Saturday, December 17, 2011

But the pet store said...


How many times have I spoken with well-meaning bunny parents who stare at me a confused manner when I offer up rabbit care advice, and utter the words, “But the pet store said…”  Well, I’m just going to lay it all out right here!

We all have to start somewhere.  I cringe when I think back on the bunny-care mistakes I made when I bought (yes, bought) my first bunny at a pet store 10 years ago.  I bought the pet-store suggested cage and the pet store suggested food.  Thankfully, I found a bunny-savvy vet as well as information from the House Rabbit Society, and thus began my constantly evolving knowledge of rabbit parenthood.

So, what does the pet store tell you about rabbit care that’s wrong?  Well, depends on the employees and the store, but in a lot of cases – everything.  

Let’s start with housing.  This is your rabbit’s environment – the place where she will spend a good portion of her time.  Rather important, I should say.  Unsuspecting new rabbit parents will look at the brightly-colored cages with selling points such as “Starter kit – everything you need for your new friend!” to “Deluxe rabbit home!”  Trust me, these kits are neither deluxe nor everything you need – not by a long shot.  Those “My First Home” sets that are so popular?  Utter rubbish.  They are selling points, however.  I’ve seen pet stores advertise specials in which one can purchase a “starter kit” and receive the animal for free…as if the pet is an afterthought.

“Well, what exactly is wrong with these sets?  They have everything you need, right?  That’s what the pet store said!” 

 For one thing, they are much, MUCH too small.  That tiny, cuddly baby bunny that seems to fit so well in it now?  He’s going to grow up.  Oh, the pet store said the bunny is a dwarf?  Be careful with that statement.  I’ve seen people with 7+ pound bunnies who bought them at a pet store that advertised them as dwarf rabbits.  In addition, dwarf bunnies are often more active than bigger bunnies, and need LOTS of room to run!  Of course, any bunny needs a nice, roomy home base.   You probably don’t need most of the other things that come with the “starter kit” either.  Those pine or cedar shavings?  Those can eventually cause cancer in your bunny.  The salt lick?  Worthless.  And we’ll talk about food in a minute.

“What kind of cage DO I put my bunny in?”  

Well, if you can’t let your bunny have free run of the house 24/7 (and yes, rabbits are easily litter trained – bet the pet store didn’t tell you that!), then puppy exercise pens or pens made from storage cube panels are good options – and typically cost less than a “deluxe” rabbit cage!  Don’t forget the litter box!  Oh, and don’t leave your bunny in the cage all the time.  She needs at least a couple hours of “floor time” each day.

So what’s the best thing for bunny to eat?  

“Those bags of pellets with seeds and colorful bits have words like ‘nutritious’ and 'fortified' written all over them.  That’s got to be good, right?  That’s what the pet store recommended!”  

No, no, and no!  These “nutritious” pellets will eventually kill your bunny – whether it is by choking on a seed or obesity from a diet that is too rich.  

“But…the pet store said that if I give my bunny lettuce he will get diarrhea!”  

Feeding your bunny a healthy selection of greens is part of a balanced bunny diet.  Dark leafy greens are wonderful for bunnies to eat – just stay away from iceberg lettuce.  It has no nutritional value.   New greens should be introduced slowly, but bunnies can safely eat healthy greens!

 “Well, I can still give the bunny some of those treats the pet store sells, right?  The box says that they’re a healthy snack!”  

Do those treats contain yogurt, honey, seeds, or corn?  Yes?  Keep them away from bunny!!  Once again, these treats will eventually kill your rabbit.  Don’t love your bunny to death.  

“Well, what DO I give my bunny for a treat?”  

Small amounts of fruit every once in a while will make any bunny happy!  Try giving your bunny a fresh blueberry, or a little bit of plain canned pumpkin.  Fresh herbs are also a healthy bunny treat!  Oh, did the pet store mention hay?  

“Hay?”  

I thought not.  I’ve actually come across a well-meaning new bunny parent who was told by a pet store that hay would give her bunny diarrhea.  Hay is absolutely ESSENTIAL for maintaining proper gastrointestinal health in a rabbit.  Eating hay also wears down a rabbit’s constantly growing teeth.  Rabbits MUST have good quality grass hay (not alfalfa, unless the bunny is very young).  This is the most important element of your rabbit’s diet.

“The pet store said that rabbits don’t really need to see a vet.  They only live a couple of years anyway.”

That’s another one I’ve heard…and it’s absolutely wrong.  For one thing, rabbits need to be spayed/neutered.

“You can spay/neuter rabbits??!”

Yes, and it is essential to their health and well-being.  Intact rabbits have a very high incidence of reproductive cancer, and are constantly driven crazy by hormones.  I’ll be the first person to tell you that in general, intact rabbits make terrible pets.  Altering a bunny helps with behavioral issues including aggression and spraying – oh, and that litter training I mentioned?  Probably not going to happen with an intact rabbit.  Make sure your bunny’s surgery is performed by an experienced exotics veterinarian – not just any dog and cat vet will do.  Or better yet – adopt a bunny!  Rabbit rescue groups spay and neuter their bunnies before sending them to a forever home!  Oh, and as for living a couple of years?  Spayed/neutered bunnies living in a healthy indoor environment can live 10 years or more!

“Okay, but after the bunny is fixed, they don’t really need to see a vet, right?”

Wrong again.  Bunnies should have maintenance check-ups to keep tabs on general health.  There is always the possibility of an emergency visit too – bunnies are delicate creatures, although they have a strong will to go along with it.  Did you know that a loss of appetite in a bunny should be considered an emergency?  You do now!

“Wow, the pet store didn’t tell me any of this!”

And most of them won’t.  This isn’t to say that all pet store employees have no clue about rabbits – I personally know a couple of pet store employees (who have even adopted rabbits from our rescue!) who try to combat bunny care ignorance.  I must give kudos to pet stores who are moving away from selling animals and encouraging adoption.  That being said, your best bet to obtain good rabbit care knowledge is from groups like the House Rabbit Society and rabbit rescues around the country.  Rescues are certainly not in it for profit (far from it, in fact!), and have the best interests of their bunnies at heart.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thanksgiving - what's up with that?

So this year our family is doing Thanksgiving at my brother's place, but it comes at a price.  Most people dress up in costume for Halloween.  My brother has requested we do Thanksgiving in costume - it has been entitled "Fabulously Tacky Turkey Day".  Jealous?  You should be.  I have decided to go as Plymouth Rock.  After all, what could better commemorate the arrival of settlers, who would soon meet Native Americans and celebrate the first Thanksgiving together?  It was either that or smallpox.  I figured Plymouth Rock would be easier.

Well, this whole thing has gotten me to thinking about the real history of Thanksgiving.  Admittedly, history was not my favorite subject in elementary school.  From what I could remember of my early education, the Pilgrims came to America rather under-prepared, the Native Americans brought some food to the somber-looking white dudes, and everything was rainbows and succotash and smiles.

Since I'm now an adult and history is mildly more interesting to me, I hopped on over to the History channel website and searched "history of Thanksgiving".  Here's the synopsis:
In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. It wasn't until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.
So that's the short and simple version.  There are a few more items of interest.  I did remember the name "Squanto" from the history books.  Well, turns out he was a pretty interesting guy.  He had apparently previously been kidnapped and sold into slavery.  He escaped to London, and eventually made his way back on an exploratory expedition.  You'd think the man would be pretty bitter by that point, but he showed the Pilgrims how to plant crops and such.  Props to Squanto.

There is also controversy over whether this was the first "Thanksgiving" feast to be held.  There are other records of "feasts to give thanks" in 1565 and 1619.  I'm sure there are historical scholar types who argue vehemently for the 1565 feast in St. Augustine, Florida.  Sorry, history buffs.  Thanksgiving will always evoke images of Pilgrims and Indians.  I don't think the Spanish explorer edition will ever make grade school history books.  It's all rather the same to me anyway.

Fabulously Tacky Turkey Day promises to be a day of fun with my ridiculously goofy family, and planning for it has made me ponder things in my life that I am thankful for.  There are of course the big ones:  my family, my friends, my pets, a roof over my head, my health, religious freedom.  I do have a lot of other things to be thankful for..some serious, some just for fun.  My job.  My Hyundai.  Bunnies and guinea pigs.  Everyone who rescues animals.  My iPod.  Books.  Target.  Delicious food.  Music.  The ocean.  The Discovery Channel.  Harry Potter and Star Wars.  Dr. Pepper.  Contact lenses.  Humor.  Bunspace.  Facebook.  Chapstick.  Amazon.com.  Jason's Deli.  Lobster.  My aquarium and its inhabitants.  Art.  My Nintendo Wii.  My education.  The internet...without which this blog would not be possible!

So, to my fellow American readers, enjoy your holiday.  Treasure the time with your family and friends.  And to my readers everywhere, I hope you'll take a little bit of time to think about things for which you are thankful. 

Happy Thanksgiving (next week)!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

"What a fish!" "Mammal." "Whatever."

The other day we were filling the boat up with gas before heading out for work on the water.  While gassing up, a lady walked up to me and said, "I wish I had your job!  You know, I almost went into marine biology."  That comment got me to thinking how many times I have heard this EXACT comment.  Apparently about 80% of America's population almost went into marine biology.

The statement is always given with such a sense of envy too.  "Oh, your job must be so fun!"  "I love dolphins!"  Then they proceed to tell me that they went into some sensible career.  The lady at the gas station went into law.  While she envied my time on the water, I must admit I envied her paycheck.  Believe me, you don't go into this job for the money.

I do believe a large portion of the population has a rather skewed view of what a marine biologist actually does.  Most people picture dolphins, ocean sunsets, coral reefs, and luxurious research vessels filled with red wine and Frenchmen.  In reality, marine biology is not glamorous.  In my career, I have pulled nets through thigh-deep mud, been mauled by biting insects on a regular basis, come home with anchovies stuck to my person, been poked and stung and bitten by all manner of creatures, had to pee up in the mangroves with giant spiders hanging above my head, sampled in all-day torrential downpours, and clog up my shower drain with drift algae and dead seagrass.  As of right now, my hands have some slices from fish gill plates, I've got the end of a fish spine stuck in my finger, and I've got several good bruises.  I wrestle with cantankerous computer programs and equipment failures.  I have strange tan lines and my work clothes will forever and always smell like estuarine mud.

The crazy thing is, I actually enjoy this stuff.  You need to be a little crazy to do this.  During my college orientation, all of the marine biology hopefuls gathered in an auditorium.  They did a rather good job of "telling it like it is".  The gist of the speech was this:  1) You're not going to be playing with dolphins. 2)You're not going to make any money. 3) No really, you're not going to be playing with dolphins. 4) No, you don't have a special connection with dolphins. 5) You will spend lots of time in the mud.  And...quite literally, half the people got up and left.  I was one of the poor suckers who stayed.  So - I don't play with dolphins, I don't make a whole lot of money, I know dolphins aren't quite as cute and cuddly as people think, and I spend lots of time in the mud.  Yup.  And I'm good with that.  Well, except maybe the money thing.

If you've ever seen "The Marine Biologist" episode of Seinfeld, then you are familiar with the title I gave this blog.  Now to leave you with one more marine biology gem from George Costanza:

So I started to walk into the water. I won't lie to you boys, I was terrified! But I pressed on and as I made my way past the
breakers, a strange calm came over me. I don't know if it was divine
intervention or the kinship of all living things, but I tell you Jerry -
at that moment I was a marine biologist!
 Here's me, giving a big "thumbs up" to marine biology:

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Human Ignorance Strikes Again

Today I had the sad duty of saving two bunnies from a bad situation.  Our rescue works with my local humane society, Suncoast.  Well, yesterday I got an email from Suncoast asking for help.  They had received a call from a lady who wanted to get rid of two bunnies.  She couldn't afford to feed them, so she said that she would let them starve to death or let them go if somebody didn't pick them up.  She said she couldn't afford to bring them over to the humane society (so WHY did she take them in the first place??)  Suncoast has a service to pick animals up, but they charge a fee.  It's understandable.  Gas certainly isn't free.  So...Suncoast asked if we could help.

Unfortunately, our rescue has more bunnies than we know what to do with at the moment, so we have absolutely no space for anybun else.  Suncoast would take them, but we needed to get them there somehow.  I offered to go pick up the buns and transport them over there.  I was so worried about those bunnies!  I made arrangements with the lady to pick them up...and I was hoping she wouldn't do anything rash before I got there!

They all but shoved those poor bunnies at me.  I asked them if the bunnies had names.  No, they didn't.  I asked if they were male or female.  One of each...in the same cage.  She said, "They've been humping each other, but I don't think he can reach her."  Great.  The female is most likely pregnant, and I told the lady so.  She didn't care.  There was one nasty piece of carrot in the cage.  They must have ONLY been eating carrots.  Their poops were ORANGE.  There was a bit of urine-soaked pine shavings in the cage.  It smelled to high heaven.

Before I took them to Suncoast, I cleaned out the nasty cage and gave them some hay.  They LOVED the hay.  I doubt they had ever had any!  Fortunately, they seemed pretty healthy, at least outwardly.  They were both very friendly.  Their nails were extremely long.  I should have brought my nail clippers, but the humane society will clip them.


They got to chill out with me for a little bit.  They enjoyed getting petted.  They are just darling.  The female is a white mini-rex (possible mix) with gorgeous blue eyes, and the male is a little Dutch mix.  It boggles my mind that this lady was threatening to starve them to death or let them go, which is a death sentence anyway.


The humane society is taking care of them for now, but we're hoping that we can find placement in our foster program soon for some of the Suncoast buns.  If you live in southwest Florida and are interested in fostering or adopting a bunny, please visit www.pigsnbuns.org for more information.  We need your help!!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Pay it forward?

Well, I don't know if this blog post is really about fish or bunnies...well maybe about bunnies in a way.  I just felt compelled to write it.  I've been in somewhat of a foul, frustrated mood lately.  It's just one of those periods of time where I'm frustrated about where I am, and nothing really seems to get any better. 

So anyway, I went to Arby's to grab a bite for lunch today, and I saw this homeless guy with a sign that said, "Need work.  Please help."  I just felt really bad for him.  I've seen him around town before.  I know nothing about him.  Who knows?  Maybe he's an alcoholic or drug addict or whatever, but something just made my heart hurt for him.  He's a fellow human being.  There's so many people just one step away from where he is.  I was sad because I wished that I could help him.  So...I just felt this compulsion to buy the guy a sandwich.  Like a crazy strong compulsion...like God wanted me to!  I don't have a whole lot of money in the first place....I probably should have just stuck to a PB&J today, but...eh.  So I bought the guy a sandwich.

I felt sort of dumb, because it just seemed so grossly inadequate.  I can't get the guy a job, I can't help him out of his current situation...all I could do was buy him a sandwich.  Well, I handed it to him and said, "I can't help you with work, but I can buy you a sandwich!"  His face sort of lit up, he smiled at me, and said, "God bless you."  And that kind of made my day.  I said "God bless you" back, said a little prayer for him, and drove away. 

So I guess it's the little things in life.  I wish I could help more people in tough situations.  I wish I could build a bunny sanctuary.  I wish I could stop animals and children and anybody from being abused and oppressed.  But I can't.  I suppose I'll stick to the little stuff.  If all I can do is save a few bunnies and buy a homeless guy a sandwich, then that's what I'll do.

If you're having a bad day, or feeling crappy about life in general, go volunteer somewhere.  Foster an animal.  Help at a shelter.  Mentor a kid.  Buy a homeless guy a sandwich.  Believe me, it'll put a smile on your face.



Sunday, August 7, 2011

Traps! Cameras! Action!!

A few weeks ago (yeah, I've been slacking in the blog department), I had the opportunity to go on an offshore research trip for work.  I was a bit nervous about being gone for 2 weeks, especially since I've got so many furry critters.  Thanks to a wonderful and bunny-savvy friend, they had a place to stay while I was gone!

Anyway, FWRI (Fish & Wildlife Research Institute) does a variety of offshore research.  The particular trip I went on was the traps & cameras cruise.   This research targets hard bottom habitats in up to 80 meters of water on the West Florida Shelf.  A sidescan sonar is used to find appropriate areas to sample, then two different types of gear are set on the spots.  Stationary Underwater Camera Arrays (SUCAs) and chevron fish traps are both used.  The SUCAs gather film footage, which is later analyzed for information about fish populations at these sites, and several of the fish captured in the traps are used to gather life history information.

Here's a photo of the SUCAs:

And a photo of the chevron traps:
 The research cruise lasted 10 days, and we were traveling aboard the R/V Weatherbird II.  The vessel was 115', so it was fairly comfortable space-wise.  We had beautiful weather to start with, but a couple days into our voyage, the weather turned.  It was nice to work in drizzly, overcast conditions as opposed to the blazing heat (and that deck got HOT!), but things became a bit of a challenge as the swells built to 8 feet.  I am proud to say I did NOT get seasick.  I did almost fall out of the shower that night.  You haven't lived until you've taken a navy-style shower in a facility the size of a phone both in 8-10 foot seas.  We were forced to abandon the original plan and head to our southernmost site to avoid the weather.  Ironically, this is the fortune that our PI (principal investigator) received in her fortune cookie the night before:

Once we moved south, we were back on track.  We were about 100 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico, which was neat.  We were visited by spotted dolphins pretty much every morning.  We swore that they knew they were being filmed as the cameras went over - when we reviewed the footage we were treated to quite a show! 

I liked the solitude of being so far out to sea.  One of my favorite things to do was sit on deck and watch the sunset (if we were finished with the day's work by then, anyway!)  It was quite beautiful, but at the same time it was almost eerie.  It's a strange and humbling feeling to be completely surrounded by water.  It feels like freedom, but sometimes it's almost suffocating.  That's a bit of a contradiction, but that's the best I can describe it!

Here's a photo of one of the gorgeous sunsets:
Some of the bright points of the trip were the food (we had an excellent cook - I didn't go hungry, and if you know me, you know that's quite the thing), seeing neat sea critters, watching the above-mentioned sunsets, the gorgeous blue water, seeing my second water spout ever, being out in the middle of nowhere, and getting to live and breathe SCIENCE for 10 days. (and yes, watching the stupid dolphins.  Geez, I guess everyone is a sucker for Flipper sometimes)

A moray eel:
Here I am measuring a nice grouper!  (And I totally rocked the hardhat & life vest - I'm not even wearing the shrimp boots on this day!)
And here I am just being my nerdy self:

There were, of course, things I did not enjoy about being offshore.  The lack of communication is both a blessing and a curse.  It's kind of nice to get away from it all, but believe me, I was on Facebook and checking my email as soon as we got back into cell-phone reception range!  I needed to satiate my thirst for news and social networking!  The bunk was not exactly the most comfortable place to rest.  The stools in the long lab were NOT comfortable either, and that's pretty much where we were if we weren't on deck or in our bunks.  We worked hard, but we had a LOT of downtime.  I got tired of reading (read 4 books), and for me, that's saying something.  The noise.  Oh, the noise.  The engine noise of the boat is constant.  You get used to it, but the silence was bliss once I got back on dry land.  I got really tired of constantly rocking.  Around day 7, all my stuff was falling over while I was in the bathroom, and I had a moment of "I HAVE GOT TO GET OFF OF THIS STUPID ROCKING BOAT!!"  There's not much privacy either.  That's why I relished any evening I got to spend on deck watching the sunset.  Oh, and my hands constantly smelled like dead mackerel.  Not that I'm not used to the smell of dead fish, but...yeah.
The Long Lab (where we spent a lot of time!):

 Home away from home:

All in all, it was a good experience.  I got to see some cool stuff, and we got a lot of science done!  However, I was very happy to be back on dry land, go pick up my furry kids, and go home and collapse on my couch (which I fantasized about while sitting on the horrible lab stool).  Oh, I did take a nice, long, hot shower before I collapsed on the couch.  Believe me, it was a luxury to leave the water on the entire time.  My hands smelled slightly less of dead mackerel when I was done.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Endangered? Phbbbt.

Okay, so yes, they really are endangered, but wow it seems like I have seen a lot of sawfish lately!  Of course, going on an insane number of sampling trips has probably increased my chances.  I dubbed myself the "sawfish ninja" after catching sawfish on several consecutive trips!  Heck, I caught 6 on one trip the other week - that made for nearly a 14 hour workday. 

Sawfish are, quite simply, amazing creatures.  I am glad that they are listed as a federally endangered species.  Back in the day, those long "hedgetrimmer"-like rostrums easily entangled in fisherman's nets, and they were considered somewhat of a pest, since they wrecked the nets.  Therefore, they were killed in large numbers.  We know so little about them, so it's an amazing experience to be part of a team that conducts important research on sawfish.  Hopefully, we will come to learn more and more about their life history so we can learn how to better help them recover their numbers.  These fish used to be a common sight up and down the eastern seaboard, but their historical range has all but disappeared.  I happen to live and work in one of the few places they still occupy.

Yesterday, we caught a little young-of-the-year sawfish.  He was very cute, and quite frisky!  Contrary to popular belief, however, they will not hack you in pieces with that saw.  I'm always quite astonished at how docile they are while we poke and prod them.  They will surprise you every now again though - and they are strong. 

Some think they are ugly.  I think they are beautiful.  I wish everyone could have a chance to look at one eye-to-eye.  At work, we were discussing how amazing their eyes are.  They are expressive somehow!  I just love them.

I do sometimes complain about going to work (hey, it is my job), but when I look a sawfish in the eye, I am reminded how lucky I am to be a part of this project.

Here I am feeling the sawfish love...

And here is a photo of me with one of my other loves...a baby bull shark.  This guy still had a fresh umbilical scar!  I got my "hero shot" with him, then released him so he could go eat other fish and grow up to make more baby bull sharks.

Response to "Why Rabbits?"

Wow, I just wanted to post a short note to say how amazed I am by the response to my post, and a THANK YOU to everyone who read it.  I've received a literal avalanche of wonderful, sweet notes from fellow bunny people who were touched by my words.  I've even made some awesome new friends on Facebook!  I'm sorry that I haven't been able to respond to all of you individually.  It's amazingly humbling to have had that effect!  It also serves to remind me that there are a lot of other "bunny people" out there who feel the same way I do.  I just hope that this continues to spread and reaches people who haven't yet experienced the joy of being owned by a bunny!

One more thing - thank you to ALL rabbit rescue people out there - rescue directors, volunteers, foster homes, financial support.  Together we can make a difference in the lives of our beloved rabbits.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Why Rabbits?


Why rabbits?

You know, it seems like I’ve been asked this question a lot lately.  Why did I choose pet rabbits?  Why do I choose to help rescue rabbits?  They’re a lot of work.  They take up a lot of my time.  People see them as “children’s pets”.  You can get one for $15.  Why not just get a dog or a cat?  Yes, I’ve heard it all.  If you’ve never had a pet rabbit (really had a pet rabbit – not one confined to an outdoor hutch), the answer is difficult to put into words.  

I don’t know what it was at the moment I laid eyes on the bunny that was to become Zoie, my first rabbit.  I was in a pet store, and there were all these cute baby bunnies running around.  My eyes just locked in on him.  I knew that he was mine.  I don’t know why.  There was just something about him.  Some little girl asked the pet store worker if she could hold him, and I watched in agony.  I was terrified that the little girl would take him home.  He was MY rabbit!!  Well, obviously the little girl didn’t take him.  Yes, my first bunny was an impulse pet store purchase, which makes me cringe now, but Zoie is the one that started it all.

I muddled through learning proper rabbit care via the internet and a rabbit-savvy vet.  I learned that Zoie’s cage was too small.  I learned he needed to be neutered.  I got a crash course in nursing a sick bunny.  My poor Zoie was very acquainted with the vet.  Despite everything he went through, his sweet, trusting spirit remained.  He fought so hard through so many illnesses, and when he finally couldn’t fight any more, I was devastated.

All of my bunnies since Zoie have been rescues.  Chloe languished in an outdoor hutch for two years in the hot Florida sun.  Milhouse was dumped in a park, where he was attacked by predators, and miraculously survived.  Kahlua was my lucky bun.  He was born at the rescue.  It is mind-boggling to me that someone, at some point, didn’t want them.  If you’ve never had a house rabbit, you don’t know the joy of seeing a former hutch bunny do a binky for the first time.  You’ve never experienced the happy leap of your heart when a timid bunny nose bonks you for pets for the first time.  You’ve never seen a neglected bunny toss a toy for the first time, or a malnourished bunny eat hay for the first time.  I can’t describe what it’s like.  It’s one of the most satisfying feelings on the face of the earth.  If you’ve never had house rabbits, you don’t know how funny they are – believe me, rabbits have a sense of humor!  They continually make me laugh.  You’ve never seen the intelligence in their eyes.  Rabbits are smart – some more than others, but they’ve all got it.  You’ve never had a bunny comfort you when you’re down.  I’ve had days when I just sit tearfully in the middle of the floor, and my bunnies always come running over, as if to ask, “What’s wrong?”  They proceed to nose bonk me until I crack a smile.  This is why I have rabbits as pets.

Why do I concern myself with rescuing rabbits?  There are so few people in this world who even care what becomes of rabbits.  To most, they are disposable children’s pets.  Dogs and cats have a huge following, which is wonderful, but bunnies need a voice too.  Have you ever seen a bunny with nails so long they have completely curled around?  Teeth so neglected they have turned into tusks?  Bunnies so emaciated that it’s amazing they’re still breathing?  Have you seen botflies, ear mite infestations so bad the ears fell down, broken bones, fly strike, or rabbits so riddled with reproductive cancer they must be put down?  To me, it’s astonishing that these bunnies keep fighting.  Even at death’s door, they will still have that spark in their eyes – that will that says, “I want to live.  I want to be loved.  I deserve to be wanted.  Help me.”  That is why I fight for them.

I have to listen to people’s cruel comments – from the intentionally awful comments to the completely ignorant ones.  “I love rabbits – they taste like chicken!”  “I used to have a bunny.  It got out one day and the dog ripped it apart.”  “Whatever happened to that bunny we used to have?”  I cringe when I hear these – and believe me, rabbit rescuers hear them on almost a daily basis.  It is shocking to me how little people care.  Rabbits are treated in ways that would absolutely outrage people were they dogs or cats.  Rabbits are still classified as poultry, which means they are exempt from even being humanely slaughtered.  So yes, I will keep loving and keep fighting for these amazing, intelligent, hilarious, strong creatures.

Why rabbits?

Why not rabbits?

 In memory of Zoie...the one who started it all (2002-2008)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Shark Men and Trawls

Whew, haven't written in a while.  I've been insanely busy.  Work is continually trying to kill me, and when I'm not counting fish, I'm taking care of various small furry critters.

Yesterday at work we did some trawls in northern Pine Island Sound.  While I was quite ecstatic to NOT be driving the boat, I was exhausted from 2 sawfish trips and a 600' seine trip already that week.  My arms were already shot - so the last thing I felt like doing was dealing with trawls containing gallons and gallons of drift algae and sponge.  Trust me, that stuff weighs a ton.

I was pretty excited for lunch - I had a delicious Publix sub waiting in the cooler for me, and we were headed to the beach at Boca Grande Pass for lunch.  Our second trawl took FOREVER to work up, and my stomach was growling the entire time.  Yeah, we only had 2 out of 7 samples done by lunch.  FAIL.  Anyway, here's my view from our lunch spot. Yes, you should be jealous.  I earned that lunch spot!

To my excitement, the ship from the show "Shark Men" is currently anchored in Boca Grande Pass.  In case you are unfamiliar, the ship Ocean is a converted crab boat that is now used for shark research.  In the show, they capture large great white sharks and raise them onto the deck of the boat using a specially designed platform.  They take measurements and tag the fish.  Oh, how I wish I could be on the boat when they do that!  Anyway, they are currently in Boca Grande to tag large sharks (hammerheads, etc).  I jumped up and down excitedly when we drove by the Ocean on the way to one of our sample sites.  Here it is!
I just wish I had had a better camera than my cell phone!!  Too bad we didn't have any time to go talk to them :(
If you would like to learn more about "Shark Men", check out the website here:  
http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/series/shark-men/all/Overview

We did finally finish all of our samples, and it darn near killed me.  I was pretty crabby by the end of the day.  As the icing on the cake, I had to winch the boat halfway up the trailer since the tide was super high - couldn't back the trailer down far enough to make life easy for me.  Running on adrenaline and cheers from a couple boaters and charter captains, I winched that baby all the way up.  If you want toned arms, try my job.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Animal Rescue-palooza

Wow, what a week for the critters!!  After catching 6 sawfish in the field this week, I was quite enjoying my quiet day in the lab.  It was not to be.  The powers of work and animal rescue united!!  We found 3 less-than-a-week-old kittens.  They were pretty stinking cute.  They were cold and hungry, so me and my co-worker Amy warmed them up and drove over to Petco to get some KMR.  Once we got them warm and got some food in their tummies (and some poop OUT), they perked up and started meowing!  So cute.  My office became a kitten feeding station.  Lots of phone calls were made, and we ended up finding someone from E.A.R.S. (an animal rescue organization) to foster the litter.  Whew!  I don't really have any experience with cats, and neither does Amy (we're both allergic!), so it was a relief to hand them off to someone who really knew what they were doing!  I'm not a cat person, but they were darn cute.  We named the orange one Mercury...for the Mercury boat engines they were found under!

So after a day full of kitten rescue, I had a day full of bunny rescue!  A bunch of rescue people have been trying to save a terrified little bunny who is currently residing at the Tampa SPCA.  She's been abused and neglected, and has some health issues.  She's not doing well in a shelter environment.  Luckily, an SPCA volunteer has offered to foster little Bun Bun for 4 weeks, after which it looks like she will be traveling to a foster home in South Carolina.  Now we just have to figure out transport!
So after working on Bun Bun's situation this morning, I called a potential bunny home for our Ramona (they sadly never showed up), called a family who is being forced to give up a bunny they adopted from us due to tough economic times, and headed over to the Port Charlotte Petco.

I felt terrible - I've had an insane work week and haven't been in to Petco for a week.  Hershey was SO excited to have some exercise pen time!!  (Anyone want to help volunteer at the Port Charlotte Petco??)  I certainly enjoyed watching him binky around and nom his veggies.

Judd (the bunny being returned) showed up a short time later.  I felt terrible for his family.  They were in tears when they left - they clearly love him to pieces.  We are keeping Judd (well, now he is called Jinxie) on "hold" status for a bit to see if his family can get back on their feet - they want to take him back if they can.  What a heartbreaking situation :(

I loaded Thor up into the carrier to bring him up to the Sarasota Petco to meet his potential lady friend.  We braved the lovebugs and horrible traffic, and made it to Sarasota.  Thor and Amelia seemed to hit it off!  There was a bit of humping and chasing, but that's pretty typical.  Their new family, a nice young couple, came by (all the way from Sun City Center!) to come meet their new family members!  They are so excited about their new buns, and can't wait to take them home!  We will make sure they are bonded by the time they go home, but by the time I left Petco, Thor and Amelia were happily snuggling in a carrier.
Another volunteer, Amber, took the pair up to St. Pete, where they will be fostered until they go to their forever home.  Yay!

Monday, April 18, 2011

We're gonna need a bigger boat...

So today we went longlining.  Our ultimate goal is to capture larger sawfish to put satellite tags on.  Our day started at the lab at 6:30 a.m.  We were soon on the road, and headed down to launch at Punta Rassa, which is very near Sanibel.  We passed under the Sanibel Causeway and made our way to our first spot, which was in sight of the Sanibel Pier.  Our next two samples sites were off of Knapps Point (known for its larger sharks!)  The photo below is off of Knapps Point.  That's one of the floats for the longline - the line itself is 2500' long.


It's a rarity to capture a sawfish on our longline, but when we're off the coast of Sanibel, we're almost guaranteed to see some big sharks!  We set the line, and wait an hour for it to soak.  After an hour, the fun begins!  The first big shark of the day was a gorgeous 7-8 foot lemon!  We measure the sharks, take a quick genetics sample, and let them go on their way.  After the excitement of the lemon, we caught a good-size hammerhead and a couple big nurse sharks!  We also caught a handful of smaller sharks, such as blacktips and sharpnose.  Apparently there were a few other LARGE sharks down there.  We pulled up this poor guy, and were reminded that there's always a bigger fish:

In the end, we didn't capture what we were after, but we still got some good science done!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ah, the glory days of (almost) summer

I've spent the last three days of work out in the field, and the weather was gorgeous for 2 out of 3 days.  Guess I can't complain, although I was the lucky person who got to drive the boat on the super windy day.  NOAA predicted the winds to be west @ 10 kts yesterday.  Uh, no.  The winds were south-southwest at 15 kts all day!  It was a bit snotty in the middle of the harbor, so I definitely got my daily intake of salt water.

We weren't doing anything quite as exciting as catching sawfish this week, but it was nice to have a break with something more low-key.  Monday was a regular fisheries sampling trip, and Tuesday & Wednesday were spent catching water samples.  Oh yes, the ever elusive water sample...

I did quite enjoy being on the water today.  I got a break from being the driver, so it was nice being able to take catnaps between sample sites!  We stopped for lunch on a nice sandy beach in the Myakka River, then finished our day of water sampling.

Some good news on the bunny (and guinea pig) front this week too!!  Someone has inquired about my foster guinea pig boys.  Here's hoping it pans out into a good home for these deserving little piggies!  Squirrel has been waiting for a home since January, and I just picked Chipmunk up from Suncoast Humane Society last week.  I would love to see them in a wonderful adoptive home.  Of course, being their foster mom, I won't adopt them to just anyone!
The other guy I picked up at Suncoast has been quite popular this week!  Thor has had quite a few inquiries, so hopefully he will have a home very soon.  It's hard to resist the little guy.  He's pretty freaking cute.