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Buckeye HRS logoThe Buckeye House Rabbit SocietyHarelines logo

Winter 1998
Volume 2 Number 1


How can you be deaf with ears like That? by Cindy Scheel

Health Notes -- GI disorders in the house rabbit by Dr. Anne Gentry, DVM

How to ... GET A VET by Therese Skinner
Best Friend, a true story by Michael Lain



Chapter Messages

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How can you be deaf with ears like That?

by Cindy Scheel

learn to purr I fell in love with her ears-first.

There she was, in a cage in a pet store. I wasn’t ready for another rabbit, I had just lost one a couple of months before and was still in mourning. But boldly staring at me were three quarters of a pound of bunny, at least a third of that was ears. Her cellmates didn't even glance my way, no doubt tired of little poking fingers. She was a shiny black lop whose right ear had a huge semi-circle missing from it, probably the result of a fight. I melted, and Sinbad, so named because of the piratical air her chomped ear gave her, came into my life.

I had had five bunnies before, and each had been pretty much the same; bright but standoffish. Sinbad was different, she had to be with me every second. But it took me five years to realize she was deaf. I always attributed her never coming to me, or continuing to chew on a forbidden item after calling her name to bunny independence and defiance. Now, looking back through her album, I see the clues. A picture of her at 12 weeks old, her front leg in a cast, a consequence of following too late out the heavy wrought iron door of my house. (Unlike the cat who timed her exit to the pneumatic hiss of the door mechanism, Sinbad didn't hear this clue.) Another photo of her on the piano keys. My playing was bad enough to drive the cat out of the room, but this little rabbit hopped up on the keys, considering it a marvelous vantage point for petting, and the thing she landed on also purred!

The realization came one day as I was rummaging in the kitchen and knocked an entire cabinet of pots and pans onto the tile floor, making enough racket to bring my human companion, Jeff, into the room. Sinbad just lounged with her back to us, about two feet from the metallic cascade. "She's deaf," Jeff pronounced. I stared in disbelief. After all, I was Sinbad's mom, I would know if she were deaf. "Watch," he said and clapped his hands and shouted Sinbad's name loudly. No movement. My vet found no physical causes, and determined she was probably deaf from birth.

Sinbad wasn't suffering, I was. But I was determined to communicate with her in terms she could understand. I watched, listened and mimicked her behavior. Our relationship blossomed as this intelligent rabbit realized her human companion wasn't quite so dense, after all. I operate on the theory that in order to effectively communicate with a deaf rabbit you need to use the remaining senses to compensate for what nature is lacking, and you need to be more rabbit-like yourself. So here are my tips for communicating with a deaf rabbit.

Can we talk?

Learn to purr. You can copy the tooth purr of your rabbit. Practice and make something like it by clicking your teeth, or rapidly moving your jaw from side to side with the teeth lightly together. Put your jaw on his head and purr. It's a lot like Lagomorph Morse Code. Just like humans, rabbits have different vocabularies, so listen and observe when your rabbit purrs.

Their Eyes Have It

Make full but brief eye contact (long eye contact may be seen as a challenge or a threat) to alert your bunny to your desire to communicate. Being at eye level usually entails lying on the floor just a little off to the side of his face so he can get a full look at you. Approaching a deaf rabbit sideways so he can really see you makes a huge difference! You can now begin a meaningful, trusting communication with your rabbit.

The Sweet Smell of Success

This is auditory compensation with scent. At nose level, they get a good whiff of your skin, breath, hair, etc. and really get to know you by your smell. Don't wear colognes or perfumes which will disguise the scent of the real you.

Good Vibrations

Every rabbit communicates with thumps. Perceived danger, anger or frustration are common reasons for thumping. Use the same thumps to scold your bunny if he's eating something forbidden, or is in a dangerous place dangerous. Also, acclimating your rabbit to your peculiar rhythms -- how you breathe, the rumble your body makes when you talk, etc. is great for enhancing non-verbal communication.

It Pays to Advertise

Visual clues may not be enough because rabbits are built for long-distance and peripheral vision, and have a blind spot directly in front of them in close-range vision. Alert your rabbit to your approach. If he is in a cage, with his back to you or is asleep, tap the cage lightly when you draw near. If he has a special room of his own, turn on the light as you enter, so he isn't startled by the sudden movement of the door.

That Come-Hither Thing

Since a deaf rabbit can't hear you when you call his name, try herbs to call your bunny. The smell of fresh sage, thyme, parsley, cilantro, etc. is something which precedes you, and is eagerly greeted. This works well with free-range bunnies, but nearly guarantees your rabbit will be underfoot when you cook!

Be One with the Bun

Groom him as if you're a rabbit, this will not only convey that you can indeed understand Rabbit communication, but it conveys love like nothing else for him. Rabbits display affection with their licks and nose rubs. Try brushing your cheek, chin or nose in a grooming pattern on his head. (Watch another bunny do this to get it right. I mimicked my cat, which seems to be adequate). Hand petting is nice, but rabbits go nose-to-nose when they want to be up close and personal. And there is nothing so soft and silky as a rabbit's ear against your cheek!

A rabbit may be born deaf, or become so with old age. And there *are* advantages to living with a deaf rabbit. You can vacuum, grind coffee beans, listen to loud music, and set off fireworks with impunity. No need to tiptoe around! So enjoy life with your deaf rabbit more -- adapt these tips to your own bunny and you will no doubt find him more loving and trusting than ever.

Here are some of Sinbad's purrs that I've decoded:

* Five clicks means "I'm happy"

* Two clicks means "Do that again!" (usually more petting or another treat)

* Three to four clicks means "Talk to me!" (be less human, more rabbit in your actions)

* A set of three, then four clicks conveys imminent departure from the scene. Either a "Good bye!" or a "You're boring, I'm going to go torture the cat."

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Health Notes -- GI disorders in the house rabbit

by Dr. Anne Gentry, DVM

Gastrointestinal disorders are the most common problems that a veterinarian encounters with rabbits, and presumably are the most common problems the rabbit owner faces, so it seems a natural subject for this column. Gastrointestinal problems theoretically include everything from the mouth to the anus with all that connective plumbing (called stomach, intestines and cecum) in between. The liver and biliary tree are usually included as well, but I'll leave those to another column.

mmmm ... GI rations

Samson's only thought of his GI tract is how soon he can fill it.

Despite the belief held by most people who have never owned a rabbit, rabbits are not simply rodents with docked tails. As such, the rabbit's dental formula (how many teeth they have and how they're arranged) is unique to the lagomorphs. The most obvious difference is that rabbits have two incisors on the top (those long, sharp teeth in the front that you could always see in the Bugs Bunny cartoons) and two incisors on the bottom. They have a tiny second incisor right behind the primary incisor. That tooth isn't one that moves forward should the rabbit lose the big incisor (rabbits having no relation to sharks whose teeth do move forward to replace lost teeth), but rather probably acts as a sharpening stone for the lower tooth as the rabbit's chewing action is lateral (side to side) rather than vertical (up and down) like rodents.

Dental problems

Dental problems aren't simply a matter of the rabbit needing braces for cosmetic reasons. Abnormal wear of the incisors leads to eating problems (which show themselves as not eating, emaciation and excessive drooling) but also can result in skin problems as well. Abscesses in the skin around the head should always be evaluated keeping problems with the teeth uppermost in mind.

Some dental problems are easily remedied by the owner, including trimming teeth that have grown too long and clearing the mouth of packed food. However, problems that don't respond to home therapy should be seen by a veterinarian. Just a word of warning to the wie, which hopefully should be sufficient: just as the rabbit isn't a rodent or a shark, neither is the rabbit a cat. Abscesses in rabbits, which are frequently caused by tooth problems can rarely be treated successfully by lancing and flushing with hydrogen peroxide as can be done with the cat. Surgical removal of the abscess wall and aggressive post op debriding may be necessary to be successful in treating the rabbit's abscess. In addition, the dental problem must be remedied at the same time.

Stomach problems

Moving down the intestinal tract, the next area that frequently causes problems is the stomach. Rabbits have one simple stomach with a large cecum (much like a horse but different from a cow which has one simple stomach and three auxillary stomachs). Man has one simple stomach as well, but we have a tiny cecum (our appendix) which makes us poor digesters of fiber such as grasses and bark and therefore different from the rabbit.

Hairballs (the fancy name is trichobezoars) are probably the most common stomach problem a rabbit owner will face. Rabbits who are affected most often are 1) fed a high carbohydrate, low fiber diet; 2) are caged; and, 3) are either under some stress or groom excessively. Signs include depression, dehydration, not eating and sometimes weight loss.

In simple cases, petrolatum (Cat-lax, Laxaire and Felaxin are commercially-vailable products) applied to the paws is usually sufficient to treat and prevent hairball formation. In more difficult cases, fluid therapy (by mouth and under the skin) is necessary. Pureed vegetables and fruits can be force fed to rehydrate the rabbit. Antibiotics are usually given (with trimethoprim-sulfa being the most common) to decrease bacterial overgrowth. Metoclopramide hydrochloride to stimulate gastric motility can be helpful, but be sure to consult your veterinarian first. Continue treatment for 3-5 days and the rabbit will usually begin eating by the third or fourth day. It is essential to begin forcing food as soon as possible to prevent hepatic lipidosis, a nasty disease that can occur whenever a well cared-for rabbit goes off food for more than a day.

In most severe cases, surgery may be required, but the outcome for the rabbit is not encouraging.


Parasites are the most common problem that involves the intestine and stomach in rabbits. Helminths, like the common pinworm (Passalurus ambiguus) and Trichostrongylidae (Obeliscoides cuniculi--don't you wish you'd taken Latin in high school?) are easily treated with Panacur (dose 10-20 mg/kg by mouth) repeated in two weeks. Ivermectin is good for treating O. cuniculi, but is relatively useless in treating the pinworm.

Tapeworms and liver flukes can both be treated with Droncit (5-10 mg/kg by mouth). The best way to prevent these parasites is by not feeding rabbits grass from wet meadows.

Now is as good a time as any to mention coccidiosis, a protozoan (one-celled) parasite that involves both the large and small intestine as well as the liver. In my experience, this is absolutely the most common parasite either you or I will encounter with rabbits. The intestinal coccidia (which can cause diarrhea with mucus and sometimes streaks of blood in it) has a nasty cousin (Eimeria stiedae) that infects the liver. This nasty relative causes clinical signs such as enlarged liver, unthriftiness and abdominal distension. Its diagnosis can usually be made by your veterinarian who will look at a stool sample. Keeping your rabbit's living area scrupulously clean is the best means of prevention. Sulfamethazine is the drug of choice for treatment.

Other Intestinal Problems

Mucoid Enteritis is a major problem of commercial rabbitries, but can also be seen in the pet rabbit (age 7-14 weeks, usually). It's sometimes difficult to distinguish from coccidiosis. Both are seen predominantly in young rabbits. Severe weight loss, swelling of the abdomen, not eating, weakness and diarrhea with lots of mucus in it, are characteristic signs. Most rabbits who contract the disease die from it. There is no treatment that works consistently, but one technique is to isolate the rabbit, fast him for 24 hours and then let him start eating only hay and water. The regular diet may be gradually re-introduced over the next 7 days. Feeding a high fiber diet, low in carbohydrates is an excellent preventative.

There are certainly other causes of intestinal problems in rabbits, including E. coli (seen in rabbits between 1 and 14 days of age...death approaches 100%). Tyzzer's Disease (a Closridium bacteria that causes a severe diarrhea that can be lethal in weanling rabbits) may be prevented by good hygiene and high fiber diets. Salmonella, Pseudomonas and Campylaobacter are uncommon causes of diarrhea in rabbits.

There are several viruses that affect the intestinal tract of rabbits, but diagnosis is difficult and treatment is not different than that for most intestinal diarrhea. Supportive care (fluids, sometimes antibiotics, and drugs for toxic shock), excellent hygiene and high fiber diets offer the best hope for survival. There are no vaccines against these viruses.

If you have any questions about this column, feel free to contact me at: opossumvet@aol.com. I'll warn you in advance that for particular questions about particular rabbits, I'll refer you to your local veterinarian.

Dr. Gentry is the owner of Jackson Animal Clinic in Ripley, West Virginia.

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How to ... GET A VET

by Therese Skinner, HRS educator for Kentucky

Perhaps you've moved to a new town. Maybe you've just added a house rabbit to your family. Whatever the reason, locating the right veterinarian to provide health care for your rabbit companion is an essential task. Dr. Bianca Zaffarano, D.V.M. of Pennyroyal Small and Exotic Animal Hospital, Lexington, Kentucky and I offer the following suggestions:

Take a tour of the facility before an emergency arises and get to know the staff. When a complete exam is performed, ask what is and is not included. Ask about specific testing and where each test is conducted. Common tests may include titers, cultures, blood analysis, gram stains, sensitivities, urine and parasitology analysis, and biopsies. Are these done "in-house" or are they sent to another lab? Be sure to ask about the waiting time to obtain test results. Inquire about the equipment used on rabbits. By all means, do ask what they have specific training or experience in and whom they consult for rabbit health matters. It may literally mean life or death someday for your rabbit.

Ask about what to bring if your bunny needs to be hospitalized for any length of time, as well as about the care of critically-ill patients who require hospital admittance. Where are they kept and who is on duty throughout the night to administer any treatment that may be needed? Touch base on "after hours" emergencies - who do they recommend you take your rabbit to and why? Ask for references, credentials concerning the latest in rabbit medicine, and last but not least, the subject many of us sometimes do not want to discuss -- euthanasia. What are their views on euthanasia and when would they most likely suggest it to a client?

We recommend that you do not wait to schedule an appointment once you have chosen a veterinarian. It is best to get a routine exam done before an emergency develops. Routine exams may detect something that may not be totally obvious to a layperson. A part of preventive maintenance is to detect and treat as early as possible conditions that could, with time, become life threatening. A routine check up is less stressful and less expensive for all concerned. Remember that old adage: it's better to be safe than sorry.

Dr. Zaffarano gives Billiey a check-up.

Ask questions! Take notes! If the veterinarian doesn't take the time to answer your questions and concerns in plain English, then most likely s/he's not the right veterinarian. A good veterinarian should show some compassion for your concerns and should answer them with honesty and intelligence. Never be afraid to ask for a second opinion if you do not feel comfortable with the first diagnosis. Nor should you hesitate to call when you feel you have detected a problem -- no matter how small it is. You should always voice your concern and you should get a satisfying response in return. Remember, if you were entrusted with the health of your child, spouse, or parent, you would certainly ask questions. Your rabbit should be treated no differently than any other family member. After all, this beautiful creature is totally dependent on you for providing quality care for life and his or her good health means happiness for all.

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Best Friend, a true story

by Michael Lain

She was supposed to be a show bunny.

Beth was 15 when she got the rabbit from a local breeder. Her first bunny, Wiggles, had just died. She didn't know (and neither did the vet) about penicillin. She didn't know about rabbit breeders. She did know, however, that this rabbit would never be a show bunny.

The breeders, when she told them, almost didn't let her have the rabbit. She was only eight weeks old, but it was already obvious that she was "show quality" - charcoal gray fur, deep brown eyes, dark gray ears, nose, tail and paws. Beth was adamant, however, and they gave in. There were plenty of other rabbits in the litter anyway.


Beth named her bunny Isis. It was the perfect name: although like all little ones the bunny loved to play, she also had a dignified, regal bearing. It was obvious when she sat, sphinx-like, her head above her paws.

Isis and Beth were together almost all of the time. When Beth came home from school, the first thing she would do was take Isis out of her cage, put her on the bed, and play with her. Isis would stay out with Beth all evening until bedtime. Often Beth would cuddle Isis, and they would enjoy being close to each other. Isis never especially cared for anyone else; she was Beth's bunny and no one else's. And Beth was hers, too.

Beth was having a lot of problems at home. Her mother's husband was emotionally abusive to her. Her mother was distant, and busy trying to break free from her husband. She had a demanding preschool-age sister. Also, she had been sexually abused by a family friend on and off for the past eight years. But now Isis was there for her. Often she felt that Isis was her only refuge, and the only one who truly accepted her for who she was. No matter how bad her day at school was, no matter how loud the fighting from the living room got, Isis was there to cuddle and play with. Beth knew that Isis understood. She could tell, somehow, from those deep brown eyes.

Beth eentually had to make a decision about college. She simply had to get away from home. Unfortunately, rabbits weren't allowed in the dormitories. She felt terrible about leaving Isis with her mother, but didn't feel like she had a choice.

She knew, in her heart, that it was a bad decision. She did not do exceptionally well at college. Her mother told her that Isis was acting wild, lunging and growling when she was fed.

When Beth came back for the summer, the first thing she did was to hold Isis. She held her for two entire hours. Yet when the summer was over, she left Isis again. As she packed to leave, Isis snorted and growled and destroyed everything in her cage. Beth felt terrible, but helpless.

Toward the end of the school year, Beth read an article in the newspaper about the House Rabbit Society. She had no idea there were other people like her. She immediately joined and sent for all the information they had. And the more she read, the more she learned - and the more she missed her little one, who every day angrily indicated how much she missed Beth, too.

Beth came home and moved out. As Beth packed up her things yet again, she told Isis that she wasn't leaving, that she would never leave her ever again. Isis went with her this time. From then on, she would always be with her bunny, her closest and truest friend.

* * *

Beth and Isis did stay together, and did stay best friends. When Beth got married, Isis was at the wedding. Isis opened her heart to Beth's husband, and he and she played chase games.

In the mornings Beth and her husband were awakened by distinctive growls and cage-rattling. Isis had to have her morning treats and pets. Isis was becoming elderly, and they would tease her by calling her "Saggy." But though she wasn't as energetic, her brown eyes still stayed bright.

Every day ends with a sunset. Isis was nine and a half years old and had reached the sunset of her life. She could no longer run or play chase without becoming winded and upset. And somehow, looking into Isis' eyes, Beth knew. Though it broke her heart to lose her best friend, she knew she had to let her go, with dignity, as Isis wished.

As Beth cried, her best friend with the world's biggest heart gave her a nudge and a lick to comfort her.

And then, Isis was gone.

But her memory is still here, and in Beth's heart, she still runs and plays just the way she used to, when they were both young.

Farewell, little one, healer of may hurts, wonderful best friend forever.

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We Wish ...

... you and your rabbit companions a happy, healthy, and prosperous 1998. As the Buckeye HRS enters its second year, we offer our heartfelt thanks for all your support and encouragement. We feel privileged to serve you and look forward to getting to know more of you personally as we continue to grow and help more rabbits. Because we are an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization, every cent you donate goes directly to fostering homeless bunnies and to educating folks about proper rabbit care. We couldn't do it without you!

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Our Readers Write

"I've enjoyed my first two issues of Harelines. My bunny's name is Benjamin and he's 3 1/2 years old. He's a black mini lop and weighs 4.8 lbs. His full name is Benjamin Bad Boy Bunny. He has no cage and he owns the whole house, but is kind enough to let us stay here as long as we do what he wants."

-- Barb B., Chillicothe

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Restaurants to Avoid

The House Rabbit Society wants to inform everyone that rabbit is becoming a trendy item on menus of some upscale "gourmet" restaurants.  Our membership may vary in their opinions on eating meat, but we all recognize that our rabbits are companion animals like dogs and cats.  We will publish a list of restaurants in Ohio that include rabbit on their menu, in the hope that we can help our members avoid an unpleasant surprise when they sit down for dinner.  Let the managers of these establishments know why you will not patronize them.  If you know of an Ohio restaurant that serves rabbit, please send us the name and city.

The following restaurants in the Northeast Ohio area are known to serve rabbit meat:


Natalie's Fine Dining

We also think that when a restaurant realizes that diners do not want rabbits on their plates, we should inform our members that they have modified their menu.  Cleveland's KeKa, previously listed in this space, has discontinued the item from their menu due to the intervention of an HRS member!

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Bunny Bytes

Bunny Bytes: Outfitters of the Urban Rabbit has opened its website at http://www.bunnybytes.com

They offer a wide range of products for rabbits and rabbit lovers alike, from food, first-aid needs, and toys to rabbit-themed items for home and garden, and, of course, jewelry. Bunny Bytes has chosen the Buckeye House Rabbit Society as the recipient of a portion of their proceeds in 1998. We are grateful for their support and look forward to shopping with them.

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Shasta Felice Seligman

June 1991 - October 1997

the queen bunny

Shasta, affectionately known as "Tita", is greatly missed by the entire Seligman family. She was truly the "queen" bunny, gently ruling the other rabbits who loved her dearly. They all took turns grooming her. They all let her push them out of the way when she wanted first dibs at the pineapple yogurt or the juicy pear. Any newcomer had to gain Tita's acceptance into the group, and after proving that he could be sweet and submissive, Tita would snuggle up to the new family member to let him know he was "in". You're part of our lives forever. Tita, we love you!

Patti & William Seligman, fellow bunnies (Statler, Fibi, Sundae, Emmet, Velvette, & Morsel), and dogs (Kayleigh, Praline, Hensen, & Drake)

Floppy Day

May 1996 - October 1997

our first pet

Floppy was our first pet. My little Floppy went to Rainbow Bridge in October and we miss her very much. Floppy was my couch companion; she would sit on the back of the couch and we would watch TV together. I talked to her and she always listened to me. She was a wedding present from my husband, so that I would have company while he was at work all day. Floppy, we miss you and you will always be remembered and loved.

Paul & Trudy Day


special needs

You took a big part of my heart when you left this world November 19th.  Your "special needs" taught me so much and your courage was inspiring, little guy.  It is your very special love that I will always remember so fondly.  I miss your bunny kisses, the pitter-patter of your big furry feet through the house, your bunny circles around my feet as I got ready for work, and cuddling with you on the couch.  Although our time together ended much too soon, I enjoyed every minute we shared together.  Thank you for the loving memories and I will never forget you, Toby.

With love, Maureen

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Special Dates

Congratulations and best wishes to some wonderful rabbits and their loving human companions:

In January, Scooter celebrated 7 years with the Dohertys. Theo began his 6th year with Jennifer Malas. And, it was a special month for Porthos and Ty Johnston as well.

March was a highly festive time for Buckeye bunnies. Marking their very first year together were: Muffin and Juliana Scroggs, Fitz and Neely Reed, and Camelot and the Dannigers. Funky celebrated 2 years with Laura Carnder; Sundae and Morsel 4 and 2 years, respectively, with the Seligmans. Kelly Zentz and her Buddy began a new year on March 11. And, Snickers celebrated 7 great years with Sherry Aldrin.

Celebrations continued into spring, with April 1 a special day for Noelle and Blackberry, as well as for Laura and Cole. It was 2 years for Jennifer and Cecilia on the 3rd and for Shannon and Dax on the 23rd. Nosey Day began a second year with Paul and Trudy, and Velvette a fourth year with the Seligmans. For 6 year-old Cocoa, April marked his first year with Linda Collins.

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Chapter Messages

Newsletter in Print

This webzine is based entirely on the Harelines printed newsletter. The printed copy is sent out to members much before it appears here -- that's one way we can encourage you to support it by becoming a member. If you find you are reading this website regularly or with special appreciation, please consider becoming a member of the Buckeye House Rabbit Society.

Now's the time to join! Your $10 membership donation pays for one year's issues of Harelines AND helps us help needy rabbits here in Ohio. We are an all-volunteer, federally-recognized non-profit organization and depend solely on YOUR generous support. Don't forget, your donation is tax-deductible! Kari loves Buckeye members

Don't let this issue of Harelines be the last to reach the web. Send your membership to us today!

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World Wide Wabbits

Do you wish you had the time to put your bunny on the web? Let us help. As a special service available only to Buckeye HRS members, we'd like to offer space on our website -- ohare.org -- just for your bunny. Take a look at Our Photo Albums to see where your lagomorph will appear. Send us your favorite photo(s), include a short description, and we'll hop to it.


Tell Us about Your Bunny...

Do you have a story about your rabbit that you’d like to share with other house rabbit folks? Or a question about rabbit behavior? We’ll print it in a future issue! Write to us at: Buckeye HRS, P.O. Box 61, Vickery, OH, 43464. Don’t forget to include a photo and a SASE to ensure a prompt return. Or visit My Rabbit Companion at this site for another way to reach us.

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Special Thanks to:

Thanks again to all -- we deeply appreciate your help!

Harelines, the Buckeye House Rabbit Society Newsletter, is published by the all-volunteer, non-profit Buckeye House Rabbit Society, Vickery, OH. The House Rabbit Society assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions.

Newsletter editor Herta Rodina

Layout and Design Libby Armstrong Moore

Contributing Writers
Kristi Cole
Dr. Anne Gentry, D.V.M.
Michael Lain
Cindy Scheel
Therese Skinner

David Sharpe

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