• Cover illustration by Sara Rosen
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Cover illustration by Sara Rosen

It is doing what rabbits do.

It hops about, nibbles sticks and leaves, sniffs the afternoon breeze. Even by rabbit standards, the bunny is little: cup the palms of your hands together, and you could contain its entirety. Fuzzy and white, with black and tan spots, it looks as out of place among the wild brown rabbits that infest Lake Murray’s shores as would a penguin in the desert. And if the bunny minds that cyclists and the like are stopping along the jogging path to snap pictures like paparazzi, it doesn’t show.

“Wait till your mom sees this,” a man on a bike says to his children. He poses the kids on the trail with the bunny in the background. “She’s gonna love it.” But shortly after, the family loses interest and resumes pedaling. Others also move on. The bunny resumes nibbling ditch weeds.

It’s a pet gotten loose, my exercise companion concludes, and it needs rescuing. “Give me your hoodie,” she says. “I know how to do this.” She pounces, and the small white rabbit rockets into the trees.

“I’m sure the lake wardens know about it,” I say. “They’ll trap it somehow.” My friend is dubious. Who knows how long the bunny can survive out here? “Maybe it’ll stay hidden,” I say. I am secretly hoping we won’t see it again.

But after we jog the lake and return to our starting point, there is the spotted bunny, hopping about in roughly the same place. By now, the warm June afternoon is turning to dusk. I walk up the bank, alone, and sit near the bunny in the lengthening shadows. For the next half hour, I tell it mindless things about wild dogs and coyotes. The lights in the parking lot come on. Finally, the rabbit hops over and sniffs. My fingers sink gently into fur so plush I understand immediately why they make coats out of rabbits.

Later that night, tweezing bloody ticks from around the thing’s neck in the clinical glow of my halogen desk lamp, I see it: a word has been tattooed inside the rabbit’s left ear. “Stoopid.” Now we’re getting somewhere. A poor choice for a name, yes, but I am thinking that whoever commissioned the offensive tat likely misses their pet. The next day, I cover the floor of the guest bathroom in my La Mesa home with hay. I lock the bunny inside with water and rabbit pellets and drive back to the lake.

“Oh, it’s probably coyote poop by now,” the counter man at the bait shop tells me. “That’s what happens to rabbits that get turned loose out here. They keep the coyotes fed.” Well, not this time, I say. The counter man seems shocked that I’ve caught the animal. As if to explain his jaded attitude, he says, “People let rabbits go here all the time. They just dump any kind of animal off.” A short list of rejected pets includes turtles, goldfish, even frogs and snakes. “You see all those ducks?” He points out the window at a gaggle of large white birds with gold beaks. “Not a one of them is a native.” I ask for permission to post some lost-bunny flyers around the lake, and the counter man writes down my phone number.

Outside the bait shop, a painfully thin man holding several fishing rods approaches. “I overheard you in there,” he says quietly. “We run a rabbit rescue, my girlfriend and me.” He licks his chapped lips. “If you can’t find the owner, we’ll take it.” He licks his lips again. “Okay?” I write down his phone number. Meanwhile, can he spare a loaner cage? No, he cannot.

The receptionist at the Humane Society in Mission Valley politely informs me that La Mesa is not within their service area. I’m told to instead contact either the El Cajon or Bonita shelter to report the missing bunny. There is no room at the inn, otherwise; all three of the Humane Society’s locations are full-up with rabbits.

Calls to El Cajon and Bonita get the same answer: full to capacity, not accepting any rabbits at this time, but do check back. The receptionist at Bonita suggests I place an ad on Craigslist.

“My neighbor lost her bunny a couple of days ago,” says the first responder to my found-bunny-at-Lake-Murray posting. I’d purposely not mentioned the ear tattoo to separate opportunists from the real owner. I press the caller for a description. “It’s little and it’s white, and it has spots with black eyes,” he says. Close, but no cigar. The caller insists that the bunny belongs to his neighbor. He gives me her address. He wants me to show it to her. I do the map math: Does the caller realize that, from his neighbor’s house, the rabbit would’ve had to hop across eight lanes of freeway to get to the lake?

“Anything is possible,” he says.

Another Craigslist responder claims that he, too, saw a spotted rabbit. It had been hopping about his Lake Murray neighborhood during the last week or so. He fed it lettuce. According to the caller, the bunny was very friendly. Then, he says, it just sort of disappeared one day. I ask if it ever occurred to him to call Animal Control — or if pet bunnies simply roamed about loose in his neighborhood. He has no answer to this. Then he says, “I have a video of the bunny. Do you want to come over and watch it?”

An internet search produces a list of local independent rabbit shelters, including the Companion Rabbit Society and the House Rabbit Society (one and the same organization, it turns out). Like their civic counterparts, none of the shelters has room for rabbits, stray or otherwise. I’m told to check back. Meanwhile, why don’t I take the rabbit to a veterinarian to have it scanned? Possibly, whoever tattooed its ear also had it tagged with an identifying microchip.

I purchase a used animal carrier from a thrift store and drive the rabbit to a clinic in Rancho San Diego. A veterinary tech runs a small electronic wand over the bunny again and again, but no dice. “She’s not been chipped,” the tech says. I show her the ear tattoo and she is somewhat taken aback.

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Lisa_Burrell March 20, 2013 @ 11:35 a.m.

I enjoyed your interesting and thorough article, and what a sweet story about you and your new pet! I can tell how comfortable you two are together, in the video. (Is she still called "Stoopid"? LOL). I grew up with a couple different bunnies in the 70s and 80s back when they did live in hutches outside and eat carrots :)... I'd have a house bunny now in a second, but I don't think my Jack Russell would take very kindly to it. (and the description of your and friends' disbelief that YOU would have a rabbit is the same feeling/reaction I went through when I agreed to a dog four years ago... but now he's the baby we never had or wanted, and brings me so much joy. I hope you enjoy your bunny roommate/pal as much! :)

~ Lisa in Orange County


Dave Good March 21, 2013 @ 9:35 a.m.

Hi Lisa; no, she's not called Stoopid any more, and never was called that here at the house. We call her The Mouse, in deference possibly to her size: tiny. I think it's probably a wise choice not to mix a bunny with a Jack Russell!


Margobun March 20, 2013 @ 1:57 p.m.

Thanks for the great article, Dave, for the many shout outs to House Rabbit Society, but especially for rescuing your new friend!


Dave Good March 21, 2013 @ 9:37 a.m.

True that, Margobun. I initially went to the HSR as a "dump call." In time, they made it possible for me to understand and keep the rabbit. The experience has changed my life for the better.


KatieS March 20, 2013 @ 6:23 p.m.

Dave, I REALLY enjoyed your article!! It was a great read! The best part for me was that you ended up keeping that sweet bunny you found. I am dying to find out what you call her now. I loved the video of you 2!! Thank you so much for calling attention not only to what great pets buns are but also to the plight that so many of them face because people don't think before getting a rabbit. Rabbits are such underrated pets. They are loving, sweet, smart and spunky!! I love my dogs, cats and horses but there will always be a very special place in my heart for my rescue bunny Fidget!


Dave Good March 21, 2013 @ 9:38 a.m.

The Mouse: that's her new name. It kind of fits, being that she is all of two pounds.


vaultingmama March 21, 2013 @ 2:23 a.m.

Enjoyed this article and will share on my FB page. (bunnygroomer.com) I have been rescuing for about 7 years and have about 47 bunnies right now...yikes, I know! But I find good homes for them eventually. Some I've had for 3-5 years. Others go quicker. None go fast. I do what I can..helping my local shelter and taking in the unwanted and death rowers. I rack my brain for ideas to help the situation...and have some good ideas....but no funding. Im still in debt from doing all the spay and neutering! lol But boy do I love the bunnnnnnies. I got bunny fever 7 years ago. My story is on my website up to chapter 12. I am living in chapter 300 at this point! NO time to write at this point. Blessings, vicki [email protected] www.bunnygroomer.com


Dave Good March 21, 2013 @ 9:40 a.m.

Wow - 47 bunnies? Thanks for helping the cause!


sddialedin March 21, 2013 @ 3:22 a.m.

I moved into my current place about a year ago. With it came a presumably dumped bunny. He lives between my open backyard (shared with other tenants) and a few other houses on my block. With a dog and cat already in my studio, bringing him indoors is not an option but we do our best to feed him and keep him from being harassed. He let me pet him for the first time last week and it kills me a little when he disappears for a day or two, but capturing him and turning him over to a shelter doesn't feel right either. Not sure what the right thing to do is except letting him live life as he currently knows it.


Dave Good March 21, 2013 @ 9:43 a.m.

My first thought is that the bunny should be brought in to a shelter, or at least given to someone who can house it properly...for the animal's own good, really. Lots of different ways for it to get sick or be hurt while on the loose. Let me know how I can help, okay?


thebunnyguy March 21, 2013 @ 9:29 a.m.

Thank you Dave, for this amazing article. It is a very timely reminder that rabbits are a commitment that requires special knowledge and is not an Easter gift that can be disposed of when the holiday passes. Thank you Petco Foundation for supporting our efforts to get a rabbit only shelter in San Diego and for not selling bunnies in their SoCal stores. Most of all, I want to invite the public to join us for our third annual "Make Mine Chocolate" meeting at Buccaneer Beach in Oceanside CA this Sunday at 3pm. We will be collecting donated chocolate bunnies to give to a local Abused Women's Shelter for their children. Last year we donated 34 big chocolate bunnies in the name of the San Diego House Rabbit Society. We hope to donate even more this year. If you are in the area, drop by and donate a chocolate bunny for an abused family and check out all of our pet house rabbits who will be in attendance. It is not necessary to bring a rabbit, but if you do please bring an x-pen, litter box and bowl of water for him. For more info, http://northcountybeachbunnies.shutterfly.com/


Dave Good March 22, 2013 @ 9:05 a.m.

It's just like Patricia Mulcahy said: "small animal, big pet." To be perfectly honest, I think most people aren't intentionally abusive. I think they are doing what they think is a good job of caring for their respective pet rabbits based on the popular knowledge that is available at pet retailers and rabbit breeders and so on.


AmandaJess March 21, 2013 @ 4:23 p.m.

I knew it was a cult! I'm a proud member then! Great article.


meliciousbeauty March 21, 2013 @ 7:22 p.m.

I absolutely adored this article Dave! what a fantastic way to bring awareness to a topic that does not receive enough education! I am so glad that you kept this Rabbit as your own and that you took it upon yourself to do what you knew what right! Thank you for recognizing House Rabbit Society as well because they never get the full amount of credit they deserve for everything that they do! What a wonderful thing to discuss right before Easter! Thank You Again!! I felt like i went on a journey with you! As a proud owner of 2 rabbits I would not know what I would do without them...They saved me, not the other way around...I loved this article! Thanks again! From Michigan With Love, Melissa


Dave Good March 22, 2013 @ 9 a.m.

Thanks for reading. The real credit goes to the Reader and my editor -- they recognized the story and made the decision to give it support. Yeah, the HRS team is tireless in their support, aren't they? I'd like to know more about how your rabbits saved you --


judyperry March 25, 2013 @ 6:49 a.m.

LOVE this article Dave! I work with a small animal rescue in Newfoundland, Canada. We have about 30 rabbits in our foster care program right now. They are amazing pets, just misunderstood. I have 4 (2 bonded pairs) of my own:) I especially loved the part where you said but "they'll chew up your stuff" and her response was "Yeah, if you place importance on your stuff." That's a lesson that a lot of people can learn for sure! Thanks so much for sharing! I will share your article with our rescue family:)


Desertdarlene March 29, 2013 @ 7:55 p.m.

Thank you so much for rescuing this rabbit! I often look after the dumped ducks at the lake and try to get them homes if I can. It's very hard, not only to catch them, but to place them. If I could take them home, I would.

I understand that some people are desperate and don't feel they have any alternatives to where they can take their pets when they move, etc. (there's no real waterfowl rescue center in this area). But, I can't believe how many people think that dumping their pet is the RIGHT thing to do. They wouldn't dump their dog at the lake, but they feel it's perfectly natural to dump a pet bunny or non-flying breed of duck there.


maria52 March 31, 2013 @ 9:14 p.m.

Hey Dave. Just wanted to comment on your heartwarming and well-written article. . .Admittedly, I was a little reluctant to read it due to the cover picture. . .I thought it might be about those type of people that dress up as stuffed animals. "Furries" is what I think they are called. . .Anyhow, finally just out of curiosity, decided to read your piece and was duly impressed, as well as being touched by your poignant story. I had to be reminded once again: "do not judge a book by it's cover." Really beautiful story, told very well. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks!


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