On any given day at Goucher, students will walk down Van Meter and encounter dogs and other pets. However, students walking near Sondheim on a warm, sunny day may also see one of Goucher’s resident rabbits, Rascal. Owned by Mikaela Smith, Rascal is an eight-year-old Dutch Giant rabbit. Dutch giants are one of the largest rabbit breeds, and are easily recognizable by their distinct, often black-and-white, fur markings. Mikaela has had Rascal since he was ten weeks old and got him from a bunny farm in Missouri. This will be his third semester at Goucher as Mikaela’s emotional support animal.
Many students have emotional support animals that they bring to campus. There are a wide variety of them, including cats, dogs, rabbits, ferrets, and reptiles. Some animals don’t acclimate well to campus life, but Rascal seems to be having no problems.
“He’s very adaptable,” Mikaela says, “and has never really caused a fuss. He binkied yesterday (September 4th) in my room.”
Rabbits binky when they are especially happy. When a rabbit binkies, they jump into the air and twist their body and head in different directions before falling back to the ground. A binkying rabbit is a happy, relaxed, content rabbit. In addition, rabbits also flop to signal that they trust you. Flops are when a rabbit throws itself on its side. When a rabbit flops, it can be surprising to people who aren’t often around rabbits.
“When I first saw my rabbit flop, for a second I thought he had had a heart attack and died,” says Paige Harris, owner of Poe the bunny, another well-known rabbit at Goucher.
Having an emotional support animal is important to many students on campus to keep them calm and help them focus on work. “I had trouble with papers during my first year first semester here. I definitely noticed an improvement once I got him here,” Mikaela says.
Another student, who prefers not to be named, has said much the same: “I don’t know what I’d do without my pet here. She helps me calm down when I get too stressed, and taking care of her reminds me that I have to take care of myself. I’ve gotta be here for her, y’know?
And while there are many communities at Goucher, one of the newest ones caters specifically to bunnies: the Goucher Bunny Community. It recently debuted at the Involvement Fair, with Mikaela at the helm, though it’s been active for at least a semester. She is one of the founders of the community, along with Paige Harris. The Bunny Community also has a Facebook page (@goucherbunny), filled with pictures of Rascal, funny rabbit drawings, and notifications for when events take place. Most events are bunny get-togethers, where rabbits and owners alike can socialize. Even if you don’t have a rabbit, you’re welcome to come to an event to spend time with the rabbits and learn more about them.
“Rabbits are generally social creatures,” says Paige. “They live in warrens in the wild, and can form bonds. When they form bonds, it’s like they’ve found their best friend and never want to be separated.”
Just like with us, many of Goucher’s resident pets aren’t fond of the construction.
“Rascal’s mostly okay with it, he just doesn’t like the noise,” Mikaela says.
However, it’s not the construction that can cause the most stress to Goucher’s pets. It’s the fire alarms. Last week, most of the residential houses began their annual fire alarm drill. Many were glad it wasn’t happening at three in the morning like it had in the past, but the change in time doesn’t mean less stress for the animals.
Waiting in the residential quad for the alarm to stop going off, I witnessed someone run past a safety officer and into Sondheim. When they returned, they had Rascal in their arms, his ears high and alert.
“I couldn’t just leave him,” they said. “When I got in he was freaking out and banging his head against his cage. He hates these things.” They walked away, taking him to a quieter part of the quad so that he could calm down and hopefully munch on some grass.
Rascal is fine now and enjoying some of his favorite activities: eating lettuce, running around, and nibbling on Mikaela’s things.