When my Daughter proposed the idea of having a Netherland Dwarf Bunny join the family, I relented for several reasons. First, the online photo she showed made me all mushy and gushy, and I couldn’t resist the cuteness factor. Additionally, my Daughter’s Guinea Pig Ophelia was also almost six years old and a cranky older adult at that. They live in captivity for six to eight years, so I knew her time to leave us was very soon. I also naively thought that Ophelia maybe friends with Oliver, and would enjoy the company in her senior years.
I could not have been more wrong about all of my suppositions. Ophelia despised Oliver and bit him every chance she got. Oliver had been accustomed to living with siblings. Despite having been the runt of the litter and getting stepped on all the time, he loved the warmth and solace of their everyday presence. Oliver himself was so sad and lonely in our home after two weeks that Oliver developed a condition called GI-Statis. Oliver stopped eating because he was depressed, alone, and anxious. GI-Statis is where the bunnies digestive system shuts down, and death occurs rapidly after that. Rabbits are prone to this condition, and due to my impulsivity, I did not research anything at all about Bunnies, hindsight again being twenty-twenty. After two trips to the emergency room at the vet, which included I.V. treatments and critical care bunny food, where we had to force-feed Oliver to restart his system, we decided to get Oliver a Bunny friend.
We went back to the same place we purchased Oliver, and they told us that the bunny we were taking home was a dwarf Bunny. We thought she was so much bigger than Oliver to begin with because she was not a Netherland Dwarf Bunny. It turns out that when she weighed in at 7 pounds after a few weeks and increased in size, we realized she was, in fact, a Belgian Hare, not even close to a dwarf bunny.
None of that mattered because when Oliver spotted Odessa coming through the front door that first day, he fell madly in love with her and would not let her out of his sight. If she were not in his line of vision for what he perceived to be too long, he would cry hysterically. I didn’t even know Bunnies cried! He ate when she ate, slept when she slept, copied her every move, and appeared instantly healed by love. They were inseparable from the start and shared the same massive cage with never a rift about space, food, hay, toys, or water.
The two could not have been more different as pictured, physically, or mentally. Oliver was a love sponge, anxious, fearful, and tame. Odessa was a wild strong-willed, feisty, warrior Bunny who was as independent as Oliver was needy. Odessa took Oliver under her wing just as a mom would and loved him in a way we couldn’t. Oliver then stopped running away from us and hiding behind or under the couch. Oliver also stopped sleeping all day, which is a sign of depression in animals as well as humans. He even began giving us kisses again when he was not busy kissing and grooming Odessa.
Some people are of the school of thought that animals don’t have feelings and should pull themselves up by their boot or paw straps in this instance. This experience has reinforced for me that nothing could be further from the truth. Even bunnies in captivity need other Bunnies as companions and to feel less alone in this big scary world. We as a family thought we would be enough for Oliver, and that even though he and Ophelia did not get along, they would still support each other as “siblings.”
Perhaps out in the wild, they would have fought and despised each other, but in the confines of our home, it worked wonders for them to be together. It’s also an essential reminder that we all need love, companionship, and support to thrive, whether in the animal kingdom or as homeo -sapiens. Love conquers war, medical conditions, and can sometimes disarm even the hardest or loneliest heart.
They say opposites attract, and this story helps demonstrate that fact. It also illustrates that love is blind. It is a visceral reaction that is hard to articulate in words, but there is chemical and scientific proof that true love happens at first glance, and that is what Oliver and Odessa share to this day. And that is what I call a truly happy real-life fairy tale, or in this case fairy tail.