Belinda, a Shelter Rabbit Adoption

I adopted Belinda, a Dwarf Agouti female rabbit yesterday from the Manhattan ACC in Harlem.

Belinda at home 1/22/2022

Hoping to adopt, I browsed the Animal Care Centers of NYC, ACC website every day for a month to look at all the rabbits, and I “hearted” Belinda early on. When I finally clicked on the “adopt me” button around New Years, I was directed to AdoPets. The online application was extensive, including giving my landlord’s contact information and a personal reference, and then it took three weeks to be approved. By then I had a scheduled a timed appointment at the shelter two weeks out to visit the bunnies. I had a big hole in my heart left when my daughter and her two adopted bunnies moved out of our place and into their own apartment a few months back. Giving another shelter bunny a home with me seemed like the right next step for us.

The shelter modified their rules because of the COVID pandemic to ensure people were double-masked and socially distant. They were very careful. This meant standing outside in 20-degree weather until there was room enough in the shelter to enter without over-crowding. A young couple and small child were in front of us with a very quiet big dog. When my daughter and I finally were let inside, it was about a 45-minute wait along with 5 other people and three big dogs before we could go up to the bunny room. In the interim, we heard that the big dog who had been waiting outside ahead of us was a surrender, to be left at the shelter because of an intolerant landlord. That was heart breaking to the family and the other people waiting beside them. The Mom began crying and the dog looked miserable and very shy, waiting to be surrendered. I can’t imagine going through that and my heart went out to them.

All the cages in the rabbit-room were full, with no room for any new rabbits to take shelter. One of the rabbits was pending adoption and the others were adoptable and waiting for their new homes. Several rabbits were very large and black, a few were very large and white, and then there were some who were multicolored and smaller – about 12 in all. One was only a few months old and had a fluffy orange coat. Belinda was being shy in her small cage and when the shelter staff opened it, she didn’t want to come out. I talked to her through the bars, and then through the open door. When she inched closer, I pet her forehead very slowly which she enjoyed, leaning into it.

Rabbits would normally cover a lot of ground in one day, and jump, and run miles even, so I imagine it is difficult to stay in a small cage. Belinda was found on 138th Street in NYC along with another bunny two months ago, also a female, and people who saw them called the police. They brought them to the shelter. The other rabbit was now in a foster home, and that’s all the staff knew about Belinda’s past.

“The way rabbits live makes more sense to me than the way people live.”

– Marty Rubin

Adopets sent me an email as we were waiting, prompted by the shelter staff who was showing the rabbits. I was able to pay the fee and check out online in about 5 minutes. There was an added fee for Belinda not being neutered yet, and I had to promise that I would do that when they arranged an appointment, then the fee would be refunded. They are serious about neutering the rabbits, but their vet was way behind on procedures. A shelter volunteer took Belinda out of the cage gently, trimmed her nails and let her walk around in a pen of about 4 feet long and 3 feet wide for a few minutes. When the staff was about to move Belinda to our carrier, we were asked to stand outside of the room.

They brought Belinda out to us in the carrier, with a lot of hay, because it was so cold outside last night. The whole process really did take only about 30 minutes, which was the length of the appointments. When we left, no one was in the waiting room. We called car service carrying Belinda, and soon enough were at my home in Queens. My daughter stayed a few hours to watch Belinda explore her new surroundings before returning to her own apartment and her own two adopted bunnies.

Belinda’s exploration was very gradual. First, she would put her nose out of the carrier, but quickly retreat. Then she would put out part of her head, and again retreat. Eventually she stepped out but then turned and ran right back into the carrier. After about 20 minutes she walked around the room leaning forward very cautiously and curiously sniffing the rugs, cushions, tunnels, toys and hay. By later that night she was dancing – hopping and binkying – unmistakable signs of rabbit joy.

This morning Belinda is exploring the rooms of the house, hopping around and binkying, then looking for things to chew. She is very friendly and circles around me and comes up to me often to put her head down in a way that asks for forehead pets. She ate hay and Timothy hay pellets well, and she looks healthy. She seems happy, exploring away, and I can only hope that her new home is a place where she feels free.

Bunny Adoption Anticipation

I clicked the box “adopt me” on the NYC ACC Animal Care Center site for a beautiful “boroughbred” rabbit right before the start of the New Year.

Taking care of house rabbits was a delightful part of my life for about 5 years while we had Riley, our dwarf Hotot pictured below, and then his bonded pair, a dwarf Agouti, Clover, who came to us a year later. My daughter adopted them from the Manhattan ACC shelter, and when she moved from our place into her new apartment this fall, the bunnies went with her. I miss them more than I can say.

“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.”
– John Steinbeck

Rabbits are fascinating. They run and jump and binky – hop while kicking their legs out. They are biters too, so you have to be gentle and keep fragile things out of their way – bunny-proof your place in a sense. Because rabbits are likely to have families pretty quickly, it was important to have them neutered before we had them bond together. Now Riley and Clover are an inseparable bonded pair. I visit them in their new home with my daughter, where they seem very happily adjusted and comfortable already without me. I miss taking care of them every day. I’m not so comfortable without all of them.

You can’t replace a daughter, but maybe you can replace a rabbit, I thought and looked on the NYC ACC pet adoption site daily for a few months. Bunnies find their way to shelters because they escape or are abandoned. This might be because they grow up, or bite, or are unwanted, or cannot be cared for anymore in their prior home – so it is important to be sure you are ready for a rabbit from the start. The Manhattan ACC shelter usually has about 5 or 10 rabbits at any given time that are up for adoption.

I planned to visit the shelter and adopt a bunny but found this isn’t as easy as it used to be before the COVID pandemic. I had to fill out an application online, wait, email, wait, and eventually found out that appointments were only available when scheduled on the website. The site had no appointments for January and none for any of the other months of 2022 either when I looked on the first of the month. But I checked back, found one appointment for two weeks out, and booked it at once. The email sent to confirm my browsing appointment noted that the rabbit I hoped to adopt might not still be there when I come by. Bunny adoptions are first-come, first-serve.

To browse the rabbits for fostering or adoption you have to have an appointment two weeks out, wear two masks, and be on time. If you are more than 10 minutes late, the appointment is cancelled, and they might not book you for another one. You have 30 minutes to spend there and then your time is up. I can’t wait to see how it goes and whether the shelter staff will let me take a rabbit home with me.

“Hallo, Rabbit,” he said, “is that you?”
“Let’s pretend it isn’t,” said Rabbit, “and see what happens.”
― A. A. Milne

Because bunnies are prey in the wild, they tend to be skittish, and they hide when they can. When frightened, they may sit absolutely still so you think they are not there. But they get used to people and become very social – enjoying being pet and playing with toys, especially those made of hay.

I have all new things ready for our new family member now, the toys, the blankets, the pillows, the hay and pellets, the hay basket as a litter box. The day I found out I would have to wait indefinitely to see the rabbits at the shelter, I looked at all the bunny things with an empty feeling, like would it really happen? I hope so and it is something to anticipate, to really look forward to in the New Year.

The Bunny Lady on YouTube is a great source of information about keeping house rabbits and she has new videos that come out every week in case you are intrigued.