One of the staff members calls me to the desk to ask me if we have room for a new rabbit.
"I guess, we have an empty cage. I guess my fosters can wait a while." I shrug. "What is it?"
"A really cute Lionhead." The staff member replies. "Go check him out."
There's a little girl and her mother standing in the lobby, next to a blue carrier. I go to investigate.
"He's a really nice rabbit," The woman says immediately. "He's very nice with my daughter. It's just these allergies, you know..."
"Is that why you're giving him up?" I asked. I always try to be careful not to offend surrendering owners, although sometimes I don't know why.
"Well, you know, I'm allergic and the landlord's not too happy about him." The woman pulls up a sleeve, showing me an angry, red, bumpy arm. "You see? It's really the allergies. We'd keep him if it weren't for the allergies."
She looks expectantly at me, her arm in my face. "See?"
"Uh, yes." I say. "Allergies do happen."
I turn away to look at the bunny and she pulls her sleeve back down. "So how old is he? How long have you had him?"
"Oh about 5 months." The woman leans forward, watching me as I pick up the little fluffball. He's certainly cute. "You get bunnies adopted right? They find homes?"
"We do our very best." I say, lifting up the rabbit and staring into his eyes. He stares back, wide round eyes filled with anxiety, but not the stark terror of most new rabbits. He seems almost confident in the humans around him. Even though I have little patience for surrendering owners, this was clearly a bunny who was loved. He feels no fear toward me or his owners. But then, he has no idea what's just happened to him.
"People adopt rabbits, right?" The woman asks again as I stare at her rabbit. She wants me to say we won't euthanize him. We probably won't, but no one can say for sure. Such is the reality of shelters.
"It's slow but steady." That's my standard answer. "We try to get as many adopted as we can."
She wants me to clarify and spell it out, but she doesn't ask any more questions. Probably because her daughter is standing there. I always feel bad for the kids in these situations.
"What's his name?" I ask.
"Thumper." Says the girl firmly. "His name is Thumper."
Of course it is.
"Is he neutered?" I ask, trying to keep a straight face. The answer has never been 'yes' unless it's a return.
"We don't know how to neuter rabbits." The woman says with a bit of a laugh. "Is he a boy? We think he's a boy."
"Uh, yeah. He's a boy." I say.
"Oh we really wouldn't be giving him up except for the allergies." Says the woman once again. "You know, we did research on the Internet before we got him, and no one said anything. Nothing said people could be allergic to rabbits."
Of course it didn't.
"Oh, bigger than at home." Says the woman.
Of course it is.
The little girl, silent and solemn, helps me put him into the cage. She is hard to read and very stoic. The woman asks one more time about adoptions, then they go.
"You okay, hun?" The woman asks as they leave. The girl gives a solemn nod.
Thumper, who is due for a name change, sits in his new cage and munches on his hay, looking as solemn as the girl who has just left.
I never know how I feel about these surrenders.