When this rescue rabbit and Shetland sheep dog first met earlier this year, it was love at first sight.
The cute couple are now inseparable and can be found grooming each other, or snuggling up together on the sofa in the apartment they share with their owners Kelsey and Nik Burton, both 29, who live in Toronto, Canada.
In the wild, canine Holly would be more likely to attack Poppy, a rare breed of American rabbit, as bunnies are prey animals – but the only thing this dog chases with her long eared pal is a ball.
Victim support worker, Kelsey, whose husband is a physiotherapist, said: “They’ll eat next to each other and if Poppy finishes first, she’ll grab food right from Holly’s mouth and run away with it.
“And they’re always fighting for their dad’s attention. If one of them is enjoying a snuggle with Nik, you can guarantee within 10 minutes the other will be there looking for a hug too.”
An animal lover her entire life, when Kelsey’s pet rescue rabbit, Charlie, passed away in March last year, aged seven, from complications of a liver infection, she eagerly looked for a substitute to fill the void.
“It can be a lot harder than people imagine losing a rabbit,” she said.
“House bunnies are more like rabbit dogs. They come to the door when you arrive home and they follow you about.
“We really struggled, especially coming back to an empty house. I just didn’t want to be there.”
Kelsey, who was following the story of a rescue rabbit on Instagram at the time, believes fate brought Poppy into their lives.
She said: “Like a lot of animal lovers, I follow different rescues on social media and the story of Amelia the rabbit really captured our hearts.
“She’d been brought into the shelter incredibly malnourished and needed a loving home.”
She continued: “We enquired about adopting her but it turned out she’d already found a new family the Christmas before.
“Then rescue staff told us that she had been pregnant without them realising and had given birth to a litter of five – one of which was still looking for a forever home.
“We knew we had to have her. It really did feel like fate!”
With Poppy – who was originally named Peanut, but had a name change due to Nik’s allergy to nuts – filling the house with the sound of thumping paws, Kelsey found her grief easing.
And Poppy quickly made her stamp on the family.
“She was so funny from the outset,” Kelsey explained. “She’s nothing like Charlie, who was very docile and chilled.”
She continued: “Poppy is queen of our apartment and doesn’t let you forget it.
“If she wants attention she’ll let you know, by slapping you with her ears, thumping you with her paws, or nipping you if she really means business.
“I’m glad though, I didn’t want a bunny that reminded me too much of Charlie, as that can be quite painful in itself.”
In fact, Poppy’s dominant personality soon gained her a reputation in the local rabbit sitting community.
Kelsey said: “I have a few friends I’ve met through the rabbit community and if we’re away for a night or longer they’ll come round and check in on Poppy.
“One time a friend was rabbit sitting and she was using the wash room, when she became convinced the apartment was getting burgled.”
She continued: “She ran out to find Poppy on top of the book shelf, clearly quite proud of herself for breaking several decorations and reaching the highest house plant in the apartment.
“My friend told me, quite seriously, Poppy was an ‘immortal queen reincarnated in the body of a bunny – and was seriously p***ed off about it.’
“She’s definitely got a reputation for terrorising rabbit sitters!”
Initially hoping to purchase a fellow rabbit companion for Poppy, the couple were worried that her territorial nature would be a recipe for disaster.
But, after her temporary job became a permanent part-time position in January, Kelsey, who had been putting off adopting a dog due to work commitments, thought it could be the perfect way of finding an unlikely companion for Poppy.
“We tried a few rescues at first, but they were very hesitant about re-homing a dog with a prey animal in the house,” she said.
She continued: “So we decided to go to a breeder and, after reading that herding dogs – in particular Shetland sheepdogs – were very good with prey animals, we decided to move in that direction. ”
Intending to “just visit,” when they arrived at the breeder’s, in Hamilton, Canada, they found that – just like Poppy – Holly was the last of the litter.
“Nik was insistent that we wouldn’t be coming straight home with a puppy,” Kelsey laughed.
She continued: “But as soon as we got there, Holly snuggled onto his lap and it was a done deal.
“I told the breeder, ‘That’s it – we’re taking her.’”
Bringing her home the same day, Kelsey very carefully introduced the two animals, admitting that there were a few hiccups at the start.
She recalled: “We brought Holly into the apartment on her leash and immediately Poppy ran into her sleeping tube.
“We tried to coax her out with treats, but she was not having it. She kept grunting – she was not happy and wanted us to know it.
“It wasn’t until dinner time that Poppy finally came out from her tube. There’s nothing that will get in between her and eating!”
She continued: “There was no aggression between the two, so we let Holly off her lead – she was only 2.5lb then, compared to Poppy who was 5lb – and let them play it out.
“Holly kept going over to the food and, to be fair to Poppy, she was very good and just grunted to let her know she wasn’t sharing.
“After 10 minutes, Holly wouldn’t ease up, so Poppy gave her a bit of a scratch and she came running over to me as if to say, ‘Mum, Mum – do something.’”
She continued: “But Poppy did good, she warned Holly and I wasn’t offering any sympathy.”
With Poppy “merely tolerating” Holly for the first month, it was a week-long trip to Whistler in March, that saw the inter-species bond finally forged.
Kelsey said: “Poppy was being looked after at home and Holly was with a friend, so they were separated for an entire week.”
She continued: “When we got back and they were reunited you could really tell that they’d missed each other – especially Poppy.
“She hopped over to Holly when she came through the door and bowed her head so that she could be groomed.
“Poppy has a big twig ball that she loves to roll around on the floor and she actively started to role it towards Holly, so they could play together – it’s so sweet.”
Now the dog and bunny relationship has evolved, Kelsey admits that they are like older and younger siblings – “who very much love each other, but get on each other’s nerves”
And, like any proud mother, Kelsey is forever sharing snaps of her “animal babies” on social media – so much so that her friends and family have made her start an Instagram just for her pets.
“It got to the point where my Instagram had actually become theirs,” she said.
She continued: “So, last month, I setup an Instagram for the two of them.
“It’s been a great way to get to know other rabbits and sheepdog owners in the local area.
“We only have 200 followers or so, but I’m not fussed about being the owner of Insta-famous pets – I think the fame would go to Poppy’s head for sure.”
She concluded: “If I know one post of the two of them has brought some joy and happiness to someone, that’s enough for me.”