We are new bunny-parents. We want Jackson to grow up happy, do well in school, and attend the right college. We also want our bunny to be healthy. So, we saw the Vet yesterday at Animal House of Chicago, a practice which specializes in “exotics.” A rabbit, we learned, is an exotic.

“Anything that isn’t a cat or a dog is “exotic,” the Vet Tech said as she took the rabbit-history.

“How long have you had him?” she asked.

“Five days.”

“Where did you get him?”

“A pet store.” I said this reluctantly. In philosophy I support heartily animal adoption — all those cats, dog, rabbits in shelters — and I have twinges of guilt that I didn’t get Jackson from a shelter. And yet, we can’t help who we love.

“What does he eat?”

“Half a cup of pellets, two cups of greens, unlimited hay.”

The night before I brought Jackson home I crammed rabbit research and learned what they eat, how to keep them, how to litter train them, when to neuter.

“That’s all good,” she said. “Looks like you did the research.”

Of course, I thought, we’re teachers with advanced degrees. We don’t switch our brands of soymilk without doing research.

After she took the history and said hello to Jackson she fetched the Vet. The wait in between was long and troublesome. Will Jackson have some odd birth defect? Will he have six months to live? Will he require some weird diet?

The Vet was reassuring and helpful. Jackson was lively and seemed inquisitive. He was grooming in front of the Vet which was a good sign. Then the Vet scooped Jackson out of the carrier and had me hold him in a towel while he inserted a scope into his mouth and checked his ears and fur. It was during the fur check that the Vet said, “Uh-oh. I think I saw something move.”

“What?” I asked.

“He looks like he might have lice.”

Lice. Ewww. Sudden pictures came to mind from third grade when one kid would get lice and all the kids in the school would get lined up in the auditorium to have the nurses do a “lice check.” Using popsicle sticks they would part the roots of our hair looking for lice.

“I’m going to have to take him in back and do a tape test,” he said.

“A tape test?”

“We literally take a piece of scotch tape and see if we can catch whatever I saw moving.”

He took Jackson wrapped in his towel to the back while Brian and waited. We waited a while. Meanwhile we worried about life-threatening skin diseases. After 20 or 30 minutes the Vet returned with Jackson scooped up in his arms.

“Well, we have bad news and good news.”

Oh no.

“Bad news: Jackson probably has some sort of louse, although we couldn’t catch it we powdered him with pesticide to kill it off. And the good news: he’s a girl.”

“What?”

“Jackson’s a girl.”

Brian and I looked at each other.

“How can you tell?” I ask.

“Well, it’s hard to tell with these guys when they’re so small, so I had another doctor check it out. If you flip them up that little opening would be round if it was a boy, and square shaped if it’s a girl. We’re pretty sure he’s a girl.”

When he showed me I saw a pink-ish opening in Jackson’s underside. It seemed neither square nor round but I had no idea what I was looking at either.

“Jackson,” I said. “You’re a girl!!”

“Any reason you thought it was a boy?” the tech asked.

“When I found the scab on his butt at the pet store they said he was probably sparring with other males. We just assumed he was a boy. ”

“That makes sense,” she said.

Brian and I then received a revised estimate for what would have been a neutering to a spaying. A neutering costs $350 dollars and a spay, $380. Both figures floored me. A one hundred dollar rabbit just became a five hundred dollar rabbit.

It’s a good thing I love him…uh, her.

Brian and I were in the car with Jackson safely back in his carrier when we pondered the difference.

“Does it bother you if it’s a girl?” He asked.

“No.” I said. “I sort of figured, anyway.”

“How?”

“I don’t know. Something about her name didn’t seem quite right. I mean the name is right, but whenever I said it I wondered if I had gotten it right.”

“Do you want to catch her name?”

“No. I like Jackson. She’ll stay Jackson.”

“Well, honey, looks like you got a trans-gender rabbit.”

“Great. We’ll start a support group.”

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