by Christie Lagally
Originally published in City Living Seattle
Some 15 rabbit owners were undeterred by the July heat and made their way to the Seattle Rabbit Agility Club meet-up known as Hoppy Hour. This event is hosted at the K9 Fun Zone (25 Nickerson St.) in Queen Anne and provides the opportunity for bunnies to socialize and try out a rabbit agility course, an event I had to see for myself.
Rebecca Wells started the club (www.facebook.com/seattle.rabbit.agility) when she saw a need for bunnies and owners to connect, as well as to bring awareness to issues such as bunny adoption, spay/neuter and responsible care.
Rabbit agility consists of training rabbits to move through an agility course, an activity popular in Northern Europe. In Seattle, Wells and her club combine a course for agility with free-form playtime for the rabbits to jump over toys, hide in boxes, scurry through fabric tunnels and play with Wiffle balls spread around the room.
“Hoppy Hour gives rabbits a chance to be a rabbit,” Wells said.
And for such seemingly quiet creatures, most of the bunnies were gleefully running across the room to sniff friends, old and new.
A bunny social
Michael and Premi Haynes brought their rabbit, Major Leven, to Hoppy Hour. As the only bunny in their family, the Major needs time with other bunnies.
“They have personalities like both a dog and a cat,” said the couple, explaining that rabbits lick you like dogs but are independent like cats.
AJ Jain brought his two bunnies, Coco and Nana, to Hoppy Hour, and the pair quickly engaged in the fun. Jain has done some training with his rabbits, and he speaks to Nana in Hindi and Coco in English.
Nana and Coco are a bonded pair who were microchipped and fixed prior to Jain adopting them. Jain said he did a lot of research about bunnies before he adopted the two mini-Rex breed rabbits in 2013 from the Seattle Animal Shelter.
Natalie Scantlen brought a brood of bunnies, including Teton and Tatoosh, two gray bunnies enjoying a rug together at Hoppy Hour. Scantlen grew up with rabbits that were left outside in the cold.
“It could have been different,” said Scantlen, who now ensures that her bunnies live indoors with a watchful eye over their health-care needs. Along with her two other bunnies, Elwha and Ziggy, Scantlen houses her bunnies in pairs, so they always have companionship.
Nora Chen brought her rabbit, adeptly named Bunny, to socialize with other rabbits, as well. Two years ago, Chen and her husband literally found Bunny on the street and fell in love with her sweet nature.
“She really brings a lot of joy into our lives,” Chen said, adding that Hoppy Hour is a chance to find some other rabbit friends.
K9 Fun Zone owner Lindy Langum said she always intended for her business to be open to many species to play. Usually, Langum rents her facility for individual dogs to play out of the Seattle rain, but once a month she hosts Hoppy Hour.
Lauren Lancaster, whose bunnies BunBun and Blue were chilling during Hoppy Hour, shared her story of volunteering with an animal rescue group while in high school, where she learned it was better to adopt a pet than to buy one.
Later, she got more involved in rescue when she learned about a bunny living in a University of Washington frat house. The poor bunny had three legs and an eye infection, and Lancaster pursued the owner to surrender the animal and finally got the bunny to safety.
Although rabbits are the third-most-popular pet, Wells emphasizes that education about rabbit ownership is lacking, and the club helps spread the word. She said that some people think of bunnies as “livestock,” which are often neglected in hutches outdoors where they suffer from the elements and heartbreaking loneliness.
Bunnies are social creatures, live eight to 12 years and need a healthy diet of Timothy hay, plenty of room to exercise and companionship.
Also, rabbits should be spayed/neutered to prevent hormonal behaviors and a high incidence of uterine cancer in females, and veterinarians who have special training should treat them.
Lancaster and Wells also foster rabbits from Special Bunny, a Seattle-based adoption, rescue and sanctuary organization. With so many bunnies in need of adoption, fostering a rabbit makes it possible to help the overwhelming number of bunnies that need rescue, said Tamara Adlin of Special Bunny.
Adlin explains that anyone can foster a bunny if they educate themselves on rabbit care, and her group will support their effort with some supplies. Fostering is a good opportunity to see if a rabbit is a good pet for you.
Additionally, Adlin asked that we all be “bun-bassadors” by quickly learning about bunnies from the Special Bunny website (www.specialbunny.org) and then speak up if we ever see a solitary bunny, a rabbit in an outdoor cage or one hidden in a basement. Even bunny-less people can easily become advocates for bunnies who are in lonely, unhealthy or unsafe situations.