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Meet Nathan. As you can see above, Nathan is clearly a rabbit (not a cat).  For anyone unfamiliar with rabbit physiology, one significant species difference is that rabbits are primarily jumpers, not climbers.

Except when they’re not. (There are always exceptions, aren’t there?) This is the story of one house rabbit’s quest to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds just to be reunited with his friend.

BACKGROUND

A big gray rabbit is staring longingly outside through a screen door

get you a furry companion who looks at you the way Nate looks at Outside

Nate came to us as a foster through the wonderful Red Door Animal Shelter. We should’ve realized he had adopted us the moment we got his pen all set up to acclimate him to his “temporary (ha)” housing.

(Did we? No. Silly humans.)

For those couple of months where we humans hadn’t realized that he’d staked his claim, we abided by Red Door’s rules about keeping him separate from any other furry household members.

That meant a fence went up on the stairs leading to the second floor. Nate and Sabine (our little minirex girl) each knew another rabbit was in the house, but they weren’t supposed to ever meet.

Once Nate convinced us that he was staying, of course that changed. Now they love spending time together, and every morning and evening is spent in a cavalcade of kisses.

During the day, they still stay apart. For various reasons, they require supervision when they’re together (yes, still).

Unsurprisingly, they don’t always approve of this time spent apart.

THE PROBLEM

A curiously rigged baby gate setup blocks a carpeted staircase

Bunny Safety Gate does the job. Or did.

You’re seeing correctly: We, a household consisting of two reasonably able-bodied adults, did in fact resort to putting a baby gate across the stairs. The soft fabric and mesh makeup of this gate previously made it irresistible to bunny teeth, so we added a segment of an old, disused x-pen and a piece of board to further discourage access. There’s a second gate (two boards, really) at the top of the stairs to prevent Sabine from venturing down on her own.

It’s worth mentioning here that Nate is about twice Sabine’s size. She’s approximately 3.5 pounds, while Nate is a strapping 7 pounds of floofy, fuzzy bun. He’s about two feet long when he stretches out (for real). This size difference means that Nate can do some things Sabine can’t.

A big gray rabbit perches comfortably on the back of a squishy black leather couch, much like a cat

Are you sure he’s not a cat?

THE BUN WENT OVER THE MOUNTAIN

Nate has absolutely no fear of heights. He’ll hop onto the couch (and the back of the couch, and the back of any human who’s on all fours, and any chairs, and the table) with ease.

However, as you can see from the improvised bunny gate solution we have in place, it’s not an ideal setup for jumping. We’ve adjusted it since initially putting it in place to further discourage jumping. Sometimes we’ll lean the angle out a little more, so the top of the gate is further forward than the stair directly underneath it. A red ellipse points out a gap not completely blocked in the baby gate setup; if rabbits had better vision directly in front of their faces, it would be no problem for them

There’s an obvious weakness in our gate which I’m sure you can see. The clear gap where the metal x-pen piece doesn’t overlap the board in front of the baby gate seems like a very good place for an enterprising rabbit to climb through.

Another important factor to consider: Rabbits have terrible depth perception. While I won’t claim that we were overconfident in relying on that fact, I will say it’s worked for well over a year.

Until today.

The scene: Directly after morning bunny snuggles. Sabine had just gone upstairs for her usual daily nap (rabbits are crepuscular, and tend to sleep during the middle of the day). Nate was still downstairs, which is usually where I set up shop with my laptop to work.

Suddenly: A loud (but muffled) thump sounded. We have a mirrored closet door directly facing the gate. In that mirror, I saw the face of absolute smug satisfaction at a long-term goal finally fulfilled.

In mixed amazement and disbelief, I launched myself over the gate to stop Nate from getting to the top of the stairs. It felt like I was moving in slow motion. Somehow, I managed to usher him back down. I lifted the gate and got him safely to the other side.

I must stress: I didn’t see him jump over that gate. But the noise I heard only makes sense if he somehow did manage to jump instead of climbing through the gap.

WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM NATE’S PROBLEM-SOLVING METHODS

  1. Be patient, but also be persistent. It took over a year, but once Nate set a goal for himself, he kept working at it until he met that goal. (Obviously if you have a deadline, you’ll need to work faster.)
  2. Sometimes you just need to approach a problem from a different angle.A person in a giant Pikachu costume is inside a room with a human adult, who is closing a sliding door to keep Pikachu in the room. Text reads, "I'm not locked in here with you. You're locked in here with me."
  3. If you do your best work when no one is looking, then that’s the environment for you. The thing that matters most is accomplishing your task.

Think about your challenges, both in professional and in personal life. Sometimes you just need to allow yourself the time to think it through from multiple angles.

How can you change your approach to reach a particularly difficult goal?


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