking an exploratory little nibble, Fiddy is reckless in this regard, running full force up to anything that comes into his environment (toy, food bowl, finger) and having at it. It is not an expression of anger, but an overabundance of enthusiasm and eagerness for novelty.
Yes, his teeth have met my hand several times, until he recognized my smell, and now when I reach my hand into his pen, he charges up, stops on a dime, and lowers his head for a rub. He is learning to slow it down, especially after bumping his nose on my vacuum a bunch of times.
Perhaps this behavior will extinguish itself as he matures, but until such a time, it is ridiculously easy to compensate and compromise. Hold the food bowl on the far side when setting it down. Say something before stepping in his pen so he knows it’s just my foot and not a new toy. Don’t have banana smeared on my fingers before giving him a pet.
In return, Fiddy is the most affectionate and loving bunny I have every had the privilege of fostering. He flings his whole body into full relaxation mode when in my lap (I call them “Fiddy Flops”). He kisses my knees. Plus, on special occasions, he grooms my entire face – licking my forehead, carefully smoothing eyebrows, gently cleaning the corners of each eye, diligently covering ever inch of cheek and nose, and brushing away any crumbs I may have left on my chin. That is one of the highest honors a bunny can bestow on you. Besides, it feels so darn good!