UPDATE: Hammie is now famous! Check out this great local news story about Hammie the Hero House Rabbit
We met Hammie at a rabbit adoption event in a local pet food store. He was a tiny little guy, a non-descript grey and brown with white feet. Sadly, his mother had been dumped at a local beach with several other bunnies. Kind people found and transported them to the shelter.
Hammie, along with 3 brothers and sisters, entered the world in the cold confines of the pound, where a local rescue group, Rescue Rabbits Rock, saved him and his family. When we first spotted Hammie, he was sporting a pink and green harness while hopping happily around the adoption area with a volunteer. A curious ball of fur, he inspected each kennel and cage, appearing as though he were trying to find a friend. We giggled as he periscoped to greet us, and cooed as he gently grinded his teeth while we stroked his soft coat. Hammie was definitely a social bun!
We had recently adopted our first rabbit, Cinnabun, a soft nutmeg-colored Rex, from a friend who could no longer care for her. While shopping for litter and toys, we met Lisa, the local rabbit expert and rescuer. Cinnabun had suffered a rare neurological incident during spay surgery, which resulted in weakness on her left side. Extensive lab tests found no cause. Lisa recommended we bond Cinnabun to another rabbit, reasoning it might help her both physically and emotionally.
We were hesitant because Cinnabun was an aggressive, growly, capricious bun that tolerated few people. However, upon meeting Rodger, a skittish, soft, gray-and-white, neutered rescue rabbit with tiny ears, Cinnabun was smitten. Soon she and Rodger were happily grooming one another and playing chase around the yard. Cinnabun’s crabbiness diminished significantly and her mobility improved such that it’s now difficult to visualize any deficit in her gait. Rodger was a Godsend and we are grateful we heeded Lisa’s advice.
We grew fascinated with rabbits. Our twosome became spoiled as we added a custom-made condo and toys to their “bun room.” They learned to beg for treats and were easily trained to sprint inside when called. They became part of the family.
One day, our 13-year-old daughter, Emily, asked if she could foster a rabbit to help the overloaded animal rescue. After much deliberation—we also have 2 cats and 2 birds—and Emily’s assurance she would do most of the chores herself, we agreed. The next weekend, we attended Rabbit Adoption Day and spoke with Lisa. She suggested Hammie, and we brought him home that day.
Following a few days of adjusting to a new environment, Hammie settled in to our family routine. He enjoyed hopping around the house, and loved to snuggle on the bed. He lived to binky, and his habit of racing in flying circles around the yard earned his playtime the nickname, “The Hammie 500.”
Hammie enjoyed being around people. He even tried desperately to cozy up to our cats. Unfortunately, Hammie couldn’t be around our permanent buns due to territorial fighting. We filled his days with love while keeping him safely separate.
One night, soon after Hammie came to stay, I was awakened around 2 a.m. by a series of loud, bass drum-sounding thuds. I lay in bed, listening groggily. Thump. Thump. Thump. Pause. Thump. Thump. Thump. Pause. It was emanating from Emily’s room. I stumbled out of bed and down the hallway to investigate.
I entered the room and found Hammie sitting upright and very alert. He had been thumping the bottom of his cage. Why? Were the cats harassing him? No, they were asleep in our room. I drew a blank and determined it was a fluke.
Before I returned to bed, I decided that while I was up I should check my daughter’s blood glucose. Emily was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at age 8, following a viral illness. She checks her blood glucose several times a day and administers insulin through a pump.
During times of growth or illness, her glucose level becomes difficult to manage and we must step up our efforts by checking her blood more often, even during the night. However, Emily was not sick and her glucose level had been as stable as it can be with this disease. Still, since I was awake….
To my horror, Emily’s blood glucose meter registered a dangerously low number—42—less than half a normal reading. While she oftentimes awakens when her glucose level drops, she was fast asleep this night. And sweaty. And pale. All signs that this dangerous hypoglycemic incident was possibly worsening. Through social media we had recently learned that at least 9 teenagers with Type 1 Diabetes had died during sleep from hypoglycemia this past year.
Thoughts of this flashed through my mind. Shaking with adrenaline, I quickly treated her hypoglycemia and stayed in the room until her blood glucose returned to a safe range. Hammie remained on alert, but did not thump again; he returned to his “bun-loaf” position as I left the room.
This very incident repeated a few weeks later. I knew what to expect this time yet remained astonished at Hammie’s ability. Those were the only times we’d ever heard him thump. We know that some dogs can detect when a person’s blood glucose is high or low, and on occasion, one of our cats, sleeping on Emily’s bed, has meowed to alert us. But Hammie sleeps in a cage several feet away from Emily’s bed. Can he smell the difference? Is this a common phenomenon with all rabbits?
Hammie is still with us; he was not displayed at the most recent adoption event. Only time will tell if Hammie intends to maintain his nighttime notifications. We have no urgency, as Hammie is a special bunny no matter whether his glucose detection ability remains constant or merely coincidental. Hammie will remain with our family until an exceptional family decides they cannot live without him. Perhaps that family will be ours.
Aundrea Hudgens is the homeschooling mom of 2 daughters and the wife of a retired Air Force officer. Aundrea lives in California with her family, including 3 rabbits, 2 cats and 2 quail her children hatched in an incubator.