This is a recent picture from Canadian BIB VRT, Marina Hebert. (The facilities do NOT allow picture reprints or posting on social media.) I notice first how relaxed and happy the rabbit appears-- "loafing" and very content with her friend at a children's hospital in Vancouver, BC. I love the ample blanket, and the gentle handling. The little girl's smile melts my heart.....truly.....and I can only imagine how much happiness this visit is providing. BIG TAKEAWAYS: The "lap visit" is working beautifully here. The blanket is very appropriate. The petting is soothing and respectful. The rabbit and participant seem very happy. I need a kleenex!
My first thought---what a GREAT carrier! I love that it's open for petting, has handles, and provides space, security and several inches of comfy lining. The rabbit is facing the participant (in an adult facility for developmental challenges). The participant's hand is safely (and affectionately) petting the rabbit's back. The potential for eye contact in this encounter cannot be minimized---it's a powerful way to connect. The participant is comfortable, the rabbit seems very happy and the "box" is a wonderful idea!
This group setting seems to be working well for Marina's rabbit and the participants. Not all rabbits enjoy the freedom to engage this way, but if yours does, it's a great way for several people to have an experience with one rabbit in one visit. The rabbit appears to be seeking attention, but I'm not concerned that the participants are focused elsewhere. It's a nice distraction to have "rabbit energy" included during a difficult (or even ordinary) meeting, or discussion. I don't know what the topic is, but I do know that teens are more likely to engage when an interested animal is present.
Some bunnies are REAL kissers! Sophia is a bun-kissing-bandit, and she surprised Jackie! Jackie is very familiar with the rabbits, but she wasn't expecting this kiss. I try to "warn" people about Sophia's kissing. I don't make promises, but I definitely state, "Sophia is very interested in necks and faces. If you feel some whiskers, she isn't trying to bite---she's showing affection."
The other thing Sophia LOVES to do is play "look out." She likes to watch the room over a shoulder. While some people think she's trying to "escape," I'm quite sure she's just getting a "bun's eye view" of the situation. Jackie is smiling and talking with Sophia, and the table is really helping to keep both stable and able to focus on the visit.
Here is little Harley. He seems to be feeling aloof. He usually likes to be the "center of attention" but there are several "brothers and sisters" here tonight sharing the visit. We have many people come by, and hosting a table visit is a good way for so many to have a positive experience. No one has to wait for a pet, and some people choose to just watch and socialize. This behavior is NOT usual for Harley, however, and I'm going to pay close attention.
Harley and Sophia are bonded. Sophia is much more adventurous, and Harley likes the comfort of her affection. Here he steals her "show." He hopped right between Jackie and Sophia! She enjoys petting both. Jukebox is being held and cuddled in a chair. Note the blanket barrier. Juke is safe and happy with Paula, who knows him well.
Jukebox is on the left, Hannah in the middle and bold Sophia on the right. Sophia loves to be the "fairy bun" and flit from person to person, and even bun to bun to get attention. Hannah? Not so much. She loves petting, but prefers to cuddle with other bunnies at the same time. Normally, these three are in separate exercise pens with their mates. At home, they would fight. A visit is neutral "territory" and they are getting along well!
We have had NO luck with visits lately. I packed up two rabbits, dropped in at a facility I regularly visit and read the sign on the front door: INFLUENZA OUTBREAK--NO VISITS I called another facility and they also restricted visits due to illness. Then I got sick. I've decided this is a great time of year to spend extra time attending to my rabbits (and human family) and rest. Please do NOT visit if you aren't well. Don't risk spreading illness. We don't want you or the people you visit to be unwell!
BIB requires a barrier between a program participant and rabbit. Some VRTs prefer flannel (receiving blanket type), fleece, towels, even soft pillow shams. I admit I have a weakness for any kind of blanket with a baby rabbit motif. Can't help myself! I find most of my "barriers" at garage sales, or thrift stores. I need them to machine wash easily, dry quickly, stay fresh and pretty, and soak up urine during a visit if necessary. I go through a lot of barriers......so I'm always on the lookout for affordable replacements. I prefer to "dress" my basket, rather than my bunnies, during various holidays. I choose different colors and themes depending on the time of year. I also like to decorate plain barriers with decorations that rabbits can't, or won't, chew off.
BIB sells a 36"/36" square two sided flannel blanket donated by our volunteers.
What are your favorite barriers?
There is a new Facebook page called Blankets for Buns. They have adorable styles, and prices are very reasonable. ($3.50 for medium size)
Check them out: Click Here
The summer heat has dragged on and we all know how dangerous heat is for people and rabbits. It seems some facilities either don't have air conditioning (how can that be?) or don't use it well. Some residents may not be aware of the temperature. Everything from a person's cognitive state, medications, and overall "constitution" can be factors. I've been visiting earlier in the day when possible. I freeze a soft water bottle bag and keep it at the bottom of the basket. It's easy to slip the bag between a program participant and the rabbit for cooler cuddles. I can also "squirt" a tiny bit of cold water into my hands to comfort the rabbit or do a quick groom.
Shorter, earlier, visits and having a plan is making summer visits possible. What are your tips?
Click below to read more:
Warm Weather and Bunnies
Here's the flat water bottle (bpa free) I'm using: