Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Cottontail's wire-meshed Shawshank.

Long Ears is a blue and white cotton-tail inhabitant of a large well-made hutch of wire mesh and steel behind the back door of the Groome family abode. He moved in with us over a year ago after a client who had taken in a labrador puppy brought a young traumatised rabbit to me and shared a tale of prey and predator incompatibility. He had lost some weight,was refusing to eat and in a state of chronic stress(the rabbit that is- not the client).

Predator and prey species frequently do not mix. It goes against the natural order to attempt to make a rabbit and dog coexist as domestic pets. Remember the old looney tunes cartoons of the tomcat thwarted by tweetie pie or terrorising the goldfish? There are exceptions such as when socialised together from a few weeks of age, but in general natural urges supercede conditioning. When we have rabbits, hamsters, parrots, other prey species or exotics to stay at KIlDARE VET SURGERY we isolate them from our inpatient dogs and cats for this reason. Its not fair on either to mix them.

Thus Long Ears was adopted by the Groomes. Daniel,(7), James (5) and Tom (3) are too young yet to care for a dog or cat. A rabbit is an excellent first pet. That is until Dad, yardman Lar and grandad Tom get left to do everything. This winter in fact was so harsh that Long Ears shamefully was left in his outdoor hutch and coop largely to interact only with the adults.

A few days of snowman building and snowballing being memorable exceptions, the three boys spent the winter in the playrooom as engineers on the Island of Sodor or roadbuilders in Radiator Springs. Long Ears was sorely in need of some attention as rabbits need constant handling and interaction with people to ensure they remain socialised, do not revert to semi-feral and can be managed or cared for by a young owner. More importantly constant interaction is necessary so that the relationship between child and pet is wholesome and stress-free for BOTH.

Recently when the bikes were polished off and the boys started using the garden again they resolved to get Long Ears out to play. The first few episodes of manhandling led,not unexpectedly, to the rabbit wriggling and leg-thumping his way to freedom. Tom discovered that bunnies can have a nasty nip when startled. But after a week or so of handling, boys and rabbit became friends and played a sort of tag or hide-and-seek game in our enclosed side yard. Each day Long Ears would agree to be enticed by lettuce back to his hutch until the next time.

One day however our bunny found a new spring to his step. The time came for supper and to return Long Ears to lockup. But I looked out to find three boys of varying size and athleticism galloping around the yard trying to turn and corner a now fitter and confident Long Ears. It was definitely a Looney Tunes version of a Clonmel Hare coursing contest. At one stage as Long Ears paused for a breather and turned sharply to unbalance his twolegged pursuers,he looked across at me and I almost heard him say " Whats up Doc?".

That pursuit ended on Long Ears terms, when he decided he was tired of the chase and returned himself to barracks. But the next morning I looked out from upstairs to see his run empty. I spotted something beyond the back garden some 100 metres away and opened the window to get a better look. There he was in the long meadow keeping the pony company. Ears forward, aloft on hind legs with a blade of grass between his paws. No doubt smelling the sweet breeze of freedom.I laughed at the joie de vivre of our cotton tail, this time definitely less Looney Tunes and more Shawshank Redemption!

The boys' Mum warned darkly of the grim fate that could befall this fluffy innocent abroad in the long grass. A capture party was thus swiftly dispatched and soon Long Ears was reincarcerated to stare at the four small wire sides of his prison. As the old sage "Red" in that great movie said from his cell "Same old shit, different day!". We repaired the never before eaten-through wire meshing.

But something had changed. Long Ears escaped again. And again. And Lar the yardman nodded one day and said "he's got the taste of freedom now. Only the crows will scare him. He will breed with the wild ones and there'll be blue and white little lads everywhere!". Lar was our "Red"; the Morgan Freeman character who watched Andy in Shawshank always trying to escape in the 1994 movie and provided the slow voiceover "I have to remind myself that some birds aint meant to be caged, that's all".

Here's the thing. Long Ears hutch hadnt changed.But his attitude had. Now he could escape because he wanted to. For the previous year the blue and white cottontail had languished behind a wire mesh wall he himself held the power to breach. Held captive only by a barrier in his bunny brain.A taste of freedom had empowered him. The smell of free air had shown Long Ears the possibilities of life. Now escape was as easy as his dreams of a new reality!

There's some work to do tomorrow in mending that hutch.It will be no laughing matter for three little boys if a certain cotton tail meets a sad ending in the long grass. For now though remember "Shawshank" brought to you by eternal optimist and escapologist Andy Dufresne, AKA Long Ears. What imaginary prisons hold any and each of us back? A negative equity mortgage holding you back from a fresh start or a re-education? Fear of failure holding back that germ of a business idea? Unemployed, bankrupt or squeezed by the weight of institutional credit? Feel the failure if you need to- and let it liberate you.

I will leave the last word to Andy Dufresne who finally did escape."Dear Red. If you're reading this it means you've gotten out. And if you've come this far, maybe you're willing to come a little further.Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things and no good thing ever dies".

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