Alley Animals - Newsletter

Summer 2004 Edition
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Seven Lonely Years

by Lillian G. Leslie

In This Issue:

He wasn’t mistreated for the seven years of his life, he was cared for the way humans usually care for his kind. He lived in a cage approximately l’ by 3', large enough to house him, a litter pan, and a food bowl. He was fed each day, and one could even assert he had more in life than many -- occasionally he was let out of his cage for brief amounts of time. When the family who kept him gave him to us, the only visible sign of neglect was the length of his toenails which were so long they had begun to curl. But his coat was healthy and his weight good. The family was giving him up, they said, because they decided to get a cat.

I don’t know whether Truly was purchased as an “Easter bunny”, but if he was, he lasted as a “pet” longer than most who end up in solitary confinement in a hutch in the backyard. Truly lived on a porch and had the benefit, at least, of watching people come and go, even if they gave him no attention; he didn’t spend his time in complete isolation and boredom
Originally the rabbit was seen as a symbol of fertility in spring, the hope of a fruitful crop and bountiful harvest. On a misguided path, we attached the rabbit symbol to the spring event of Easter, the original intent replaced by the Easter Bunny, a bringer of eggs and candies for children. Instead of learning the meaning of Easter, children now look on the day as one that will yield colored eggs and all manner of sweets in a basket, and possibly the thrill of a real baby bunny. If only we had let the rabbit symbol be what it was, an emblem of hope for a bountiful crop; if only we hadn’t forcibly intertwined two concepts having nothing to do with each other -- the symbol of bounty on the one hand, and on the other, the occasion of offering children a basket of goodies -- perhaps millions of infant rabbits would not be bred and sacrificed at the altar of our entertainment. It is, after all, in the name of our children’s entertainment or amusement that we purchase baby bunnies each year at Easter. The novelty wears thin quickly and the bunnies either live in wire-bottomed cages and endure unending loneliness or wind up returned to the pet store or other animal merchant to face an end they do not deserve.

But I have digressed from the story of Truly, whose family probably believed they were responsible caretakers and, by ordinary standards, they were. We are a society that accepts lower standards for keeping animals such as rabbits because we fail to instruct ourselves about them and we don’t care enough about them as living beings to be bothered with seeing the world from their point of view. Thus, we cage them in wire and leave them in solitary confinement. I don’t understand how a thinking person would conclude that a cage offering barely enough room to move around is proper housing for any sentient creature, yet we routinely bring animals home without thinking through what consequences our choices will deliver to those who have no say in their own future. For good or ill, they are at our mercy.

Truly was not mistreated or abused, but without room to move around and no one to keep him company, he lived out his days. Yes, there were brief intervals when he got to come out of the cage, but always to be put back in and left alone.

After seven years, Truly now lives with another rabbit. The two, once alone and lonely, enjoy the benefits of having someone to play with, to groom, to lie next to, and of having someone to talk to, which I am convinced rabbits do in their distinctively rabbitine manner. They have a choice of beds to relax in, enough room to kick up their heels if they wish to, and (unlike so very many other rabbits) Truly will never again sit uncomfortably on wire for hours on end, waiting for a few minutes of attention.

(Like people, animals need companionship. Truly and Pardon thrive on each other’s company after having lived so long without the love of another.)


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