Juniper the Rabbit – a healing story for children’s home children

Ionut from Familia AMURTEL with “Juniper”

I wrote this children’s story for our smaller children from FAMILIA AMURTEL. Many of them have certain behaviors – such as hoarding food, that stem from their traumatic history of neglect during critical developmental stages in infancy. This story uses metaphor to communicate compassion and understanding, and at the same time show a healthy way through the distressful behavior:

Juniper was a white baby rabbit. She lived with 27 other baby rabbits inside of a small cage. It was very crowded and uncomfortable. When the farmer came with food, all of the rabbits scrambled on top of each other fighting for their share. Juniper was small and not very fast, and the others climbed over her and ate up most of the food before her. She was always still hungry when the food was finished, and cried for more, but nobody listened. They were too busy trying to get food for themselves too.

One day, a little boy came and chose 5 rabbits to take home as pets. Juniper was small and white and very shy, and the boy liked her. The 5 little rabbits had a bumpy ride inside of a straw basket. The loud sounds of a car motor were frightening and there were too many new smells to count, and light was flickering through the weave of the straw basket. They didn’t know what was happening, and the scared baby rabbits huddled together shivering with fear..

At last when the basket was opened, Juniper was lifted up and into a new home. This one was big and roomy, with lots of soft straw, and 2 big green ceramic bowls. One was full of food and the other with water. The rabbits scrambled hungrily to the food dishes, especially Juniper. She pushed through the other rabbits and gathered up as much food as she could carry in her paws and went to a corner of the cage to eat and eat as much as she could. Still she was hungry – but there was more, and again she took it away from the others so that they wouldn’t eat it first. Even after many days, and nights – still Juniper was always scared that there wouldn’t be enough food for her, and she didn’t want to feel hungry again, so she always took her food and ate quickly by herself as much as she could, even when she wasn’t really hungry.

The boy like to play with the rabbits, picking them up and petting them and giving them food from his hand. All except Juniper – it scared her when the boy came to pick her up and she would run to her safe corner of the cage where her bed was. Sometimes she felt bad that the other rabbits got extra food and attention from the boy. When he wasn’t looking she would bite them or scratch them. They were afraid of her, and avoided her, so she spent a lot of time feeling alone and that nobody cared about her, which made her sad.

One day the boy came to the cage and announced to the little rabbits – look what I have! He was holding up a jar of carrot and cabbage salad that he had saved from his dinner. The rabbits were very excited sniffing the scent of sweet carrot and juicy cabbage leaves – it was their favorite dessert! The boy promised them a special treat in the morning for breakfast.

That night when everyone was sleeping, Juniper woke up. She was really excited about the carrot salad. But when she thought about it, she was also afraid there wouldn’t be enough for her…She was a clever rabbit, and she looked carefully at the latch closing her cage, and discovered a way to open it with her teeth. Then she crept quietly, quietly outside of the cage. She found the jar of salad, and began munching hungrily. She ate and ate, until she was very, very full. Then she took as much as she could carry in her paws and hid it under her straw pillow, so she could eat more later. She closed the door carefully and then went to sleep.

When the boy woke up in the morning, he looked for the jar of salad to give to his rabbits. He found it toppled over and almost finished. He was very angry that someone had ruined the treat he had planned for the rabbits and started to shout “Somebody too the salad! Who could it be?”. The rabbits had never seen the boy angry, and it made them all very scared, especially Juniper – who ran to her bed and sat on her pillow. Her heart was beating very fast, her paws trembled and she felt cold and shivery.  Then the boy came to the rabbits, looking very sad and disappointed. “I am really sorry bunnies – somebody ate up all of your salad, and there is no more…” The little bunnies all cried and were very disappointed too…. They had really been looking forward to their treat.

That night, when finally everyone was sleeping, Juniper brushed aside the straw to find her buried carrot salad treasure…She started nibbling on it – she knew she had to finish it quickly or the others might discover what she did and be angry….But somehow, it didn’t taste quite as sweet as the night before…and still her heart was beating fast, and she felt uncomfortable.

Wise spider on the wall called out to her – “Juniper, I see that it was you who took the salad.”  Juniper jumped with fright, her heart pounding – “What salad? Of course I didn’t take it – I just found it. I mean, someone else must have taken it and hid it here” she said in a shaky voice. Wise spider said, “Hmmm….Juniper, you don’t need to be frightened – I am not going to hurt you, and you are not in trouble. I am just a small spider, but I know many things. I understand that you were the smallest and had to fight to get your food when you were very little, and even now you are not sure that the boy will give you enough to eat. But, you know – he is good and he really does want to be your friend. I think you can trust him. He would love to pick you up and feed you sweet salad leaves from his hand like the others, you just need to let  him  get close to you.

Juniper thought about that.  She also thought about the other bunnies, and how sad and disappointed they had been that the salad was gone. ”What am I going to do with this salad now?“ she said to the spider, feeling very sad and ashamed. The spider came close and whispered a secret in her long bunny ear. Juniper smiled.

The next morning, each bunny woke up to find a cabbage leaf full of carrot salad right next to their nose. The bunnies were very happy and excited and called to the boy. He was also surprised and happy. He came to pick them up and pet them. He saw Juniper didn’t have a leaf of salad like the others and so he picked her up to give her some special food from his hand. Juniper took a big deep breath when he came to pick her up to wash away the fear building up….and then suddenly she was in his arms and it felt warm and snuggly. As Juniper ate the lettuce in his hand, the boy told her…”You know,  a wise spider came and told me a secret. “ Juniper’s heart froze….and she started to tremble, was he going to be angry?

He said ”I know you took the salad, and that you took it because you are afraid you won’t get enough…I promise you I will always take special care to make sure you have enough to eat, and I will also feed you specially from my hand.“

Juniper was so relieved that he wasn’t angry, and that he understood her and wanted to be her friend. She snuggled in his arms and felt very warm and happy inside. She and the boy became very very good friends and she always had enough to eat, so she never had to take food and hide it from the others again.