Now before all you gardeners stop reading this in disgust, thinking this is the ranting of some idealistic nature-lover who never planted a carrot or of some fanatical animal activist who pickets gardeners using rabbit repellent, I do feel your pain. I, too, have had vegetables mysteriously disappear overnight from the garden. But, I must admit, my skirmishes with the hares have been minor, so there is still a soft spot in my heart for them, especially when I remember Buddy the Bunny.
During this past long winter, one of my projects was to organize my photographs. Nearly forty years' worth of photos were crammed into boxes and worn-out scrapbooks in the hall closet. Each night for over two weeks I tackled a couple containers, sorting each picture into a pile according to oldest son, oldest daughter, grandchild one, and so on. Finally, I had quite a few photo boxes each carefully labelled (scrapbooks may or may not come later). The photos brought back fond memories of my children's childhood, and I found some long-forgotten pictures, including this one of our only pet rabbit, Buddy.
How can you not love something so adorable?
Several years ago, when daughter #1 was a junior in college, she came home with a small box one day, just beaming. To my surprise, she pulled out this white ball of fluff and said, "Isn't he the cutest thing you've ever seen?" I had to agree, but I don't know what possessed her to get him; perhaps she needed a friend at school. At the time she was living in a single in her sorority house, and somehow she managed to keep him in her room without anyone knowing. (I'm sure there was a no-pet policy, but at least rabbits don't bark or howl so no suspicions were raised.)
However, as we all know, everything living grows, and in no time, Buddy wasn't this tiny little creature satisfied to stay in his small cage. Eventually, daughter #1 had to face the fact that Buddy simply couldn't live with her anymore, and she brought him home to stay with us. (I've lost count of the foundlings we have adopted thanks to my daughter's soft heart.)
Buddy soon became one of the family. Feeling sorry for him in his small cage, I let him out to play several times a day. He would hop all over the house, to the delight of my grandchildren. His favorite place to settle down was in the recliner. When my husband sat down to relax and watch a baseball game, Buddy would make a vertical hop of two feet right onto the footrest of the recliner and sit there perfectly content for an hour or more. All he needed was a Cubs cap with cutouts for his ears.
Although such actions endeared him to us, especially my husband, I quickly found that indoor rabbits can create almost as much human consternation as their outdoor counterparts. When Buddy wasn't cheering on the Cubs or napping contentedly on the couch, he kept active. I discovered that rabbits follow a fairly predictable routine: nibble a little, hop, hop, poop, poop, hop, hop, poop, hop, poop... After awhile of this, I grew frustrated and put him back in his cage, too small or not, while I cleaned up after him. (Fortunately, rabbit droppings are less messy and disgusting than cleaning up after a cat or dog who isn't yet housebroken.)
But that isn't their only pastime--remember the nibbling? Rabbits aren't choosy about what they nibble on--an extension cord, my vacuum cleaner cord, or woodwork were all tasty edibles, as far as Buddy was concerned. The last straw came the day I decided to check the internet for articles on housebreaking rabbits (it has been done!) and what to do in case of an accidental electrocution. Unfortunately, I couldn't click onto the Web, because Buddy had chewed right through the cord to my computer's mouse!
Fuming all the way to the local Staples for a new mouse, I had Mr. McGregorian thoughts. I'd show that rabbit! By the time I got home armed with a new mouse and a plastic contraption designed to cover all my computer cables, I had calmed down. I resolved, too, to invest in a larger cage for Buddy (where was my daughter??) and do some serious research on litterboxes for rabbits. Unfortunately, I never had the chance to do either.
I am sorry to say that the tale of Buddy the Bunny has a very sad ending. He did not escape from Mr. McGregor's garden and eventually get put to bed with chamomile tea. Instead, my daughter, in a misguided attempt to create harmony among all her pets, introduced him to Calico the cat, who was then living outdoors. Calico immediately lashed out at Buddy with her claws, and while it was only a superficial wound, Buddy apparently was traumatized. He died the next day. I later learned from an acquaintance who once raised rabbits that domestic rabbits are easily frightened and can die from an emotional trauma.
Now, my fellow gardeners, you understand why I might sympathize with your rabbit wars, but still have a soft spot in my heart for these furry friends. Last summer we had a family of rabbits on our farm, and they did devour my cabbage and cauliflower plants, but my cabbage and cauliflower usually get infested with worms anyway (shudder), so I wasn't too disturbed.
When I spotted a rabbit, I would point him out to Coconut, who was more than willing to chase it away. And when Coconut returned indoors, Smoky and the other outdoor cats managed to keep them from approaching too close to the house.
Of course, if the rabbits start nibbling on my hostas this year, well, that's another story...
Perhaps I should stock up on some chicken wire just in case.