Two weeks ago, we crossed into a new frontier in my house.
We brought home a bunny.
It sounds like a small thing, like a tiny, furry, cute, easy, small thing, like "bring home a bunny," is the same as "bring home the groceries," but for me, becoming a pet owner is a big deal. I used to count the fact that I could completely skip the pet aisle when I went to the grocery store as a reason I had lower stress in my life. I used to tell my children they could have a pet in 10 years — for years, it's been 10 years, like an elusive, ever-changing checkpoint that no one sees but me. I used to wonder how I'd ever make the transition to having a dog or a cat in our house. It seemed impossible.
It's not that I don't like animals. I don't have anything against dogs and cats and bunnies and lizards and birds. In fact, when I was a kid, I thought I was a kind of a pet whisperer. I remember meeting a kitten when I was 7 or 8 years old and she curled up in my lap and I stroked her head until she fell asleep. I was so fascinated at this little creature that was so sleepy, so soft and so comforting. I have forgotten a lot of things from my childhood, but I remember that one night, holding that tiny kitten in my lap, by the fire, watching her little body rise and fall with her soft breath.
I had a dog when I was growing up. We found her scared and alone on the side of the road in our remote Oklahoma neighborhood. We used to call the stray dogs that appeared on our street "dumped dogs," but this one, we called Sandy. My parents took out an ad in the local paper to see if someone had inadvertently lost their puppy. We carried her from door to door around the whole development, but no one ever claimed her. Since she already had a name (wink — that's a trick you'll thank me for, kids) we kept her.
Sandy was my dog. She was an outdoor dog, and she had plenty of space to roam on our acre. She came when I called, she jumped up when I patted my knee, and she never barked or tried to bite my hand. She flinched and cowered when I raised my hand to throw her ball, and I imagined that her previous home life had not been very kind.
Sandy didn't bark like crazy, even though she was part Pomeranian and part Yorkshire terrier, and she always seemed happy. She let me brush her hair, and whenever she came home from the vet, she always had a cute little bow between her ears. I put a sweater on her when it was cold. I played with her every day. When I was alone, every day, she was my friend.
I had forgotten just how soothing animals can be until a friend mentioned she had just the thing to help the anxiety and stress that was creeping into my family, into my children.
She told me about the little grey bunny who loves to cuddle and needed a special home. And so I met the little fur ball. I researched proper homes for bunnies. I read all about litter boxes and appropriate pellets, how bunnies need so much hay, and how to hang the hay so it doesn't get all over the exercise pen and covered in urine.
I learned bunnies like to poop where they eat, and they use urine to mark their territory. I learned bunnies are prey animals, skittish and defensive, and if you see your bunny doing kicks and "binkies" in the air you know your animal is most happy.
I ordered bunny supplies, allowed my thoughts to be consumed by rabbits, and finally, two weeks ago, the bunny came home.
So far, we're still getting to know Mildred, also known as Millie, Mills, Milli Vanilli and Little Buns. I've got scratches on my hands from trimming her nails, and I've cleaned up a fair amount of bunny pee, but so far, little Millie is magical. Sitting with Millie, stroking her fur, and letting her come and go as she pleases is strangely soothing. She's crazy and funny and a little feisty, but this is the new frontier.
Now I'm just waiting for her to fall asleep on my daughter's lap.