2014-12-11 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

Do you have room in your heart and home for a Real oneeyed rabbit? In the classic children’s book The Velveteen Rabbit, a toy bunny, shabby with fur worn out because his child loved him so much, yearned to become Real. Meanwhile, at Babylon Town Shelter a Real pet rabbit, so neglected that he needed eye surgery, continues after months at the shelter to yearn for a Real home.

Written by Margery Williams in 1922, The Velveteen Rabbit was one of my favorite books to read to students, along with others like Charlotte’s Web and Stone Fox that I could not get through without blubbering and sobbing. The story told from the toy’s point of view begins one Christmas when the plush Velveteen Rabbit is given to the boy as a gift. This short novel teaches young readers how toys are forever changed by the love of their childhood owners. The stuffed Rabbit, at first snubbed by the more expensive toys in the nursery, becomes the boy’s favorite companion until Nana tosses him into a bag of possessions to be burned after the boy recovers from scarlet fever and the doctor orders his room disinfected.

The Velveteen Rabbit The Velveteen Rabbit With the help of his friend the Skin Horse, once cherished by the boy’s uncle, the Rabbit learns that a child’s love and friendship can make a toy Real:

““What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?” “Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.” “Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit. “Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.” “Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?” “It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to those who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real, you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.””

“Joey” - one-eyed rabbit at Babylon Shelter “Joey” - one-eyed rabbit at Babylon Shelter In the book there are three levels of Real. First, of course, the Velveteen Rabbit is an object that can be touched, seen and played with; therefore, Real in the physical sense. The second suggests something can become Real when it is loved enough. When the boy proclaimed to Nana that the Rabbit wasn’t an old toy but instead Real, “That night the Rabbit was almost too happy to sleep, and so much love stirred in his sawdust heart that it almost burst.”

His joy diminished when he met a pair of live bunnies in the garden, and they challenged him to hop with them. The Rabbit realized he could only jump when the boy threw him high in the air, and he couldn’t run outside because his hind legs were made all in one piece. Later when the nursery magic Fairy is about to transform him into a live bunny, she said: “I take care of all the playthings that children have loved. When they are old and worn out and the children don’t need them anymore, then I take them away with me and make them Real.” “Wasn’t I Real before?” asked the little Rabbit. “You were Real to the boy,” the Fairy said, “because he loved you. Now you shall be Real to everyone.”

Let’s get back to “Joey” the one-eyed rabbit at Babylon Shelter so we can move onto “Real-Level Four” within the pet realm. He is a domestic rabbit -once someone’s pet. Perhaps someone bought him as an Easter gift when he was an adorable baby bunny, and now the novelty of cuteness has worn off. He had a home, but not a Real home with care and affection. The folks at the shelter were not born yesterday; at times when someone says they “found” a pet, the shelter staff knows that there is more to why that pet was in such close proximity to finders. (Get my drift?)

“Joey” lived a life of neglect. He was not in good condition when he entered the shelter, and has more friends there than he has ever had before. Several rabbits have been at the shelter recently so great home possibilities have already been exhausted. Shelter veterinarian Dr. Lupo-Lyons has taken a special interest in him. Besides treating the bunny medically, she advocates on his behalf for adoption and for specialist opinions. Her young daughter named him “Joey,” but their home is already filled to pet capacity.

“Joey” was in pain from a parasitic infection known to plague rabbits. His eye became affected with glaucoma from this condition. Dr. Lyons contacted a veterinary ophthalmologist colleague. She recommended enucleation (eye removal) and then did the surgery plus “Joey’s” neuter pro bono. He is back at the shelter with his new friends, munching quietly on his straw. The Velveteen Rabbit became threadbare because he was so loved, whereas “Joey”’s shabbiness stems from lack of love. “Joey” so deserves a Real home before the holidays. Hopefully someone will agree. *Want to make a difference for a shelter animal this holiday season? Donate to the “Toys & Treats Drive,” Sat., Dec. 13, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., 51 Lamar St. W. Babylon (631-643-9270) sponsored by Shelter Link (516-458- 3103). Items greatly appreciated are: durable dog toys like Kongs, treats, rawhides made in USA, dog & cat food (Iams preferred, but any accepted), cat toys, dog and cat beds, blankets. Stop by, walk through the shelter and meet adoptable animals waiting for their “furever” homes. Raffle baskets also.

*For Adoption at Babylon Shelter: “Destiny” 14-644 would like to change hers. She too comes to the shelter from a neglectful, outside existence but retains a wonderful demeanor. “Mac” 4-410 is a lovely calico who arrived with an unusual name for a female cat.

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