I have two sets of neighbours. One set are kind, thoughtful and always up for a chat and a laugh. The others are the Adams family---but more about those social misfits on another post.
This blog is about the nice neighbours, or more precisely: the nice neighbour’s bunnies.
So far as I was concerned, if you got a rabbit or a hamster or guinea pig as a pet, you’d drawn the short straw. A real pet to me was a dog. Dogs are fun, you can do stuff with a dogs. They are loyal, faithful, chase sticks, swim in rivers and sit by your feet at night; a dog and will always be there for you. Get the right dog and they will quite literally lay down their life for you.
I mean, when was the last time your pet gerbil stood between you and an intruder or when was the last time you heard about a gold fish taking a bullet for its owner? Never. Dogs= good pets. Cats, mice, rats, guinea pigs, goldfish, hamsters and rabbits= naff pets.
At least this was what I always thought, until that was, I met the neighbour’s rabbits.
It all started last summer (we use the term ‘summer’ in a pejorative sense on the UK. As you could hardly call one morning of blistering sunshine somewhere between May and August, a summer; while the other 364.5 days are filled with fog, rain, snow, hail, high winds, tornados and ice--- sometimes all in the same day). My neighbour had called us over to help find one of her new rabbits. Karen, my partner couldn’t make it. She was off sky diving with the Girl Scout, cookie seller’s department that weekend.
It turns out that during the time it had taken my neighbour to clear out the shed and make it ready for its new lodgers, one of them had burrowed under the garden fence and hopped merrily into the tennis courts of the private school that borders both our gardens.
Not a problem thinks I. Rabbits are pretty stupid creatures. All I have to do is get behind it and shoo it back towards the hole it came from--- job done.
Not only had he picked his time to escape with pin point accuracy, he’d picked his point of escape with a precision worthy of an army tactician. He had, in the few short moments allowed him, weighed up all the angles, worked out the ponderables and hit the fence in the one spot that would allow him maximum time to make good his escape, while the dim witted humans who wanted to catch him, would flounder around in a pool of their own ineptitude. And as I was trying to squeeze through the only access point into the tennis courts, with the fencing wires forming permanent criss-cross marks on my cheeks and squashed nose, I looked impotently at him. His whiskers twitched into a malevolent smile and I knew that I was in the presence of a fluffy tailed evil genius.
We did eventually get him back into the garden but it took five of us plus half a dozen lads from the school, an assortment of planks, hockey sticks, tennis rackets, stray sheets of ply and copious amounts of bribery food to do it. And as he was placed, twitching nose first, into his new home I swear he winked at me with the look of someone who had not BEEN captured but had gotten bored of the game and had ALLOWED us to capture HIM
I knew from that day on they were going to have to be watched.
Since then they have found no less than twenty escape routes and have turned up in the tennis courts, over by the cricket stumps, visited the local pubs beers garden and sussed out no less than ten vegetable patches for future blitzkriegs.
One of their most ingenious escapes to date, and one which still leaves me in awe, was when a team of tradesmen had been called in to put a stop to their nomadic tendencies.
I had heard all the digging, hammering, crashing and banging long before I spotted the workmen, busily at their tasks. But it wasn’t until I spotted the two rabbits, studying them intently that I paid closer attention. For as the workers were erecting the fence, the rabbits were taking notes---they were making calculations as to how deep it went into the ground and how high it was and probably working out trajectory angles.
The neighbours however, hadn’t seen any of this, and after the long hard day was over and the mammoth fence was erected, they had gone to their beds with a sense of smug satisfaction, thinking that they had finally sorted the rabbit problem out. But when they came down early next morning, it was to find both rabbits in the tennis courts and once again watching a match. Next to the fence was a big hole and a pair of tiny pick axes and miners helmets.
Another attempt of theirs was managed by them using garden debris as some kind of climbing frame, and in no time at all they were up and over the fence and once again amongst the sporting activity.
I’ve never seen household pets collude with the local wildlife before, but then I’ve never seen household pets quite like these two rabbits. The birds land and act as lookouts while the rabbits get on with their latest escape plan. The second there’s even the slightest sight of human activity, the birds will tweet wildly with their tails dipping in warning and the rabbits stop what they’re doing and start grazing the grass with a look of cherubic innocence about them.
They have also found their way onto the shed roof (where they can presumably get a better view of the cricket matches across the field); they run along the walls in a kind of a fluffy version of free running--- worrying the local cats as they go--- and have been seen on at least two occasions sitting in the flower boxes that line the wall, eating the contents.
This has, as you can well imagine, driven the neighbours to distraction. So much so that her father--- a reluctant builder--- has been roped in to produce an escape proof pen for them. Having studied the plans and blueprints for all the great prisons like Alcatraz and Stalag 45, he eventually built a bunny sized version of them both.
It sits there now as I write, with the one rabbit acting as a decoy lookout while the other spends the whole day searching for weak spots.
As I sit here, watching him looking for the weak spot that everyone in the area knows he will eventually find, I find myself revising my views on so called ‘boring pets’. I also find myself realising that whoever created Bugs Bunny and scripted the way he effortlessly outwits his human and animal counterparts with guile and superiority, had obviously brought pet rabbits for his children and had, no doubt, spent the better part of a year trying to contain these unassuming evil geniuses.
In fact, as the rabbit sticks his nose through a gap that it’s just discovered, a gap that will no doubt prove to be its final escape route, I am starting to believe that Houdini spent his down time creating impossible-to–escape-from-traps and put his pet rabbit in there and then made notes on how it got out.
These tales are not over, not by a long shot. So I may very well be back with more tales of daring escapes and the futile battle of wits between us woefully inadequate humans and the far, far more superior pets, the rabbits.