Run, Rabbit, Run

He’s the cutest little thing, but he has to go. The “he” is a wild rabbit that lives in our suburban backyard. How do I know he’s a he? Well, he’s been here for over a year, and he still can’t find his way out. If he’d only ask for directions, I’d be glad to help.

But, I’m digressing into politically incorrect territory–that’s a no-no.Bunny (for lack of a more creative moniker) has taken quite nicely to the Arizona desert climate, judging by his healthy BMI. With his long ears perched high above his head, brownish fur and white pom-pom tail, he could have stepped out of a Beatrix Potter story or  a page from Winnie the Pooh. His warm brown eyes and twitching nose make him one of nature’s most innocent creatures. And yet, he’s got to go.

This is the family consensus. Our three canines claim ownership of the backyard, and who am I to argue? The rabbit, however, has not allowed my dogs’ possessiveness to limit his wanderlust. On the contrary. When the dogs are otherwise occupied inside the house and I peek out, Bunny confidently scampers from his hiding place behind our rose bushes. Wasting not a second, he gets right down to business.

Survival is uppermost in his bunny brain as he delicately munches on grass until at the slightest noise or scent, he runs off into the flora, leaving me to wonder which side of our gated pool he calls “home.” In the first few months, I felt exhilarated every time I saw Bunny. He was smaller then and much more shy. Occasionally he brought a brother or  cousin bunny (I called him Harvey), and the pair would race around the citrus trees, perhaps playing a game of tag or hide and seek. Whatever the game, it was not part of any rabbit courtship ritual–I figured this out quickly. Never seeing any baby bunnies resulting from  their adventures, I concluded my visitors were either asexual or of the same gender. For all I knew, my backyard was a recreational oasis for “gay” bunnies or maybe an arid Alcatraz–for a Killer Rabbit. Be scared, be very scared!

Bunny soon became not just an adorable critter, but also an entertaining one–the subject of conversations with friends and family, the butt of jokes and a constant in my life. My Lab and Schnauzers, however, were not as pleased. Even my Maine Coon eyed the rabbit with what appeared to be outright contempt. Later, I realized her “arrogance” was thinly disguised jealousy.

Although my feline friend could sample the smells and sounds of the great outdoors from behind my security screen door, “Owl” was not allowed outside. It was for her own good, I lectured her. Most “outside” cats fared poorly–within a year, the majority are hit by cars or injured by other animals.

I don’t know exactly when, but one day Bunny appeared alone–without his rabbit-buddy. Could Harvey have been snatched by a hawk or other bird of prey? From the newspapers, I learned that it wasn’t unusual for large predators to swoop down and carry off small animals such as puppies or cats. Things were getting more complicated. My backyard guest had permitted the world of danger and death to intrude into my grassy oasis of serenity.

Oddly enough, I never asked myself how Bunny entered our backyard. So when a friend asked me, I was struck dumb. Up until then, I had never considered Bunny a problem. He was somehow linked in my mind with an idyllic view of Mother Nature, perhaps left over from kindergarten.  “I don’t really know how he got in,” I replied. Later, I checked. Chicken wire covered the lower two feet of each side gate. From the information I gleaned, I theorized that the wire might have been added by a previous owner to prevent rabbits and other pests from getting in the yard and feasting on vegetable gardens and decorative landscaping.

That thought snowballed. All of a sudden, I realized that bunnies, like pigeons (which were known to transfer harmful diseases), were considered nuisances by many people. Right then and there, Bunny morphed from Aesopf-fable fame to parasitic critter with the potential of carrying any number of diseases such as West Nile virus.  My pets faced the possibility of infection and illness. Fear had taken over.

For a fairly intelligent woman, I can sometimes miss the obvious. For instance, many years ago as a third-grade teacher, I observed a puddle underneath  a student’s desk and concluded that the classroom ceiling had a leak. Duh. Ditto with Bunny. For many months I had watched my dogs sniff the grass, then gobble up tiny spore-like artifacts. This is not unusual behavior in dogs, who can ingest the most bizarre, ill-tasting items–small sticks, olives, even pieces of styrofoam. So, I had ignored it. But now when I examined my lawn carefully, I could see it was strewn with small bb-like pellets resembling buckshot. If it was what I thought it was, the rabbit had to go.

Of course I needed to dispose of the little beast humanely . Enter All Animal Rescue and Transport—the company guaranteed satisfactory service and was listed in the Yellow Pages. It was a done deal, right? The company’s website promised to trap and release the rabbit, then “survey and seal the house” from animal invasion. Although rabbits were not specifically mentioned, Robert, the twentysomething boy-toy in charge of trapping Bunny, told me he had experience with raccoons, skunks, bats and rattlesnakes.

Bunny had now officially become Enemy Number One, I wanted him gone, yesterday. To avoid the dogs springing the trap or leaving their scent (thus scaring Bunny away from his fate), Robert located the trap near the pool, away from where the dogs were allowed.”Two or three days if we get lucky,” Robert answered in reply to my inquiry as to how long it might take.

Three days passed and not a sign of Bunny–in the trap or in the yard. “Give it the weekend,” my husband said. Monday came, and with it, a Bunny sighting. It was not until the dogs ran out into the yard that I spied him. He reacted so slowly, I almost thought he had a physical problem. But I was wrong—he was going mental.”I think we need to move the trap,” I said to All Animal Rescue. “Bunny is still on the lam.”

Almost a week later, Animal Rescue appears, relocating the trap to the other side of the pool. Now, I am told, I must leash my dogs when they are exercised so as not to pass their scent onto the trap, which has been baited with miniature carrots. “Once they find a spot, they don’t leave,” says Robert, tossing me a  look of total indifference.

Four days go by. I haven’t seen Bunny, and, blessedly, there are very few pellets. On the downside, I am exhausted and cranky from walking three dogs five times a day. “This is not going to work,” I inform my husband the moment he enters the house. “Despite the rumors, we are not dealing with a dumb bunny.”

I am not smiling, and I have a tension headache–all the signs that I am at wit’s end and courtesy be damned, I let go with a vicious, “Do something!”

The following morning in utter disbelief, I hear the good news. My husband has somehow chased Bunny from the yard, and he has blocked him from re-entering. I have never heard more comforting words.Goodby Arizona Animal Rescue. Goodby Bunny. You’re still the cutest little thing, but you had to go.

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