Last week I celebrated 6 years with a bunny who could not be more loved. I also remedied a long oversight: the fact that while I have hundreds of photos of Derby, I have hardly any of us together. Often people don't really get the appeal of a house rabbit, save for the cuteness or novelty, until they see Derby interact with me. Then it is hard to deny. He is not only a worthy pet, but as dear a friend as any dog or cat could be. To celebrate him and to honor the beauty and vulnerability of all his kind, here is Derby in portraits.
Derby is around 9 years old. He was found wandering on the side of the road as an adult. He may have been a meat or fur rabbit who escaped slaughter, he may have been an outdoor pet frightened out of his hutch, or he could have been a dumped Easter bunny -- all of these are very common plights for such misunderstood animals. The kind woman who found him took him in, but she chose not to feed him the hay he needed or to bring him inside, even though that's what Carolina Pet Rescue told her to do when she called. Somehow, he kept his life and spirits even in the brutal heat of two North Carolina summers. Eventually his finder surrendered him to the rescue, but by then he faced health problems stemming from limited care.
Because of his ailments, Derby remained at the rescue for over a year. Everyone loved him but no one wanted to take on an animal that needed regular surgery. I didn't want to either. I wanted a little rabbit. A healthy rabbit. Heck, I wasn't sure I even wanted a rabbit; I'd never cared for one before, and until a few months before, I'd had all the usual prejudices about them being boring, messy, or mean. I had seen Derby's pictures and wasn't interested. He was huge, looked morose, and had issues. Fortunately, he was also wiser than I.
"We'd like you to meet Derby," said Kay Bishop, the veterinarian who runs the rescue. I didn't want to seem calloused, so I said "okay." Then he climbed on my lap and wouldn't leave.
In the weeks that followed I couldn't stop thinking about Derby, even though I knew adopting him was impossible on my graduate school stipend. I don't base decisions on emotions. Not usually. Still, I asked Kay to run some more tests, and somehow he came out healthy. On December 6, 2009, Derby came home with me.
Now Derby is my home. If I could trade everything I owned for the chance to have him with me always, I'd move into a shack and never waver.
So here's to Derby -- The Honourable Mr. Edmund Fitzwilliam Bunbury, M.P. for New Derbyshire. Here's to a pet who responds to at least 12 words, uses a litter box, jumps into my bed every morning to snuggle, travels like a champ, and can still jump three vertical feet at age 9. Hooray for six pounds of fluff that can open cupboards and climb in, an adorably strong will that slams his food bowl on the floor when he wants to be fed, and an impossibly cute little head that houses more brains than most of my family's dogs. Happy birthday, darling boy. Thank you for rescuing me.