If you lived in
Old Bridge, (Middlesex County) New Jersey, during the winter of 1996-1997, you
may have seen a good-sized domestic rabbit wandering around the
neighborhood. This rabbit’s coat was mainly white with some very
interesting color highlights. If you were like a number of residents
in that area at the time, you may have left food out for this bunny,
or made a vain attempt at catching him. Time and time again despite
everything you tried, you were outsmarted by this fast little
Then one very
warm spring day, you discover the rabbit that had outwitted you all
winter lying on his side in a neighbor's driveway.
He is limp and nearly lifeless.
You bring this to
the attention of the homeowner whose driveway the poor pitiful
creature is lying in. That person quickly picks up the near dead
rabbit, and you both take the ailing bunny to the Old Bridge Animal Shelter.
arrival, shelter workers contact
Shelley Stack of the New Jersey House Rabbit Society. She arrives thirty minutes
after you and the bedraggled bunny walk through the door of the
You then leave the ailing creature in the hands of the experts, in
the hope that they know what to do to save his life.
shocked by his emaciated appearance. The poor creature was so weak
that he couldn't stand on his own. Shelley took the rabbit
immediately to Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital to see Dr. Michael
Doolen, for treatment and evaluation.
Doolen hydrated the rabbit, disposed of numerous ticks, treated the
bunny for a case of fleas, and kept the rabbit at the hospital for
two weeks until the rabbit’s condition improved.
The day Shelley
delivered the sick rabbit to Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital, the
office staff asked Shelley
for the rabbit’s name. Not knowing the rabbit or his personality, Shelley
just went with instinct, and the name Toby was drawn from somewhere
in her mind. She never knew anyone by that name, and to this day,
she cannot say where that name came from.
was just meant to be.
Toby had an
iron will and once he was feeling better, exhibited a very strong
personality. With Toby, it was his way or the highway!
Toby would stay under Shelley's watchful eye for several weeks.
Shelley had just
met Carol Manos, a new NJHRS member at the time, and wondered if
Carol could take over the fostering duties for Toby. Carol agreed
and Toby became Carol’s first foster bunny for the NJHRS.
the king of all he surveyed, and ruled the roost with an “iron
paw”. During his time
with Carol, he did meet with a number of prospective adopters, but
Toby was a discriminating little rabbit and no one potential
family had met his exact
specifications for a new home. Shelley recalls that Toby was quite
rude in fact, and decided he wanted to stay with Carol.
This would give
Toby the distinction of being the the "elder statesman" of
the NJHRS. He had the honor of being the rabbit who stayed under the
care of an NJHRS foster family for the longest period of
So Toby did
indeed stay with Carol until her untimely passing in May of 2003.
was after that sad event that Toby finally did encounter someone who fit
his high standards: NJHRS member Kimberly Lucci. Cathy
Genna was familiar with Toby and had told
Kimberly about his personality and behavior. Toby would never show
that side of himself to Kimberly. She was really surprised since the
rabbit Cathy had described was nowhere to be found. A new Toby was
emerging, one who was so completely different from Cathy’s
bonded almost instantly with Toby and vice versa, and they both
quickly found a very special place in each other’s heart. Toby
finally had the permanent home he so much deserved, and his new mom
constantly showered him with attention and affection. His new dad
also grew very fond of him.
never know the reason for Toby’s transformation. Perhaps it was
because of a condition he suffered which resulted in the
amputation of a hind leg. Maybe he was just mellowing with age? Or
perhaps it was simply the opportunity of a new life and a new
Whatever the reason
was, he never once acted grumpy or ornery with Kimberly.
Toby came alive
in his new environment and his personality really blossomed. He
would get very excited at feeding time, and munched heartily on
romaine lettuce and all his other greens. He especially loved his crunchy nibble treats and looked forward to his daily papaya
was the perfect gentleman and was always very well mannered. Never
did he make a fuss when it was time for a nail trim. He even allowed Kimberly to pick him up to take him out
of his cage for his daily play- time around her bunny room.
would say later: “Words cannot adequately express how I felt when
watching Toby during his free play time outside of his (Marchioro
Luna) cage. His sheer joy and utter contentment were almost palpable
as he explored around the bunny room - despite his disability, he
was able to hop through cardboard tunnels.”
great surprise, she saw Toby hop up onto the
top of a cardboard box one day. This was quite a remarkable achievement for
a bunny with only one hind leg! Kimberly was just amazed by
Toby’s ability to overcome his physical limitations.
had the heart of a lion!
However the joy that both Kimberly and Toby felt was short lived. Just weeks after entering
this new loving environment, Toby, the rabbit who was blessed with a
constitution of iron, would enter into a gentle slumber never
to awaken again.
life can be a lesson to all of us. His is a story of overcoming
great odds that seem overwhelming and the ability to turn a new leaf at
any age. Finally, Toby's story shows that in the end you can get whatever you want if you have the courage to persevere.