I previously wrote about my sweet silver adventurer, Frank. But that post had a missing piece: his faithful companion, Sammy. From the moment we met, Sammy made one thing abundantly clear: he had no use for me whatsoever. But he and I had one thing that bound us. We both wanted Frank in our lives.
Sammy and Frank met one fateful day in a crowded municipal animal shelter that had run out of room. In a “Hail Mary” effort to make more space, the staff took the two bunnies and put them in the same cage. Though this might sound like a simple step, rabbits often don’t share space peacefully. It could have ended in a vicious fight, serious injuries, or even death. The chances of two males getting along is even lower than a mixed gender pair. But these two were instant best buds. Once bonded, separating them would be cruel.
So, when my adopting heart was stolen by sweet, affectionate Frank, Sammy was more a side effect than a choice. On his own I would never have considered Sammy. The dark spots ringing his eyes gave him a rather hollow, haunted look. At the shelter, he hopped away in horror every time I tried to interact with him. In fact he never really warmed up to anyone but Frank. He viewed all humans with an apprehension that came across as disdain, leaving me to apologize on his behalf to family and friends who came to visit.
Not that Sammy was a bad guy. He would never hurt a flea. Human touch just wasn’t his thing, so it took me a while to appreciate his personality.
Little Goth Hell-Raiser
First off, Sammy had a lot of energy. Often while Frank was snoozing, he’d set out on bunny safaris. Sometimes I would catch him in acts of derring-do: stealing paper from my desk or poaching used tea bags out of the trash can.
Other times I’d merely find evidence of exploits like extensive behind-the-toilet excavations.
Where Frank was a bit of a lounge lizard, Sammy spiced things up.
His activities centered around two great passions:
- free munchies
- good places to hide
Munchies didn’t have to be food. Any accessible scrap of paper was fair game. In fact, Sammy seemed to make a sport of spotting and snatching reachable documents off my desk. Fun for him, maybe, but I soon learned the hard way to securely store things like negotiable checks and legal documents!
However, sheltered nooks may have been the stronger of Sammy’s cravings. Having spent a lot of time and effort rabbit-proofing my home, I was intent on preventing damage from occurring in hidden lairs. I didn’t leave poor Sammy with enough hideouts to satisfy his taste.
One day the pet gate blocking the doorway to our bedroom was inadvertently left open and he managed to sneak in. There he discovered a truly magical spot: under the bed. He was so enamored of hiding there that, after that single episode he became obsessed. Thwarted by the henceforth well-secured gate, he literally gnawed the bottom two feet of wood off one side of the door frame in a desperate effort to get back in.
In retrospect, I might have saved that doorframe if I had offered an alternate hidey-hole to my dapple-furred buddy — something that was similar to his under-bed paradise, but in a freely accessible location.
In an effort to connect with this aloof roommate, I decided to try training. Neither of us had any previous experience, but Sammy proved to be an attentive student. Following the steps given in Joan Orr’s book “Getting Started Clicking with Your Rabbit,” he quickly learned to perform a nice little repertoire of behaviors: spin in a circle, hop up on a platform, stand up and beg, scamper through a tunnel. Sammy and I bonded over training. Like a dad and son going fishing, it was something we both enjoyed.
And occasionally — very rarely— Sammy would sidle up and submit his little head for pets. I can’t say what prompted him, and he never stayed around for very long. It was almost like he forgot his role and dropped out of character briefly, then caught himself and made a hasty exit. By their very rarity, he made his grooming solicitations a kind of honor, a source of wonder for those of us who knew him. Those Sammy-petting moments are still special in my memory.
My First Bonded Pair
Observing Sammy and Frank together taught me my first lessons in how happy bonded bunnies can be. Though they each had their own habits and interests, they spent time together each day: snuggled up sleeping, grooming one another, sharing meals and treats. It was clear from the efforts they both made to be together that their relationship mattered to them.
There was only one sign of discord: When supper was served, Sammy would often hump Frank on the way to the dinner table. Some say this is a way of establishing dominance in the relationship. Though it was uncomfortable for us to watch, and we sometimes tried to separate them, Frank never raised a strong objection. He just looked annoyed. He either didn’t mind much, or saw it as the price of maintaining the peace between them.
And having each other probably had other benefits. Research shows that bonded bunnies get more exercise, eat healthier, and suffer fewer eye afflictions than single ones do.
After about 8 years together, though, both boys’ health was failing. Sammy suffered repeated dental crises and bouts of gastrointestinal stasis, while Frank’s rear quarters became weak and unable to launch him into the litterbox. They passed away within a few months of each other, leaving a legacy of bonded bunnies in our household that lives on today.
The Fluffy Tail of This Blog Post
Though I freely admit Sammy will never rival my affection for Frank, I’m glad he was part of our lives. He kept his lop-eared pal happier and healthier than I could have done without him, and provided a steady stream of rabbit mischief to keep us amused and on our toes. He gave me my first training experience and made it a positive one. And he taught me that even a pet who isn’t sociable can be a source of joy.