They call him Rat. He chases balls like a dog and uses a litter box like a cat. He demands attention like a toddler and sometimes seems to think he’s a person.
His given name is actually Floppy, which is a perfectly reasonable monicker for an adorable, lop-eared bunny. But his fluffy, stuffed-animal-like appearance belies the rascal that lies within.
“He’s a character,” his owner, Natasha Sheldon, says with a smile.
Floppy’s rascally, wandering ways recently provided his family with an Easter-time miracle of sorts.
Floppy lives with Sheldon, her 7-year-old daughter Sasha, a woman named Joan Parry and a Yorkshire terrier in a Freeland home. Sheldon is a live-in caregiver for Parry, a cheerful senior citizen who’s unusually tolerant of a rabbit that loves to steal her newspapers.
“I’ve never seen a rabbit like him,” Parry said. “He’s special.”
As Sheldon explained, she received the Holland lop from an ex-boyfriend about two and a half years ago. Born on Camano Island, the baby bunny was as cute as can be and quickly won her and her daughter’s hearts. But just as quickly, they discovered he’s not your average rabbit.
Floppy is an escape artist and continually broke out of his indoor cage, which his family now refers to as his “apartment.” He was full of curiosity and would examine everything in the house, as well as follow people around. Sheldon noticed that he seemed to go to the bathroom in a certain corner, so she placed a kitty litter box there — minus the litter. And it worked.
“He potty trained himself,” she said.
So Floppy left his cage for good and now roams around the house freely, much like a dog.
Also like a dog, Floppy loves to play with balls. Sheldon said she inadvertently discovered Floppy playing with a large, plastic children’s ball and bought him some of his own. He now has a half dozen balls that he playfully pushes around the living room with his nose.
Sheldon said she also found that the bunny is pushy, in his own quiet way. Floppy is curious about visitors and even greets them at the door, along with the little dog Bee Tee. The rabbit loves a good petting and even falls asleep while being stroked. Sheldon tells a story about a visitor who came to the house and refused to acknowledge Floppy, at his own peril. She even warned the man, who was talking to her, that he should pet the rabbit at his feet. When he didn’t, Floppy bit him.
“He doesn’t like to be ignored,” she said.
Bee Tee, the terrier, used to fight with the rabbit and is clearly jealous of all the attention the long-eared fellow gets. Sheldon said one day Floppy got tired of the dog fights and let Bee Tee have it. The result was six stitches across the pooch’s stomach.
“Now they maintain a respectful distance,” she said, but adds that the dog and bunny sit together nicely on car rides.
Floppy has taught other dogs and cats lessons. He runs straight at them and the other animals will get freaked out and run away.
The rabbit has also learned to beg for food and enjoys a nice bath in the sink.
On one particularly sunny day, Sheldon placed Floppy outside in his cage, but then forgot about him. By the time she remembered, he had escaped and was nowhere to be seen. She figured the defenseless bunny was gone forever. When she tried to break the sad news to her daughter, she wouldn’t believe it. Finally Sasha pointed at the glass door, where Floppy was standing on his hind legs and pawing the glass to get in.
Since then, Sheldon periodically lets Floppy outside when the weather is nice. People in the neighborhood have gotten used to seeing the floppy-eared critter in their yards. Floppy hops around the neighborhood, tastes the plants, chases the cats and then comes home when he’s ready.
Earlier this week, however, Floppy didn’t come home. The family really started getting worried when he was gone overnight. It was rainy and cold out. Sasha, who’s seen the movie “Hop,” surmised that her brilliant bunny was probably busy helping the Easter bunny fill Easter baskets. Sheldon searched around and became emotional seeing his favorite toys left behind. She started making plans to put up “wanted posters.”
But then the little miracle happened, just in time for Easter. A neighbor on the other side of busy East Harbor Road spotted him and called Sheldon. Lickety-split, she went over to the house and found him in the backyard. He was wet and dirty, she said, and “looked like a plush toy forgotten by children.” He was more than happy to let her pick him up and take him home.
In honor of her “little character,” Sheldon wrote a story about his adventures.
“Even though he gives us so much trouble: chases our dogs Bee Tee and Jake, chews up shoes, accidentally leaves a few droppings behind, we love him deeply!” she wrote at the end of the story. “Every day I am looking forward to seeing and taking care of him just for the ‘ahh’ moment. And hopefully I have many joyful years of being his friend.”