Monday, 26 September 2011

Rabbit don't care

On Friday the children were chucked out of the gulag unjustly early, in some kind of unofficial wildcat day off type action, and we were left to roam the streets getting bored of each other. Having exhausted board games, a trip to the horrible toy shop and some light bickering, we washed up at around 3 in the parc du caca. Just us, a gang of truanting teens with a tiny joint between eight and a couple of semi-feral Staffies, an unfortunately garrulous lunatic, the entirely silent, sad man with the Great Dane, and a liberal sprinkling of dog turds. The usual crowd.

Slouching ten paces behind me as ever, I hear Lashes call out with unusual animation (he's very languid at the moment).

"Un lapin!"

"Where?" We look round. He's pointing to one of the scrubby parc du caca "flower"beds. I go closer, squinting.

"There, look!"

Sure enough, a gigantic black rabbit is methodically chewing its way around the decrepit herbacious border. It seems entirely indifferent to the fact that it is surrounded by canines that would have been banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act in the UK and bored teenagers. Indifferent to the certain peril that surely awaits it at the hands of the slavering Great Dane.

"What on earth is it doing there? Has it escaped?"

"Hmm. I wonder if someone abandoned it?" On closer inspection, the gigantic black rabbit does not appear to be in the first flush of youth. Under its gigantic jowls the black fur is greying, and its eyes are slightly rheumy. Not that this seems to bother it in the slightest. It is making an excellent start on the beech hedge, working on the overhanging branches.

"Noooooon, pourquoi?"

"I don't know, really. Maybe they had to move and they couldn't look after it?" I'm trying to put the best possible complexion on things. Maybe he has a HIDEOUS, expensive disease? That seems more likely. He looks a pleasant enough old gentleman, really though, I think. Not sure why I'm assuming it's male. He just seems quite .. blokeish. I could be entirely wrong. Maybe it's just a butch female.

"We can't leave it here! It'll get eaten!"

I'm not wholly convinced that it would be that way round. The rabbit seems to have the eating thing pretty much sewn up around here. Even so, they have a point, regrettably.

"No, I suppose you're right".

We catch the rabbit without difficulty. It doesn't really try to escape, just sort of sits, world-wearily, as I pick it up, scratching me a couple of times just to show me it can, if it wants to. We sit down on the grass and examine it. It is a rabbit, without many distinguishing features, we conclude. It lunges, suddenly for Lashes, and bites him twice.

"Ow!" He's laughing, but also slightly shocked. I'm not shocked. I am recovering memories of my own rabbit, a miserable, bad tempered bastard who spent its life trying to rape the guinea pig, and methodically lopping the heads of all my mother's flowers. My attempts to get it to show jump over garden canes, or walk to the park on a lead, were doomed to failure from the start, since all Big Ears (he was inherited already named. My father's rabbit was called Heraclites). Instead, it just sort of lurked in the back garden, a looming, furious presence, for a ludicrously long time. I am sorry to say that the prevailing emotion in our household when it finally died, aged, what I can only imagine is about 350 in rabbit years, was relief.

The rabbit gives up on its escape attempt and starts to eat my trouser leg.

"Oh god, we're going to have to take it home, aren't we?" I'm not thrilled at the prospect, but it doesn't seem fair to leave an obviously domestic animal to fend for itself on the mean streets of Uccle.

"OUUUUAAAIIIIIS!" The children, however, are thrilled the afternoon has taken a turn for the .. peculiar.

"We'll put up some signs to say we've found it, in case anyone is looking for it". I'm not hopeful.

We carry our prize home, well, I do. He sits in my arms, indifferently, like a medium sized sack of potatoes. He is moulting like fuck, and my entire nose seems to be full of fine, sneeze-inducing hair. I am reminded of the story of my father, then living in the Highlands, giving my mother a rabbit to take home with her on the bus to Glasgow, to the puzzlement of all the (many) drunks on her route to Coatbridge. I am genetically pre-destined to end up with an impromptu rabbit, clearly. Rabbits are the perennial disappointment of the pet kingdom, I think, possibly unfairly. My sister-in-law had a gigantic house rabbit for years. It was sold to her as a dwarf lop-eared. It turned out to be neither.

We put him in the garden, where he hops straight over to the most decorative of all our fairly crappy plants, and starts eating it.

"Ouuuaiiiis! He's happy!"

The children lie rapt in the garden for several hours staring at the rabbit, and offering it things from the kitchen. Carrots, celery, rice cakes, cornflakes. It eats everything, and refuses all gestures of affection, loping just out of reach, dragging the carrots with it. The weepette looks on, appalled. Occasionally, when our backs are turned, he makes a sort of run for the rabbit, as if some vestige of instinct is emerging. When he gets closer, however, he entirely loses track of what he was doing and just sort of stares at it, hopelessly, fearfully. We tell him off and he slinks back into the house to stare out of the window at the interloper. The rabbit reacts to the occasional dog peril by hopping neatly under the bench where it sits, looking superior and not remotely bothered.

"Rabbit don't care!" says Lashes, laughing. He's referencing the honey badger, with whom I feel the rabbit would feel some kind of spiritual kinship. I do quite like its total indifference. It's the anti-dog; self-contained, entitled, with a capybara-esque expression of utter superiority. I don't think it likes us, though it will grudgingly accept the contents of our fridge.

So it continues throughout the weekend. My whole respiratory tract feels like it is full of rabbit hair and I can't stop sneezing. Every, but every, time I look out in the garden, the rabbit is eating. He seems to have an astonishingly dedicated approach to eating: everything that used to have a stem now no longer has one. Everything that had a flower is now trampled down. Bare stalks litter the flower beds as a stark reminder of our new tenant. Even when I look out at nearly midnight, the rabbit is there, sitting in the middle of the grass, chewing methodically. He's so big and black, and implacable, it's a little bit unnerving. I am starting to fear we have adopted some kind of demon pet, who will not give up until the garden is reduced to scorched earth. Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and .. Satan. He's probably immortal. I bet he outlives me. And probably eats my corpse.

No one, unsurprisingly, has responded to our appealing notice, devised and written by the children and posted around the neighbourhood.

"Rabbit found. Big. Black. Old" it reads, enticingly. The picture they have taken to accompany it makes the rabbit look piebald, which is also helpful.

Warning: does not ressemble actual rabbit

We go to the pet shop and buy hay and rabbit food. It is unsurprisingly far dearer than I remember, from my days at the Minster Pet Shop, staring wistfully at the chinchillas and buying hamster after boring hamster. I refuse requests to buy a rabbit leash. Once bitten, twice shy: rabbits do not walk to heel.

"Oh!" says Lashes peering into the pet shop cages. "The baby rabbits looks so cute!" There's a sort of note of regret in his voice, I think, at introducing Kali the dark destroyer into our garden.

"Well you can't have one, I'm afraid". Satan/Kali would probably eat them. "No more animals until you're ten. And not a reticulated python then. I haven't changed my mind".

So. It appears we have a rabbit living under a bench in our back garden. We are not really calling it Satan (or Kali). I'm resisting giving it a name at all, actually, in the faint hope that someone will have second thoughts and reclaim it.

Warning: photograph may present distorted impression of benign cuteness

What would you call a gigantic, elderly, ravenous, supercilious rabbit?


Laruca said...

Oh God, it does look cute on the photos, the bastard.
There's a good list of names here: (whatever you do, don't look at anything else on that page, it's beyond ridic)
I kinda like Anointed covering cherub.
PS: WF is Sumenou. Sounds like an excellent name. For a rabbit or the devil.

Z said...

Black Shuck.

You may come to regret this kind impulse. Or you may not, of course. I'm sure he's sweet really.

MsCaroline said...

I recommend the name 'Jeff.' This is what our younger son - then aged 8 - named his Russian Tortoise, despite our (far cleverer) suggestions of Ivan, Peter (the Great) and Boris. At one point, he began to waver, but only because he thought he might prefer to name the tortoise 'Kyle' instead.

Ellie said...

I am glad I'm not the only person who has ever had an ill-tempered (read: evil) rabbit. Whenever I tell anyone about it they cannot understand how anyone could hate a rabbit. They obviously never had one that killed the guinea pig and left scars on their arm from biting and holding on for grim death when attempting to put it back in the hutch. To add insult to injury, the thing was called Fluffy.
This one looks like a kindred spirit.

Waffle said...

Ellie - Laughing and laughing about 'Fluffy'. It killed your guinea? Holy shit. Mine just sexually assaulted ours. That was bad enough. It got stress induced abscesses we had to drain manually (HEAVE).

Laruca - Anointed covering cherub is indeed an excellent name, and Sumenou sounds like some kind of dangerous voodoo lord. Which works for me.

marnilla said...

Looks like Belial to me

Martin said...

The Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog. You could just all in "Caerbannog" for short :-)

Anonymous said...

What an excellent post! Going to read it again just to savour your excellent writing :)
I could read you all day...:)

Ellie said...

Waffle- it really did kill our guinea pig. My brother is still bitter as the guinea was his and the feral rabbit-beast belonged to me.

The Reluctant Launderer said...

You know, you could eliminate the problem by getting a python... (Although admittedly then you'd have a different problem on your hands. But I bet a snake wouldn't eat your plants.)

Flora Fauna Dinner said...

I agree entirely with your views on rabbits, although I also think they are the most miserably-treated of all pets so do not begrudge them their demeanour one bit. I am horrifically allergic to them so it is only natural that although we have had dogs, cats, ferrets, guinea pigs, hamsters, rats, tortoises, stick insects, chickens, quail, budgies and fish, they are the only pet my younger son desires.
I saw a black one in our local parc de caca last year and went to some lengths, running about in bracken in the twilight trying to catch it. Since then I have learnt that, unlike Satan/Kali it was probably just an infrequently occurring black wild rabbit and would have had my arm off.
I warn you, my childhood rabbit lived to FOURTEEN.

Mrs Jones said...

Shame it's not female (and are you sure it isn't?) because then you could call her Clarissa, after Clarissa Dickson Wright. Well, you did say 'gigantic, elderly, ravenous and supercilious', didn't you?

Also I have good friends who took on two rabbits, which quickly became 7. They live all year round in their back garden and my friends have not had to mow the lawn once in the nearly 3 years they've had them - so there is an upside.

Anonymous said...

Clarence or Cedric
Or Charles...

Ivywindow said...

Winston. I think. I had thought Preston, but it wasn't supercilious enough. Winston is, I think.

WrathofDawn said...

Cyarbsou. The word verification thingy has spoken.

I think it's pronounced, "Bob."

WrathofDawn said...

Years ago we had an albino dwarf rabbit. It would allow no one but me to touch it or put my hand in its cage. It lunged and grunted at everyone else. How did I earn that love? By wrapping it in a towel three times a day and applying oinment to an infected eye, then massaging with the eyelid and then petting its head for 15 minutes to ensure the ointment had been absorbed into the surface of the eyeball. Damned rabbit was a masochist, obvs.

Beatrice said...

Boris or Pipoya!

Your can now definately open a private zoo.

J. said...

Cardinal Richieleu (I can't spell)-Cardy or Rich for short. Btw I have a cousin named Winston Preston-he's an officer in the US Navy and not at all rabbitty or supercilious.

irretrievably broken said...

How I wish you'd found a honeybadger at the park instead.

Rosie Redfield said...

One word: hasenpfeffer.

Anonymous said...

And you took it home! You're too saintly for your own good. I've seen abandomed rabbits, and tortoises and fish all around Brussels, and would never dream of taking them home.
How about Robald?

Nimble said...


Waffle said...

I like Rumpole a lot. He has a neck like Rumpole.

Rosie - I'll admit I'm tempted, but I've seen what the bugger eats (everything up to and including small children).

Ir Br - I wish I'd found a honey badger too. That's definitely what Uccle is missing.

WoD - That sounds a lot like my several years of guinea pig abscess squeezing, though I manned the squealing, distressed front end, whilst Prog Rock did the grisly Business down the other. Greater love hath no substitute parent.

FFD - Fourteen. I weep.

Mrs J - I obviously have no idea of gender, I am basing this on its high aggression levels, but I think that is species, rather than gender specific. These comments just confirm it in every posssible way.

Tilia - Oh god. Robald seems to have been phased out this year to everyone's relief. He has been replaced by a weedy type called Angélique Dupont who has obviously escaped from our c1978 French text book 'Tricolore'. If you see abandoned tortoises again, please tell me, the CFO will go and save them happily..

Maybe I need to give it one of those elaborate, long show names? "Caerbannog's Clarissa of Cyarbsou", known as Satan. That could work.

Z said...

Rumpole is brilliant. He might grow into the name, being irascible but essentially benevolent.

Anonymous said...

Uncle Monty?

John Finnemore said...

What? No one has suggested 'General Woundwort' yet? I am amazed.

Anonymous said...

When I was a spotty 5th former at a very bad secondary modern school in yorkshire (ha! secondary modern google it people) my parents went away for their easter hols and left me alone in the leaky barrett house (google again) and I watched a scary film called la lapin big fucking huge killer bunnies ate families lots of families who were stupid enough to think that the bunnies were cute you have been warned............Jx

Patience_Crabstick said...

Bunnies! I love bunnies. Yours has a nice, alert eye. He reminds me of our dear bunny George, who died about a year ago. I just love it that you found a random bunny in the park and he consented to come home with you.

Our George, if you put the tip of your nose in his claw, would grip it, much like a newborn baby will grip your finger. We tried the bunny leash too, without much success although we did literally stop traffic the few times we did take him out on it.

I can't think of a good name. Hamlet? I don't know why that popped into my head. It's totally unsuitable. Fortinbras?

Margaret said...


Gigi said...

Coming late to this but I might have the answer to mystery...

Back when my parents lived in leafy Uccle, and had a house with a big front garden, we came home once to find a large rabbit like Rumpole romping about on the lawn. After a vain attempt to find the owner, we ended up keeping it. It was clearly used to people, but was far from a cuddly child's pet (I remember it used to growl at the dog, who would cower away in fear).

Eventually the mystery was solved by the vet, when it developed a strange inner ear problem which meant that it could only hop in circles. Mum took it to the vet, who was dumbfounded that anyone would pay good money to treat a creature bred to be eaten (and which had clearly just escaped from Mr. Tweedy's Farm).

So that's what you have: the main ingredient of a Lapin a la Geuze. Ahh, Belgium!

Fat Controller said...

Dobbin. Daughter had a jerboa we called Dobbin until it demonstrated an almost supernatural ability to escape from any cage we put it in, from whence it was called 'Houdini'. In the end we had to house him in a terrarium that son's snake had outgrown (sans snake, much to son's disgust).

Are you sure it is an aged rabbit and not a baby Capybara?

Jessica said...

Hannibal. Or Stay-Puff.

Waffle said...

Hang on FC. Your daughter had a JERBOA? Like, a pygmy jerboa? Amazing.

Gigi - Your story sounds uncannily similar to ours. Though I think this one is past his best for the pot.

J - The killer bunny film sounds .. horrifying. And realistic.

livesbythewoods said...

Name suggestion: Rabid. Obviously.

Word verification is lazooeb, which sounds a bit like Beelzebub backwards - also a good name for a rabbit.

Sewmouse said...

Wasn't the rabbit in one of those old black and white Jimmy Stewart movies named "Clarence"?

I like Clarence.

Jane said...

Samuel Johnson.

Anonymous said...

My kids suggest "Grumples" (also a nickname for a friend's toddler)
Heather (NZ)

wv = sperflu

Fresh Blade said...

What about Arfer? As in: Arfer Rabbit? I know I shouldn't laugh at your misfortune, but your post was really most amusing.

Juci said...

General Woundwort came instantly to mind, obviously, but the Black Rabbit of Inlé seems no less appropriate.
On another note, I saw this competition and I thought you might like it.
Gosh, I haven't been here for a long time, I have so much catching up to do :)

Marie said...

So that's the rabbit story then ! Looks like there's a whole lot of abandoned pets out on the streets over here, my gran once found a hedgehodge and a tortoise (not on the same day) in Uccle too while I went out to buy croissants one sunday morning and coming back with a kitten that could beat this rabbit in a "all that you can eat" competitiong and at least the rabbit doesn't have the nasty habit of destroying bags of all kind....