Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Mysterious Disappearance of Bunny Tibbs

Bunny Tibbs--the clean version

When Sgt. Thomas Tibbs came home to be my forever buddy, he was a sorry mess.  He'd had surgery that same day, he was still a bit drugged up, and he was coming into a strange new place.  These circumstances would stress any dog, but since Thom was so shut down already, I knew he might really have a tough time feeling safe. So on his first night home, I gifted him with Bunny, a soft brown Easter bunny my son had given me some years ago.  That night, I showed Thomas his bed, patting it gently as I led him to it, and I introduced him to Bunny.

"Bunny will stay with you, Thomas," I told him, and I laid Bunny on his bed as well.

I should mention here that for these first weeks, Thomas has been sleeping in my warm, well-insulated garage, with access to the back yard.  He is in the house more and more now, and eventually he will be sleeping inside, but we are still working through a few issues, one of which is his inclination to come alive at night.  During the day, he is still very shut down, but when darkness falls he becomes much more animated, investigating his yard and sometimes getting into a bit of mischief.  I attribute this to his extended stay at the shelter; to him, his environment was only quiet and therefore only felt safe at night.

For the first few days, while he was still recovering from surgery, I would wake Thom early in the morning, feed him and spend some time with him before heading off to work.  After a week or so, I came out one morning to find he was up and about, and he'd been exploring the yard.  A few days later, he spent the night chewing up an old dog bed, and I awoke to find bits of white stuffing spread all over the back yard.  No worries; it was the old bed, not the brand new one I'd just bought for him.  A few days later I awoke to a huge mess on the back patio; Thom had grabbed two bags of bird seed that had been sitting out there and dragged them across the yard, spilling seed everywhere.  I cleaned up what I could, but for days afterward my sparrows, finches and doves had a smorgasbord upon which to feast.

I'd been buying various Nyla bones and rawhide chews for Thom all along, as I knew he was anxious and needed an outlet, and due to his surgery, we wouldn't be going on any long walks right away. But he had seemed more interested in chewing other things such as his brand new brush.

Then he started excavating.  Every night he would dig one new hole in the yard.  Again, I recognize this behavior as one that emerges from his anxiety, and I know over time that anxiety will diminish, so it doesn't really bother me.  By the time I have the garden planted in late spring, he'll be staying in the house at night, so for now, he can turn over all the soil he wants.

Through all of his chewing and somewhat destructive behavior, he had never touched Bunny, and I sometimes wondered why, given what he was finding to chew on in the yard and the fact that he'd reduced a large dog bed to piles of fluff.

Then one morning I woke to find Bunny lying in the middle of the backyard.  I picked her up, turning her over and over, but could not find a tear or mark on her.  Huh, I thought, carrying her in and dropping her on Thom's bed.

That afternoon when I returned home from work, Bunny was missing.  I searched the yard, walking every inch of the perimeter.  She was nowhere to be found.  Thomas, of course, did not reply when I asked him repeatedly where she'd gone.  Finally, after my third thorough search of the yard, I noticed that the soil in one of the compost boxes looked uneven.  I ran a hoe through the rich earth--and a soggy ear flopped into the light.  I pulled it--and unearthed a very filthy Bunny.  I laughed as I carried her to the garage and threw her into the washing machine.  That night as I tucked Thomas in bed, I handed him his warm, soft Bunny right out of the dryer.

Of course she was missing when I woke up in the morning.  This time, she was nowhere to be found.

I called my son (whose favorite programs are true crime documentaries) and my best friend Donna, whose advice in helping Thomas recover has been invaluable.  Both were suspicious of Lady Boxer, the dog who lives behind us and sometimes jumps over the fence to "visit" (as in, eating Thom's food and drinking his water when her idiot owners leave her all alone for a weekend).  I wasn't so sure, but after a week went by with no sign of Bunny, I drove around the block and knocked on the door.  I was prepared to appear foolish ("Um, would you mind checking your back yard for my dog's stuffed rabbit?") in order to retrieve Thom's toy.  Yes, I love him that much.  Fortunately, they weren't home.

The next morning, there was Bunny, lying on the lawn as if she'd never left, covered with dirt but still wholly intact, not a scratch on her.

Of course, I stupidly, foolishly, picked her up and threw her in the washing machine again.  And of course, she immediately went missing the next day.

Poor Thomas.  He's having a tough time teaching his human to leave his toys alone.

I may not be as quick to learn as Thom, but I do eventually figure things out. He buries Bunny during the day so she will be safe from clean-freak humans, obnoxious cats who think they own the yard and pushy Boxer bi-- er, females who come over uninvited.  At night, when he's anxious, he digs Bunny up and chews on her--nicely.  There is a freshly dug hole in the yard, I'm sure, for every rawhide chew I've given him, as I quickly stopped seeing any evidence that he ever chewed them.

OK, Thom-boy, I get it now.  I promise I will never take your Bunny again.