By: Gretta Parker
I was born to be Flopsy’s mom. I did not know that until a rainy Sunday afternoon on September 26th, 2010. I had stayed up late the night before, watching the 11pm news. They did a report on the amount of rabbits the local shelter had due to bunnies bought for Easter then abandoned when they become harder to care for. New to the area, I looked up the address; I discovered the shelter was nearby. I decided to go the next day and make a donation to help the former Easter bunnies.
It was pouring rain the next morning and the first tinges of fall were in the air. I contemplated not going, but it was so close I told myself I would be there in 5 minutes. I drove, barely able to see, turned onto the side street – the parking lot was full. As I rushed from my car I could hear the sounds of dogs barking inside. I was filled with hollowness, of how lonely they sounded. I had always tried to adopt from shelters when I could.
I shook the rain off as I entered the front lobby; there were a lot of people waiting. A volunteer handed me a form to fill out. I filled out my information and took my place in line. As I waited I looked around. I saw a hedgehog and a gerbil in aquariums. They were uninterested in the people visiting that day. In the back left hand corner was a long cage with a scratched and distorted purple bottom. I saw two small white pointy ears, a crazy tuft of hair, and small eyes circled in gold staring back at me. I tried to look up and over from my place in line. I could not see what was studying me so carefully from afar. I looked at the rain beating down outside and figured, no reason to hurry back out into the rain.
I left my place in line to go see my curious voyeur with the crazy hair. Staring at me was a rabbit like I have never seen before; he was like James Dean in a cage. He tossed his head to the side, wiggled his nose slowly, analyzing my every move. I said hello, opening his cage door. I petted him; his fur was so soft and he tilted his head. The same volunteer who had signed me in walked by. I stopped her and asked how much his adoption fee was. She looked at the tag on the back of the cage. She said he is $7.50.
Mothers naturally love their children, but even at that moment when we were just strangers in a shelter waiting room, he drew me in. There was something about him that I saw that day that I will never be able to explain. On a whim, I adopted him. I adopted the 9 month old rabbit who at the time was named Marshmallow. His papers said he was bought for Easter. I knew nothing about rabbits at that time.
Another $70 stop at Petco and we were on our way home. I decided I did not like the name Marshmallow, I had always liked the name Flopsy Lopsy. So that day he became Flopsy Lopsy Parker. I called my husband on the way home to tell him about my impulse moment; he hung up on me. When I got home my cats disowned me and our new family member. I put together his new cage and left him alone for the rest of the day. No one in my house would acknowledge me.
The next day, I decided to take some pictures of my new friend. I took him out, placing him on the bed. I was sure he was going to make a run for it. Instead he sat so calmly and tilted his head when the camera flashed. He loved the camera. Still to this day, I have never posed him for a picture – he loves the camera and the camera loves him back. The pictures were so cute I posted them on my Facebook page. I got more comments in one hour than in a month on my page. I had a crazy thought that night; I would make him a Facebook page to spread the word about rabbits in shelters.
It being close to October, I went back to Petco the next day and bought a wizard hat costume. I came home and put him in it. He sat still with his hat on, tilted his head up, and I got his first Facebook wall picture entitled “Look I am Harry Pawter”. I sent out a few friend requests and nothing happened for a few weeks.
I went to the Facebook page of the shelter I adopted him from and posted a pic where I had edited him into a zombie bunny. Soon I got a friend request from a dog named Gypsy. She said she thought the zombie picture was cool and would I mind if she shared his page. I will always credit her for starting things for us – friend request after friend request came in.
I found myself taking more pictures, editing more photos, and enjoying all the pets and families I was meeting through his page. Flopsy made me smile, and other people. I am not a graphic designer but I learned how to make posters. I began to make posters spreading the awareness of the amount of rabbits abandoned after Easter using Flopsy’s images. I made ones that depicted the amount of care that rabbits need. I found myself researching and talking to others about rabbit care.
Thanksgiving came and went – Flopsy was a pilgrim, then Santa for Christmas. Two things changed the course of my life: the first was adopting Flopsy, the second was someone at Petfinder seeing one of Flopsy’s posters. A reporter contacted us to write a story, they ran it on the Petfinder website, and later in a series of newspapers.Flopsy’s friends went from 450 to almost 800 in a month.
I began to see that Flopsy could change the world for rescue rabbits. I began to devote more of my time to his site. In the process, I had a lot of my own friends delete me; a lot did not understand this new found devotion to my rabbit. I kept on. I submitted his picture to the ASPCA Valentines Picture Contest – he was one of 5 winners that January – another 100 friends (http://www.aspca.org/Blog/and-the-votes-are-in-check-out-the-winners-of-the-my-furry-valentine-photo-contest.aspx).
His story got featured on Animal Planets pet of the week – another 150 friends. I began to post adoption ads and friend a lot of rescues. The more I did the more overwhelmed I became to the plight of so many rabbits that were just like Flopsy who die needlessly each year because potential owners are not informed of their care needs before buying.
I began to see a change in myself; I cared more. I grew attached to his little friends like Jonah the Turtle or Brandy the cat. There is an innocence and a kindness that animals have, that brings out the good in people. The hardest part was seeing friends pass over the Rainbow Bridge. For as many friends as I lost as I became more involved the more I gained. I also began to see who I was as a person. I did not care I was becoming the crazy old bunny lady.
I took him to rabbit adoption fairs. He helped rabbits get adopted by the natural ability he has to draw people in. By Easter time, we were making flyers for people to take to pet stores to inform them about rabbits. All used Flopsy’s image. I became his graphic designer, maid and publicist. Along with a friend Kasey we met through his page, we donated baskets of supplies to shelters. The idea of supporting shelters started me on a new voyage. I wanted to form my own nonprofit.
I expanded Flopsy’s cage into an 8 foot enclosure and adopted a sister for him – Bella. I always wanted to do more. I always took time to answer his emails and posts. I found myself wanting to do more for rabbits. Flopsy began to change my life and my priorities. People enjoyed him and his message.
Over the summer I worked up to 86 hours a week to fund the legal fees associated with starting and incorporating a nonprofit. On July 19th, 2011, almost 10 months after adopting Flopsy, I started Baskets for Bunnies, Inc. (www.basketsforbunnies.org), a nonprofit, whose goal is to provide rabbit and small animal supplies to rabbit rescues. My thought being if they can spend more of their own money on expansion costs, they can save more rabbits. Our ultimate goal being a nationwide, rabbit spay and neuter program. Most spay and neuter programs only cover cats and dogs.
A chance meeting in a shelter lobby changed my life. A $7.50 rabbit taught me to care and to want to become a rabbit advocate. As the one year anniversary of his adoption approaches, I hope it is just the beginning of the next phase of my life. I hope to sit on my porch in five years in a rabbit sanctuary I have built for the Easter bunnies that nobody wants. I want to share our story because Flopsy is proof that any animal can inspire us to be better. All we have to do is see the goodness that they teach. All we have to do is a take a chance on them.”
Gretta Parker works part time as a freelance writer. She is a rabbit advocate, and president of Baskets for Bunnies a non profit that supplies rabbit rescues with supplies. To learn more visit www.basketsforbunnies.org **************************************************************** Want to Help Gretta and Flopsy?? Anyone wanting to make a rabbit toy donation to "Baskets for Bunnies" can do so via the link below. Pet Rabbit Toys will then MATCH your donation! Not only can you send toys to "Baskets for Bunnies" but you can have the toys sent to any rabbit rescue of your choice! Check it out here: http://pet-rabbit-toys.com/store/index.php?main_page=index&cPath= 11&zenid=afd576f8861ff5f666a97a24af149fbf