The Bunny & The Power of Metaphorical Imagery
I wrote this after attending a presentation about the use of imagery in the therapy process. On the surface, it's an entirely a true story. It's also about something else underneath, which I realized made that something else more powerful and easier to digest...
Several years ago, I met a bunny rabbit living in a small cage outside of my then garage apartment. She'd been purchased a couple years prior by my landlord for his two young sons. They'd begged him for this bunny and so they got her. While at first she was different, special, and adorable, she quickly lost her appeal to these two kids with short attention spans. They bragged to all their friends about their unique new pet and mishandled her for their own entertainment. Then they grew uninterested as she became more and more uncooperative in molding to their expectations. She was cast aside, and they went onto the task of forgetting her.
Her fate was then just the small cage day in and day out. It was kept outside where the sweltering summer heat could rise above 100 degrees, leaving her panting and faint in her enclosure and where the winter's humid cold surely seeped into her bones, especially during the night. Her only surface to sit or to sleep upon was a metal grate - in the winter some hay was added, likely providing her only a scant trace of warmth. She was given those stale looking cardboard colored pellets for her breakfast... her lunch... her dinner. No tasty treats, no fruits, and no veggies.
Neglected. Deprived of a loving stroke along her soft fur or a sweet murmur in her attentive ears. No one to appreciate her gentleness, softness, and sensitivity. No one to nurture her so that her personality could flourish and she could be free, loved, and safe in a clean, cozy home indoors, with lots of space to hop with joy and snuggle with ease.
By the time I met her, those boys hardly ever thought of her, and their visits to her cage were nonexistent. Their video games and basketball entertained and satisfied them, as these things never asked for anything in return. These things don't have needs or feelings. They require no maintenance and make no demands. They can be picked up and set down without a thought, and they are easily replaced.
The longer the bunny was neglected, the dirtier and smellier she became. Her paws were soaked with her own urine, her fur darkened with dirt where she once had shining white patches. She grew wary of people. She became mean. Isolated and unappreciated, she lost all trust in a kind, well-meaning human touch.
So I moved in and learned of her living situation. I began making daily visits to her. Though I couldn't take her out of her small enclosure, I talked sweetly to her through the metal wires and empathized with her pain. I offered her fresh produce and watched her gobble it up with pleasure. I wanted to make her life better. With the help of my neighbors, who had for a long time watched this bunny from their window and wanted to rescue her too, she was finally freed from this terrible existence.
After some sly maneuvering and little white lies, my landlord was convinced an imaginary friend of mine would love to make the rabbit their pet and take her off his hands even though he'd never mentioned trying to get rid of her. The neighbors and I then made her a temporary home at their house with an entire spare room of space for her to roam freely. When visiting her there, she was standoffish and easily agitated, thumping her back foot as a warning for us to keep our distance from her. She couldn't speak with words, but she clearly told us she was not interested in making friends. I was so disappointed and my heart broke for her. I just wanted to love on her, but this tiny and vulnerable creature wanted none of it. For all she knew, I was going to snatch her up and shove her back in a rotten cage, so she wasn't about to risk it.
Just a couple days later she was picked up by someone who would be taking her to a rabbit sanctuary where she would be given free range space with other bunnies, lots of yummy nutritious food, and loving caretakers. She would be looked after as she slowly healed her emotional wounds, hopefully learning to trust, and let herself be given affection and lots of scratches behind the ears. I was uncertain of her fate; I wished her the best but feared she would be too rough around the edges to ever be taken in by a new owner.
I was given an update a month or so later. She had begun to show her personality - a spunky, independent, silly little bunny with lots of energy. After that I don't know what became of her. I hope she was given and learned to accept love. I hope she found a new home where she felt chosen, appreciated, and respected. I hope her new owner took the time to get to know her, gave her space to become familiar with her new environment, let her learn a routine and build a relationship on her own terms rather than trying to force her to fit some preconceived idea or selfish desires. I hope she was given patience and that her own expectations and preferences were considered as though they were equally as important rather than inconsequential due to her being anything other than human. It can be a dark and cruel world, and I hope she was lucky enough to be given love, comfort, and connection before her short life ended. She was certainly worthy and deserving of it.