He was a beautiful silver-gray lop whose deep brown eyes seemed almost lost in the drape of his ears. Silky soft, he was only too happy to let my fingers gently stroke him for as long as I liked. I’d never had a lop, always wanted one. He was perfect. There was just one hitch.
It had taken an hour to drive from home to the rescue’s nondescript glass storefront in an office park. After checking in, I was directed into a large, windowless room filled end to end with exercise pens housing hopeful buns.
I visited each one, looking for that stand-out rabbit. Amid a multitude to choose from, only one tugged at my heart. “Buttercup” was a marshmallow of pure love. Whenever I drew near he scurried to present his head for pets, and would settle in, delirious, for as long as I would stroke it.
But here was the catch: his distinctly unfriendly roommate, Prince, was part of the deal: a non-lop with dark, perpetually furrowed eyebrows, who skittered away in disgust whenever I offered my hand. As a bonded pair, they were a package deal: take them both or leave them.
This pair’s story was probably what sealed the deal. Each rabbit had been surrendered separately from different families to the same crowded municipal shelter. With more animals arriving, the beleaguered staff had exhausted their last bit of space. So they decided to try housing the two males together in a “Hail Mary” attempt to avoid euthanizing anyone. Miraculously, they fell in love at first sight, buying themselves and all their fellow shelter inhabitants more time to be rescued. In the process, each gained a friend for life.
So, home we went. My first order of business after getting them settled was changing their names. Despite his sweet nature, “Buttercup” had the look of a distinguished gentleman in my view. Such a frilly moniker robbed this rabbit of his inherent dignity. Prince sounded a bit snooty, too. These inseparable bonded boys needed names with a bit of style, and what better than the famous ’50’s Rat Pack — or in their case, Rabbit Pack. That’s how my beautiful silver boy became Frank (Sinatra) and his sidekick (is there a better word? Partner in crime?) was dubbed Sammy (Davis, Jr.).
As if by prophecy, Frank did eventually become a singer! Much like his predecessor in my home and heart, Elwood , he could often be heard in his later years crooning softly to himself. Granted, he never developed the volume and range that Elwood had.
I lived in a two-story house in those days. The kitchen had just been remodeled, including a nook under the counter designed to house a good-sized litter bin. Area rugs led from there, via the dining room, down the hallway and into the living room. The boys had lots of space to run around, just as Elwood had had.
Upstairs were the master bedroom and my office, where I worked from home five days a week. I’d never bothered to rabbit-proof up there, since the steps had always been the equivalent of a rabbit moat for Elwood.
With these new bunnies, it appeared that status-quo would remain. Frank, in particular, was a devotee of dozing. Never much of a bunstructive guy, his primary hobbies were napping and being adored. His flopsy ears gave him an advantage in the Lounge Olympics, creating poses of complete unselfconscious relaxation, unparalleled by his peers. But after a few months of what seemed like contented life, Frank set himself a formidable task: Climb the stairs!
I don’t know what came over him. The Everest of his ambition was a varnished wood escarpment. To Frank’s very furry paws, scaling it was a bit like ice skating up a pyramid. Being a hefty boy with a particularly ponderous behind, my love bug’s physique was a serious handicap for his chosen pursuit. His first half-dozen attempts all culminated in catastrophic loss of footing, leading to unchoreographed semi-vertical tap-dances and indecorous crashes onto the hallway floor.
But Frank refused to give up. After several days of punishing attempts, he managed the entire journey. He was finally upstairs!
Sammy hung back and watched at first, but he wasn’t about to let Frank out of his sight. So, lighter and more agile than his pal, he followed suit with far less drama.
From then on, every morning after breakfast all three of us would head up to my office to spend the day. Me, at the computer or on the phone. Them, napping together under whichever piece of furniture struck their mood, playing with toys, or noshing the hay in their new upstairs litter box.
In the evening, everyone’s supper was served downstairs. I’d go first, but when I had set out their supper I’d call up the stairwell and down they would clamber — mostly without incident, though occasionally Frank would still slip and tumble down a few steps, announcing his journey with a loud scrabble and a thud.
By contrast, when it came to social occasions, Frank was much smoother. He loved everyone he met, and they were all enchanted by him. Calm and friendly, he’d submit to whatever sort of affection was on offer, winning hearts and bringing smiles. Meanwhile Sammy, his aloof, goth-styled counterpart, would scurry off to a corner and glower.
Frank was always good natured. The only thing he ever showed enmity towards was The Broom, and this only later in life. If I tried to sweep up hay or errant poops in his vicinity, he would lunge, growl, and attack! Only years later did I learn from animal behavior study that this probably reflected fear more than aggression on his part.
My sweet lop stayed with me for 8 years — through a divorce, a move to a new city, and a new human partner who fell in love with him, too. Limited to one room of my smaller condo space, he was content within these boundaries. His adventuring days were over.
As he became aged, the back legs that once scaled tall staircases grew weak and unable to launch him into the litter box. I bought a modified model with a lowered front lip to make it easier for him. That worked for a while, but in time he became incontinent. His lifelong buddy, Sammy, passed away, leaving him too feeble to clean himself and too frail to be subjected to a bonding. His muscles withered and his beautiful silver coat lost its sheen. He slipped away from us, but left the gift of many happy memories.
The Fluffy Tail of This Blog Post
Frank was a delightful, lovable creature. One whose memory I treasure individually for his sweet temperament, but which will always be inseparable from his far less affable sidekick, Sammy. While in some ways it’s hard to write about the two separately, I feel like Sammy, legendary in his own way, deserves his own post. So I’ll leave his story for a future article.