My beautiful bunny Birch, a redeyed white bunny, has only three legs. He may not be the pick of the warren for many adopters, but I would not trade him for the world. I fell in love the minute I saw him!
At the time I was working at a local animal hospital with Dr. Astrid Kruse, an experienced rabbit vet, who really opened my eyes to the world of bunnies. One day there was a rabbit emergency; Dr. Kruse emerged cupping a tiny ball of white fluff in her hands. She was holding a four week old baby bunny with a badly broken leg. It seems his leg became wedged in his wire bottom cage, as he tried desperately to release it; the irreparable break occurred mangling the fragile leg. His owners decided that they were unable to care for him, so they surrendered the little injured bunny to us at the animal hospital. My heart went out to him. The thought of euthanizing this adorable baby rabbit was too much for us. Dr. Kruse decided to attempt an amputation, even though we both knew his chances were not good. Having made it through the surgery, we were cognizant the next 24 hours would be critical. The following day I was apprehensive as I came to work, fearful that he might not have survived the night. To my delight, he was recovering nicely. He was so cute; I thought my heart would break in two.
I named him Birch after the tree and brought him home with me to continue recuperating. My scheduled vacation was the following week and since I had grown so attached, I decided to take him along. The idea of leaving him alone for the week with a stranger was just unbearable. It was going to be interesting to see how he would manage with the loss of his hind leg. Initially he appeared not to realize that he was missing anything, except when it came time to scratch his ear on that side. To this day, his little stump gyrates like crazy when he has the urge to itch.
When he was young he easily dove across the floor; he still can, but not quite as quickly. Birch cannot do normal bunny binkies, but he definitely has his own version: a giant wiggle waggle as he throws his body into the air. When he gets excited he runs around in circles, especially when he hears pellets dropping into his food bowl. His remaining back leg has become quite strong and propels him in the general direction that he needs to go, whether it is across the room, through a tunnel, or dive-bombing into the litter box!
Birch fits perfectly in our household; he loves to goose the cats when they are not looking. His bunny girlfriend Malachai, whom he loves dearly, has been wonderful with him. Now that he is twice her size, he treats her sometimes as if she were his slave bunny. They enjoy snuggling and sleeping together, nevertheless if he gets too bothersome, his handicap allows her to escape for a peaceful siesta.
For Birch, one of his biggest obstacles is slippery floors: without a surface to get traction on, he slips and slides everywhere. His litter box habits are not perfect, so he really needs to be on a floor that is easily cleaned. After experimenting with different floorings, I set up a large area enclosed by an ex-pen in my kitchen, with dry dock as the flooring. This has worked nicely. He can get traction to binky, run in circles, or just move around! He may not be the most graceful guy, but he does quite well and this floor also helps him to stay clean. The dry dock allows bunny fecal pellets and any urine accidents to fall beneath it while the surface remains clean. The only drawback is ensuring that he does not nibble on it, but as long as he has a wicker house, cardboard tunnels, and plenty of hay, he usually does not bother with it.
Since he can only scratch one ear due to his handicap, I clean the other when excess wax collects there. This is definitely not his favorite thing. He may have only one back leg, but he can still give you a good kick! Another issue, he tends to lounge in his litter box on his amputated side while munching on hay. Regular cleaning of his “lay down” area is required.
I am watching his weight, especially as he gets older and, frankly, a little lazier! With eating being his favorite activity, I have to ensure that his food consists primarily of hay, a few vegetables, and a very small portion of pellets and treats. Of course, Malachai is a slender girl and the opposite she eats what she needs and that is it. My challenge is to make certain he does not get too much and she gets enough. Gaining weight is a concern, as it may diminish his mobility and his ability to reach his cecals.
Birch is living the good life now. He has his owner slave to feed, clean, and love him, and he even has the owner slave’s husband trained to fetch a baby carrot for him every morning. Then, he has his bunny girlfriend who tolerates his pushy attitude. She kisses, cleans, and cuddles with him. Upon his throne, King Birch the Bunny expects to be lavished with all he desires; as his slaves, we do our best to fulfill our positions!
Copyright 2008 Ellie Hulse
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