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By Marinell Harriman

Sophie snorts and boxes defiantly as we shoo her in the door at night. Then, with fury in her eyes, she waits at the top of the stairs to ambush the other rabbits who are next to come inside.

Has our irascible and irresistible Phoebe returned to us in the flesh and fur? How delightful it is to have a mean rabbit around again. How I’ve missed the mind games, the bravado, the formidable posturing—and having to duck out of the way of her wrath.

How fortunate we are that she was brought to Animal Care and Control and given a chance to be discovered. We enter once again that land of challenge and negotiation; of meeting needs and redirecting aggression; of channeling energy and building trust. I don’t mind going there. I’ve been there before. The soil is rich, and from its thorny growth, a rose will emerge.

Until the warmth of friendship brings this rosebud into bloom, we will handle her thorns with care, i.e. wear long sleeves and redirect her energy. But change this willful spirit? Never! No more than we would change those smirky spots across her nose.

She pretends she doesn’t like us, but I know she is lying. I have her promise that one day we will sit together on the floor. In exchange for gentle strokes behind the ears, she will give us kisses on the face. I know she will keep her promise, as her mean predecessors have done before her. But between then and now, we will have many disputes to settle, games to play, and challenges to meet.

It’s a privilege to have a mean rabbit. There’s so much to look forward to.

This essay first appeared in The House Rabbit Journal Fall 1999: Volume IV, Number 1