Cuddling on the lounge together, I wouldn’t dare tell the others that Roderick was my favourite.
As he started drifting off, I scooped him up in my arms and carried him down the hall to where his 25 siblings slept. Then I set him down where he sleepily hopped away to his own cardboard burrow that I’d made.
Running a rabbit rescue wasn’t always cuddles and carrots though.
It was a lot of hard work looking after feral animals. I housed rabbits who had been surrendered, orphaned, or caught running in neighbours’ vegie patches.
‘Goodnight,’ I whispered flicking out the lights.
Lying in bed that night, I heard my phone buzz.
New message from Charlie, Facebook said.
Who? I thought.
The stranger explained he’d rescued an orphaned bunny he’d named Wes.
Can you please help me? he begged.
Clicking on his profile, I was shocked.
Charlie Jackson-Martin! I swooned.
He runs Sydney Fox and Dingo Rescue.
I was a huge fan of the amazing work Charlie, 26, did, so I jumped at the chance.
Of course! I replied, inundating him with tips on rearing newborn bunnies.
The fox guy is wanting help with rabbits!
I giggled at the irony.
Exchanging messages, it was like talking to a mirror.
Charlie and I were both animal lovers and vegans.
He told me he’d originally started rescuing cats, but one day a fox fell into his care. Since then, he hadn’t looked back and had thrown himself into caring for ferals.
In fact, there was no animal he’d turned away.
After chatting for months, I asked Charlie if he’d like to spend New Year’s Eve 2016 with me.
And at midnight, we both leaned in to kiss each other.
It was the perfect night.
After that, we started helping each other.
Loading a bucket full of meat, I headed into Charlie’s dingo enclosure.
Pricking up their tan ears, the pups knew it was dinnertime. Slurping the food out of my hands, their tongues tickled.
‘It’s all gone,’ I giggled at the greedy pups.
Six months later, Charlie asked if I’d like us to move in together. Without hesitation I agreed and we made plans to join our rescues.
Tallying up our animals, I lost count at 100.
How are we going to find a suitable place? I worried.
We’d need somewhere outside a town, so we didn’t disturb the neighbours.
Eventually, we found the perfect property in regional NSW.
‘It’s not the most conventional share house,’ I laughed.
With 100 private acres, we got to work setting up enclosures for the dingoes, foxes, dogs, or the occasional deer that popped by.
Inside our home, we made rooms for the rabbits, ferrets, rats and cats.
Each enclosure needed to meet the different animals’ unique needs.
Volunteers from far and wide came to lend a hand as we knocked together playpens and platforms.
Whacking in the last nail, we stood back to admire our work.
Then we found second-hand kids’ play equipment online to fill the pens with toys for our guests.
The mischievous foxes loved sliding down the slippery dip!
The inside of the house had a makeover as well.
We didn’t have to dig moats and erect fences like outside, but we hand crafted obstacle courses.
To keep our smaller companions busy we up-cycled tissue boxes and toilet rolls into homemade toys.
Looking around, I was so proud of everything we’d created together. We’d turned our home into a zoo!
Outnumbered by wild animals, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
They may be feral but they deserve to be happy, I thought.
Our home has an open-door policy when it comes to our volunteers.
Popping in and out they help feed, clean and play with our companions.
‘It’s a daily routine of pooper scooping and feeding,’ I tell our newest members.
Taking the latest recruits around the acreage, we introduce them to all our ‘roommates’.
We may have a lot, but each furry animal has a name!
Deemed as pests, these animals will never be released back into the wild.
So, we make sure they live their life to the fullest.
One dingo called Frosty, who Charlie raised from a pup, even enjoys going on picnics with us!
With amazing help from vets, as well as public donations, we are able to give these animals the care they deserve.
Seeing the foxes with grins stretched across their faces warms my heart.
‘This is why we do what we do,’ Charlie smiled, wrapping his arms around me.
It still makes me laugh how our lives moulded into one – when the fox boy met the bunny girl!
You can check out Sydney Fox and Dingo rescue on Instagram @sydneyfoxanddingorescue