The Rabbit Story

I got Tuxedo for Karla before we were married. Karla thought "bunnies" were cute, so I went to Earl Mary over on 86th Street in West Des Moines and popped $10 for a cute litte black and white fella. A rabbit, I thought, would be a pretty good apartment pet. They aren't big, don't make noise, clean themselves and live only two or three years, just like the rodents we used to have as kids. A computer drawing of Tuxedo the rabbit

I was partly right. They aren't very big, they don't make much noise and the do clean themselves. However, they don't clean their cage, in which they don't feel truly at home until they poop up a storm in the corner. Tuxedo would amuse himself by pooping out the side of the cage as well. Rabbits are theoretically litter-trainable, but ours wasn't. He'd wander around the apartment randomly dropping turds as he went, some of which he'd turn around and eat becaue they are an important source of Vitamin B. The only redeeming feature of rabbit turds is that they're really hard (except the green ones he'd eat) so they can be picked up and thrown into the nearest garbage can with a satisfying ping. He had other unattractive habits, like when he used to hop over to Karla, get an instant erection and start humping her foot. It wasn't clear that I'd done Karla any big favors getting her this companion.

When we got our house in Des Moines I bought $45 worth of lumber and chicken wire and built Tuxedo a hutch. I mooched a gallon of the wrong color of grey WaterSeal from a woman at work, pinched a bag of leftover shingles from my Dad and the bun had a hutch ready when we moved in. We put straw in it and a wooden box he could hide in inside the hutch itself. He lived outside all year long except when it got exceptionally cold. Most of the time he happily lazed around in the cage pooping through the floor onto Earnest the dog who liked to sleep underneath. All was happy with our animals! We were continually forgetting to water and feed the rabbit (like I said, they're quiet) so that every time you did feed him he'd dive in like he'd never seen food before just to make us feel guilty. In the winter, his water would freeze up so when we changed his bottle for a new one he'd drink like a demon before it would freeze back up which rattled the little bearing at the end of the water bottle in an incriminating fashion.

One day I was talking to our neighbour Will over the back fence. Will was a retired drill press operator and Okinawa veteran and, it turned out, former rabbit owner. "Yup", he told me, "I got the rabbit from a guy at work. Lived seven years." I asked how old it was when he got it. "Oh, three or four." Oh No! It turns out that Tuxedo's life expectancy was in the seven to ten year range! Yikes! What a revoltin' development this was.

Just before Christmas 1990 it got very cold, like -24F overnight. Plan A went into effect. The rabbit was temporarily installed in the basement in a cat carrier and fed and watered each morning. Every day he'd tip over the water, dump the food and then poop in the mixture. Each evening we'd tidy up and put in new food and water. Each day he'd repeat his performance. The resulting green slurry quickly began to get pretty disgusting and old Tux started to develop a faint green waterline. Why do we still have this animal, we asked ourselves? It was time for Plan B.

The Saturday after Christmas 1990, cold and very icy, we drove to Earl May with the rabbit and a large black purse. In the parking lot, we stuffed the rabbit into the purse, closed it, and walked purposefully into the store, me feeling very much like I used to on illicit operations in college, stealing house signs, bursting bags of shaving cream under doors, etc. As it happens, the only two customers in the whole store were in the pet department, one buying goldfish and the other comparing cat collars, so Karla and I killed time browsing through the half-price musical Christmas lights as the angry rabbit thumped in the purse (like I said, they're quiet).

The other customers cleared out and we made our move. Next to one of the cages with tiny cute tan and white Dutch bunnies was an empty cage with water and litter. We looked quickly about; one employee was up front ringing up the goldfish, the other was rummaging around in the stockroom a few feet away. We both kneeled down; I opened the cage, Karla unzipped the purse, plucked Tux out and plopped him down in the cage. He seemed pretty happy to be out of the purse. Karla stood up and sauntered away as I closed the cage door and latched it. I looked around, stood up and walked off as well. I turned back for a last look. Tuxedo looked huge compared to the other rabbits.

"Boy," I said, "look at the size of him."

Big mistake. Karla, who had performed admirably up to this point, turned to look, got a quick look, and dissolved into laughter. I hustled her back to the half-price wreathes as she guffawed and giggled and tears ran down her cheeks all the while trying to look like a responsible and un-guilty pet supplies customer; "Hmmm, dear, should we get the Iams Chunks or Mini-Chunks for the dog?" I'd ask, which only caused her to laugh more. After three or four minutes, Karla, her enormous purse hanging limply at her side, regained her composure sufficiently for us to go through the checkout lane, where we paid cash so as not to leave a name and address behind. Karla held it together until we got in the car where we had another chortle before driving home. The rabbit was gone.

So we no longer had a rabbit. The way I had if figured, everyone came out of this episode well.

  1. We got rid of the rabbit
  2. Earl May got to sell him twice
  3. The rabbit got a warm and loving home and no more frozen water bottles
  4. The kids who buy him got a really affectionate rabbit, not some skittish little thing
  5. The kids' parents got a rabbit that only lasts 2 or 3 years, like the rodents we used to have when we were kids
  6. I discovered before it was too late that my wife is not cut out for a life of crime

We haven't had a rabbit again, and won't. Karla doesn't want a rodent of any kind even though the kids have friends with rats, guinea pigs and hamsters. I'm basically with her on the rodents, although hamsters at least have the advantage of a short lifespan. We aren't having any more dogs, either, they're too needy and they crap all over the lawn. Cats are fine, and Sophie, our current feline, is just about the perfect cat; she's affectionate, friendly, poops outdoors and not in the middle of the lawn either, and kills mice in the house in the winter and rabbits in the yard in the summer. So if you want our opinion, an opinion based on long experience, if you want a pet, you should have one cat and it should be female and it should look ugly enough so that it can't put on any airs.

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