Dog and rescue rabbit become best friends and love grooming each other

Despite being very different, Shetland sheep dog Holly and rescue bunny Poppy are best friends and love grooming each other, or snuggling up together on the sofa.

They share a swish apartment in Toronto, Canada, with their owners Kelsey and Nik Burton, both 29.

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.

Kelsey, who was following the story of a rescue rabbit on Instagram at the time, believes fate brought Poppy into their lives.

She spotted a bunny called Amelia on social media who had been rescued. Kelsey asked if she could adopt her but she already had a new home.

But Amelia had been pregnant without them realising and she had given birth to a litter of five – one of them was still looking for a home.

Kelsey said: ‘We knew we had to have her. It really did feel like fate!’

Poppy was originally called Peanut but they renamed her due to Nik’s allergy to nuts and she 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.

‘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.’

The couple initially planned to get another rabbit but were worried about her being territorial.

She had been thinking about getting a dog but was worried about work commitments before.

'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

‘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.

‘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!

‘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.”

‘But Poppy did good, she warned Holly and I wasn’t offering any sympathy.’

For the first month, Poppy tolerated Holly but a trip to Whistler in March cemented their bond.

Kelsey said: ‘Poppy was being looked after at home and Holly was with a friend, so they were separated for an entire week.

‘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.