By Debby Widolf
The Bogie Boogie
Lyrics: Phyllis O’Beollain
Music: Roger Waters
Rhythm and Lead Guitar: Joe Gage
Bass and Vocals: Victor Gutschalk
“He’s a big rabbit, he needs a big name! A name with stage presence”, says my partner Victor. Oh, OK, what do you have in mind? “ Well, all our other rabbits have a first and last name.” Yes, I said, we have Miles Davis, Angie Dickinson, Joey Bishop; what do you have in mind? “ I was thinking of Humphrey Bogart, he will be “Bogie” for short.” It was settled and thus began our journey with “The Mr. Humphrey Bogart”, (Bogie), Flemish Giant rabbit.
Bogie had a rough and lowly start as a breeder rabbit that showed signs of a latent disease. His life would have ended there if a rescue group had not asked that he be surrendered to their organization and be put up for adoption as a special needs rabbit. On route to his new placement Bogie came to a temporary stop-over at Best Friends Animal Society in Utah where I worked as manager of the Rabbit Department. He was to be neutered, given a health check up and then be transported to his new residence. I happened to mention to Victor that a large Flemish rabbit had come in, and on his next break from the IT Department Victor appeared at the rabbit area. “Thought I would meet the big guy”, he said. I had to tell him that the big boy was not friendly with people, that in fact he had bitten two caregivers and one volunteer. This rabbit had plenty of reasons from his past history that would have made him distrust people. He was in a strange place, fearful and was just a couple of days post the neuter surgery.
Victor was not to be deterred and went straight away to the large run to meet this rabbit that he was sure was just misunderstood. We all held our breath and listened for distress sounds from Victor. About half an hour later, Victor returned from the visit looking pleased. “I just got down on the ground, at his level and he came right over and let me pet his head.” Victor knew that rabbits liked being stroked on top of their ears and down their back and to avoid the space right in front of their face or blind spot. “I think I want to take him home for a sleepover, see how he does.” Needless to say, Bogie had found his home and Victor had met his “soul mate” rabbit. Victor adopted Bogie and an incredible relationship began.
Bogie at eighteen pounds was king at our home. I was his handmaiden and Victor his prince. Even though I had encountered many hundreds of rabbits I was leery of getting to close to Bogie especially after he took a chunk of flesh from my leg in the back yard! He was gentle with Victor and often washed his face with bunny kisses. They napped, talked, and played rabbit games together. The two were a bonded pair!
Bogie’s eyes were compromised and he slowly lost more of his sight. Victor wanted Bogie to see as much of the world as possible so he bought a pet stroller, equipped it with a license plate from my old Subaru that said “Bunnies”, two flashlights for headlights, reflectors, as well as an emergency supply of blankets, food and water. Victor and Bogie made the rounds in downtown Kanab, UT. and Bogie showed his many admirers a calm, gentle and well… very sweet side. Over the years Bogie greeted hundreds of tourists and local residents, with a gentlemanly grace, accepting pets from people of all ages and places while he lay on his throne in the stroller. Bogie made cross country trips with us. The local symphony played a song written just for him. He was a feature in the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary and the Ranger Rick magazine as an animal ambassador for the “Read to the Animals” children’s program. Always gracious and loving as long as Victor was by his side. Victor and friends created a you tube video of Bogie called: “The Bogie Boogie”, still up there with over 5,000 hits!
Sometimes big rabbits are like big dogs, their lifespan is too short. Bogie left our world after five years. The hole in Victor’s heart was huge and our home was empty without him. Many people mourned his passing.
In the weeks that followed Victor would say that he could feel Bogie’s presence and felt his heavy lumbering hops as he would fall asleep. Shortly after I received a call from a fellow rabbit rescuer. She had heard of Bogie’s passing and called me to let me know of another male Flemish Giant in need of a home. The rabbit was bought by a lady for her autistic daughter. Even though the rabbit was gentle with the daughter, her mother was afraid that her daughter might unintentionally be too rough with him. Victor felt that he had to go and at least meet this rabbit. It was not a surprise that “Gerry Mulligan” came home with Victor. “I know Bogie sent Gerry to me, he knew that I needed him”, as he introduced me to this beautiful blonde rabbit. That was almost three years ago and each day Gerry brings joy to Victor and our home. He couldn’t be more different in personality: gregarious and affectionate to all. I call him the “love boat”.
Bogie will never be forgotten by Victor and I and the hundreds of people that took pictures of the big brown bunny in the stroller being pushed down the street by his very best friend. I can never fully explain the changes Bogie underwent or his special connection to Victor. But, we know these things happen when love and acceptance are given unconditionally.