The Power of One Writer
Back Yards, Ethiopia and Children's Books

If only Ethiopia had therapy bunnies

An article in yesterday’s Oregonian introduced me to the sweetness of bunny comfort care.  Every week, Sarah Baran carries two baskets–filled with Cloey and Bitsey–to an assisted-living center.  She says, “A bunny is soft, small fragile and completely vulnerable.  They make people happy.”  Oooo.  Every day when I walked in the arboritum in Hesston, Kansas, I saw bunnies like this one in the picture.  They made me think about the bunnies my kids had, when they were young, who were utterly not fragile or vulnerable–and who never made great pets.  When I decided to give Lanie a pet bunny, it was thrilldom to read a flood of true stories, on the web, about house rabbits and the people who take them seriously and–like Baran and Lanie–train them well.  (This illustration of Lanie walking her bunny is my favorite!) 

Ethiopia invented many things the world enjoys today.  If only it had invented bunny therapy.

When I was a kid, growing up in Ethiopia, I was crazy for small animals.  These cats had work to do, catching small rodents in the storage rooms, and they weren’t a bit tame, but I never gave up on them.  Someone brought us a dik-dik whose mother had been killed by a hunter.   My sisters and poured our hearts into keeping it alive. 

Alas, no.  I wrote, “We have a babby antelope.  We keep him in a box and feed him with a bottle.  We are afraid he is dead.”

He was.

My dad dug a grave, and my sisters and I spent hours sprinkling flower petals onto it and mourning the short, sweet life of such a shy and delicate animal, as I later described a dik-dik for my book Trouble.

My brother also was powerfully drawn to animals–and he got to have pets because my family lived in the city of Addis Ababa when he was young.  (I’ve written on this blog about being in Houston and running into the guy whose dog our dog, Chino, used to tangle with in that Addis neighborhood…amazing connection.)

Now, he has the wondrous Penny.  Yesterday, Penny became a sort of therapy pup for my mom.  She parked herself on the top of the couch and surveyed the world, for hours, with deep concentration and seriousness.  Chris said she was eager to go bite some ankles of dogs across the street in the park.  Mom was tickled pink.  We nicknamed Chris’s dog Napoleona.  She thinks she’s Napoleon.  She thinks she’s a wolf.  Yay for the comfort of bunnies and dogs and all things furry and fascinating.

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