Wednesday, June 19, 2024

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People & Pets

Floppy-eared Fenton


When Abby Wilson and Tyler Burhenn moved into their own place together, the pair thought a pet might make it more homelike. Abby grew up with cats, a 6-year-old goldfish, hermit crabs, plus turtles Simon and Garfunkel obtained from a spring break trip. Tyler’s only pet was a hamster.

However, their landlord wouldn’t allow dogs or cats. They visited pet stores and animal shelters to research rabbits. 

“It was either a Guinea pig or a rabbit,” Abby recalls. “A rabbit seemed more personable.”

They answered an ad online, where the person offered a cage, supplies and a rabbit named Mr. Rabbit. They renamed him Fenton after a YouTube video.

When they arrived at the home to adopt Fenton, they found dozens of animals living in disarray. Fenton sat in his cage on top of a TV set. Other birds, dogs and cats in the unkempt house were disturbing. 

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“We rescued him,” Abby says. “He’s free range now and is able to run around. I think he was kept in a cage the whole time. We saved his life.”

Fenton, now 7, was about 2 years old. When they got him home, he was scared. 

“He was skittish. It took a year or two for us to warm up and pick him up,” she recalls.

Fenton, who is litter box trained, is easy to take care of. The rabbit has full range of the family room but only because it’s carpeted. One quirk is that he won’t hop on hardwood floors. He will scamper to the edge of the carpet and stop where the tile is. 

“He doesn’t like hardwood floors because it’s too slippery, and he can’t get enough traction,” she explains.

In the morning when Abby slices her apple, she shares a piece with Fenton. 

“He hears me slicing it and comes running to the edge of the carpet. Every morning, he waits for the apple slice.”

The couple think Fenton is an ideal “composter pet.” When they have leftover cilantro or wilted lettuce, he will gobble it up. He eats the tops of strawberries, and when he hears the treat bag opening, similar to a dog, he’ll come running for a snack.

When the couple lived in Colorado, they put out a fence enclosure for him to run around on the grass. After running outside, Fenton often does a “binky” where he jumps his “happy dance.” 

Fenton is unfazed by wild rabbits. 

“He sees bunnies in the wild and doesn’t seem interested in them,” Abby says. 

Fenton marks his territory by running circles around Abby’s legs. He jumps high enough to get on the couch and likes ear scratches. When sitting on the floor, Fenton often approaches them. 

“He loves it when we do yoga on our yoga mats,” Tyler says. 

The rabbit is at ease with their young kids, who love to give him treats. If he’s afraid, he thumps his back hind legs.

When Tyler and Abby’s friends visit, they are intrigued. 

“They think he’s cute, but mostly people think we’re weird because we have a rabbit,” she says.

Abby is saddened when bunnies adopted at Easter time often land in an animal shelter or abandoned in the wild months later. 

“People think they are cute. They just need a clean cage and the ability to jump,” she says. “They can’t sit in a cage all day. They need love.”

Tyler adds, “He’s a chill companion. He’s one cool rabbit.” ♦

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Summer Stir - June 2024