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Volunteer Jackie Crosby meets Frisco, a newly arrived one-year-old domestic rabbit at Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter. One way Jackie assists the shelter is by sharing her prolific knowledge of bunnies, which she has been raising as pets since the early 2000s. Another way Jackie helps out is by assisting with shelter fundraising events. Tickets are on sale now for the shelter’s annual Pasta Dinner fundraiser, set for Sunday, March 31. (Photo by Pam Johnson/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
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She’s on the books to volunteer once a week at the Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter, but that’s never stopped Jackie Crosby from coming in to help four afternoons a week, every week.
The Branford resident of 35 years is also the shelter’s resident bunny pro. A former East Haven elementary school teacher, now retired, Jackie educated herself on all things rabbit while raising and caring for dozens of domestic rabbits as personal pets. Her first bunny was a gift from her son, back in the early 2000s.
Last week, Jackie was at the shelter to greet its newest bunny seeking a forever home, a gray, friendly one-year-old named Frisco. With spring approaching, Jackie’s hoping the shelter won’t see a spike in abandoned Easter bunnies arriving post-holiday.
“Last year was the first year we didn’t have too many come in. I think people are starting to get the message,” says Jackie of the commitment involved in raising a rabbit. “They can live 10 years or more. They’re smart—they’re just as smart as cats. You have to take care of them just like a cat or a dog.”
Spaying or neutering pet bunnies is essential as they can reproduce quickly, producing litters every 28 days if left to their own devices, Jackie notes.
Through the years, Jackie has learned a lot as a bunny mom (she currently has four bunnies, as well as two dogs and two cats, at her home). One fascinating aspect is the extraordinary hierarchy of the rabbit world, from alpha males on down. If you want to learn more about that, and you want a good read, Jackie recommends the novel Watership Down. The famed and fantastical tale by Richard Adams, first published in 1972, was partially based on wild rabbit research conducted by British naturalist Ronald Lockley, who authored The Private Life of the Rabbit (1964).
Jackie said she learned a lot from Lockley’s book.
From their lives in underground warrens to bunny behavior exhibited topside, “he wrote down everything,” says Jackie, who keeps her own rabbit journals.
At the shelter, Jackie’s not only working with whatever rabbits may arrive; she’s also there to do “whatever is needed,” she says, adding with a laugh, “I do a lot of laundry!”
Jackie started volunteering at the shelter about four years ago.
“I started here helping out in the cat room, then I started learning more about the dogs. They have courses you can take—how to walk them, how get them out of the kennel if they’re reluctant—so I took those courses.”
Jackie gravitated toward helping out with a couple of pups who tended not to socialize, but would allow her to get close to them. One, a white Maltipoo named Boston, became very special to Jackie.
“He was a cute little guy, but he thought he was a Rottweiler!” says Jackie. “He let me pet him. He’d flip over and let me rub his belly, and everyone would stand there and say, ‘Look at that!’ He went on to a really nice rescue in Glastonbury for about eight months, and he got some training, and he got adopted.”
Jackie actually drove up to Glastonbury to visit Boston during his training period. When she got the call to let her know he was going to a new home, it was a day of mixed emotions.
“I said, ‘Can I come up and say goodbye?’” Jackie recalls, tearing up a bit at the memory. “So I went up to see him, and he was just gorgeous, and so sweet. And he remembered me—he jumped up and licked my face!”
The Massachusetts family that adopted him sent Jackie a Christmas card featuring a photo of Boston.
“He looked great!” she says.
Jackie’s story has a happy ending, too. After Boston left, shelter director Laura Burban suggested Jackie might like to foster two Maltese pups.
“They were at my house three days...and I kept one,” says Jackie, shaking her head. “I guess I’m a foster failure! But she looks just like Boston. She’s only eight months old, and she’s beautiful. She’s such a riot!”
Volunteers like Jackie, together with the board of the Cosgrove Animal Shelter and the committed staff led by Burban, make up the heart and soul of this municipal shelter, which serves the towns of Branford and North Branford.
“The people that work here, the people that volunteer here, are great. I love them all,” says Jackie.
Throughout the year, everyone works together to put on fundraising events and other efforts that help this no-kill shelter continue to succeed in its mission to rescue, rehabilitate, and re-home each animal it takes in, including those in dire condition requiring extensive medical care.
On Sunday, March 31, Jackie invites the community to help support the mission of Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter by coming out to the annual fundraising Pasta Dinner at Branford’s Italian American Club, 40 Hamre Lane, from 3 to 6 p.m. Proceeds from tickets, a 50/50 raffle, and other efforts planned for the family-fun evening will benefit shelter needs not supported by municipal funding.
The dinner serves up pasta and meatballs contributed by local restaurants and makes the meal complete with garden salad, Italian bread, dessert, coffee, and soda. Wine and beer are available for purchase, while DJ-provided music and dancing makes for an entertaining evening. Tickets, $20 for adults and $10 for kids under 12, are on sale now at the shelter office at 749 East Main Street, Branford, or can be purchased online at www.branfordanimalshelter.org. For more information, call 203-315-4125.
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