It began because of the pandemic. Or is that just my excuse? Anyway, somehow, my kids convinced me that getting two bunnies as Pandemic Emotional Support animals was a good idea. The breeder didn’t know the sex of said bunnies, but somehow I felt confident about rolling the dice and believed strongly that we chose two female bunnies.
Our relationship with S’mores and Marley started out perfectly. They were wonderful pets. Soft, cuddly, and quiet. They’d fall asleep on my chest as I rubbed their ears. They tolerated my kids chasing them and even tackling them. They were like live stuffed animals.
It was summer so we kept them outside most of the time. They were happy. We were happy. I felt great about our Pandemic Emotional Support Pets. I didn’t understand why bunnies aren’t a more popular pet choice?
Then fall came and it turned cold. I started worrying about S’mores and Marley out there in the plummeting temperatures. Even though my husband reminded me that we see wild bunnies outside during all seasons of the year, I didn’t think our bunnies were gritty enough.
So overnight we had indoor bunnies. And the problems soon followed. While we intended to keep our bunnies in one room in the house, slowly, they started getting access to other rooms. As our bunnies became more curious and comfortable in our home, they wandered more broadly and freely. Instead of one room, they were literally found in all rooms of our house. And despite being “litter box trained” they enjoyed using my daughters’ closets as alternative bathrooms. They also began chewing on…well…everything. Expensive decorative baskets were quickly reduced to wires and our carpet now has patches missing.
The problems climaxed when one morning I found one of my bunnies coming out of my closet. Curious about her behavior, I went to investigate. Toward the back of our closet, behind my husband’s hanging work shirts, I saw some black fluff. I pushed the shirts aside and saw that the black fluff was moving! Inside a large pile of black fur, were five naked, newborn bunnies!
For the next few weeks, our entire lives revolved around this litter of baby bunnies in our closet. I didn’t know our lives could feel more chaotic than they already did!
How does this relate to boundaries? Besides the obvious fact that I didn’t have any? This experience with my bunnies taught me a couple important points about boundaries.
Sometimes we don’t know we need boundaries until they’ve already been crossed. This is actually probably the most common experience. Maybe I should have had better foresight about this, but I am also giving myself grace since I’ve never owned bunnies before. But now that I know, I need to be accountable to that knowledge.
Lack-of-boundaries, while chaotic, was easier and there were also parts of that experience that I enjoyed. While our house fell into a new level of chaos with our wandering fur balls, there were also parts of this experience I really liked. For example, I liked that when I’d open my refrigerator, Marley would come bounding and then skid to an awkward stop right beside me, hoping I’d give her a carrot or a piece of lettuce. I liked watching our bunnies frolic around together. I liked watching the baby bunnies grow and get cuter each day. When I’d put on my pajamas each night, I’d make a special point to check-on them and coo at how cute they were. Etc. This helped me realize that the boundaries we need to have in our lives can be complicated. Crossed boundaries may include some perks but ultimately the costs outweigh the benefits.
While I didn’t have foresight into our need for boundaries, my husband did. I can’t tell you how often I deliberately ignored him and thought he was being dramatic about “living in a zoo.” It took us going from two bunnies to having seven in our house for me to see it. Maybe I should have listened better? This teaches me to look toward trusted people in my life to see what I can’t. These trusted family and friends can also be helpful in moving toward the next step of creating and implementing those needed boundaries.
Setting boundaries after-the-fact makes it harder. It broke my heart to relegate my bunnies back to one area in my house. I can tell how desperate they are to wander freely again and it makes me feel sad. But I have to remember that boundaries make for good relationships! Even if those relationships are with pets. If I let them take over our house again, not only will they destroy my house, I will begin to resent them. Further, I need to remember that they don’t need my entire house as their playpen to have a full life. They are still an active part of our family and we nurture and love them.
I’m not good at boundaries but I’m learning. Maybe you can relate? I am proud of myself for doing the harder thing and taking back control of our life and our home. I am hopeful that this experience generalizes beyond our fluffy bunnies into other aspects of my life and relationships. It is an ongoing journey to know what we need and the boundaries we need to set. Let’s keep trekking.