Appearing falsely apologetic, Flopsie ponders the error of his ways. There were two more breakouts after yesterday morning’s, for a total of three. Most recently, early this morning, I heard a single thump (the early rabbit warning system where they thump with their hind legs). I ran out and found only Mopsie in a corner of the yard. He dug at the dirt alongside the fence with his front paws, which drew my attention to another new hole. In retrospect, I think he was “miming” for me how his brother got out! Another wild chase ensued into the neighbor’s yard until Flopsie was discovered and finally scooped up with his uncle’s fishing net. Mopsie deserves an award for alerting us to Flopsie’s escape and method. Flopsie said that next time, he is going to “take out” Mopsie first.
Flopsie gave us a scare this morning as when we went out to feed them their bananas, he was MIA. We frantically searched the yard and outside the fence but he was nowhere to be found! Mopsie was mute as to his brother’s whereabouts. I found a hole in the chicken wire fence where it looked like he could have squeezed through. As I was examining it, he bounded out from the bushes and came over, trying to squeeze his way back in through the hole. I helped him by lifting the fence and he popped back into our side of the yard! I think he was relieved to be back on familiar turf. Yet another year off our lives….
When Flopsie & Mopsie were babies, we had no idea whether they were male or female. If they were the same sex, we thought, No problem! But what if they were a male and a female? Rabbits reach sexual maturity between 3-6 months and the gestation period is about 30 days, so we literally could be having a litter every month! (Hence the term: “Breeding like rabbits.”) They had a lot of fur “under there” and took great offense to being probed, so we took them to the local vet for a “well bunny checkup” and to determine their gender.
There was good news/bad news. The good news was that they were both boys—and so was the bad news! The vet said that when she was young and raising rabbits, one of her male rabbits killed the other male rabbit because rabbits are very territorial. Her suggestion to prevent fratricide was: “Fix” both Flopsie & Mopsie. We staggered out of the vet’s office with an estimate in hand, $360—for each rabbit! There was no quantity discount.
But what was the alternative? We didn’t want to come home one day to find a dead rabbit in the backyard. So when they were about 6 months old, we took them back to the vet’s office for an operation, which required an overnight stay afterwards. This was so that the vet could monitor their output (poop) to ensure that their digestive system was working after being under anesthesia.
The next morning, the vet’s office called to say it was OK to pick them up, so we did, but later the vet herself called to say that the rabbits should not have been released as neither of them had pooped. We would need to monitor them, she said, to ensure they were in fact doing this. If they didn’t, we would have to bring them back for another overnight stay ($$$$!). Though they had been running around in the backyard, we threw them back into a large wire cage with a litterbox, to see if they were pooping. The hours passed by with no sign of output—apparently they were “holding it.”
Desperate, we carried the wire cage out to the lawn, setting the cage on top of sheets of newspaper while simultaneously sliding out the bottom of the cage. Miraculously, once their little bottoms touched the newspaper that was resting on the grass, both of them pooped! Hooray! we cheered, thinking of the money we had saved, and called the vet with the happy news. Apparently the rabbits were waiting to use the bathroom in a familiar place—some of us can identify with this!
Finally, after spending $720, did the “fix” result in peace and harmony among brothers? On the contrary, No! But that is another story….
After they outgrew their exercise pen, we apprehensively put Flopsie & Mopsie outside in the larger yard that had been reinforced with extra fencing. Like before, everything was OK for maybe a day and a half, but then they started escaping out of the yard TOO. It seemed that no matter where they were, they wanted to be somewhere larger.
My husband would be sitting down in the living room in the afternoon and hear a knock on the door. It would be either our neighbor or her daughter, (not the ones with the pit bull) saying that one or both of the rabbits were in their yard. So he would bolt out of the house, sometimes grabbing our son, and go out there with the fishing net to chase them. One embarrassing morning, he had to explain to the golf course maintenance worker that he was out there chasing down his rabbit. The man laughed and said, Good luck, brah! And drove off.
The most stressful time was when we had to go to the neighbor islands one morning and had a 6:30 flight. At 4:30 I went out to the lanai to feed them and discovered Mopsie missing! Now, a black rabbit at night is almost impossible to see, so my husband and I grabbed flashlights and ran out onto the golf course. We found him frozen in the glare of our flashlights, on the edge of the yard with the pit bull which fortunately, was not out. “He’s over here, under the bushes,” my husband said in a loud whisper. I called to him softly, “Mopsie, Mopsie, come here boy,” but he hunkered down, refusing to budge. I found myself resorting to picking up an extremely large coconut tree branch to sweep him out from there. It had a surreal quality to it. He ran through their yard and then back into ours through a hole in the fence. This incident alone took 10 years off our lives.
For the time being at least, the escapes have stopped, as my husband has finally managed to secure the yard, or so we hope. For all we know, they may be slipping out at night, hitting the nightclubs, and then slipping back inside before dawn. The alternative is to keep them caged all the time but we enjoy seeing them sprinting around the yard, leaping into the air for no apparent reason, and grazing on the grass in the evening like little cows. The joys they give us outweighs the occasional heart attacks!
After a few days of being in their exercise pen, Flopsie & Mopsie discovered they could poke their heads into the netting which had holes about an inch-and-a-half wide and squeeze their way out. “The rabbits are out, the rabbits are out,” became a familiar cry. “Get the fishing net, get the fishing net,” I would yell. It was like a circus as we ran around the yard chasing them. My husband would have to use the fishing net to scoop them up, and dump them back into their playpen.
So it was back to the hardware store for another roll of netting, wrapping it around to make a double layer so they couldn’t pop their heads out. Then they discovered they could squeeze their way UNDER the netting or chew their way out with their tiny but razor sharp teeth.
My husband was determined however so he bought a roll of metal fencing this time, staking it into the ground and wrapping it around the playpen to make a third layer. He also made the fence higher, because a Google search said that a 3 foot high fence was optimum for keeping rabbits out—although in our case, we wanted to keep them IN.
They kept popping out like popcorn however and we kept having to chase them. Afterwards my husband would look for the holes, patch them up, and gleefully say, “OK, this time I got it fixed for good!”—only to have them escape the next day. One day we saw them clawing their way UP the fencing, teetering on the edge, and falling over to the outside and freedom. Who knew that rabbits could CLIMB? They looked like little monkeys! So it was back to the hardware store, this time for bird netting to drape over across the top of the playpen. It began to look like an armed camp or the shelter of a homeless person.
Well, things settled down for a while, but as they grew larger and with the exercise they were getting in their playpen, their hindlegs grew stronger. One day we found them taking a running leap onto the footstools that served as their shelter, and bounding through the bird netting out of their playpen into the yard. Our jaws dropped: “Did you see that, did you see that?!” we exclaimed. It was an amazing feat of acrobatic agility.
I decided that the playpen wasn’t working any longer and that they needed to have the run of the entire backyard which was bordered by a wrought iron fence leading to a golf course. The problem was that the bars of the fence were spaced too widely apart to contain the rabbits so I told my husband, You’re going to have to add fencing to it so that they don’t get out onto the golf course, or into the side yards of our two neighbors, one of which has a pit bull.
So out in the hot sun, his face dripping with perspiration, my poor husband tediously tied chicken wire and industrial strength black plastic fencing to the wrought iron fence, using bricks to anchor it all down. Now our whole backyard looked like an armed camp. (to be continued)
Back in April of 2010—what seems a lifetime ago—I was sitting peacefully at my desk working on the computer, when my boss, in the office behind me, let out a yell. She had been meeting with Nathan, our consultant, and dragged him outside to my desk. She exclaimed breathlessly, “Nathan’s rabbits just had babies and he’s looking for homes for them!” I told them firmly, “NO, I can’t get another rabbit, because my husband was heartbroken when the rabbit we had died five years ago. He said he never wanted another one because he didn’t want to go through that again!”
Sure enough, when I talked to my husband that night, he said adamantly, NO, no more rabbits! But Nathan persisted and over the next few weeks, began e-mailing me photos of his baby rabbits, who at first looked like only balls of fur, but grew increasingly cuter once their eyes opened and their ears took shape. Now, how can you resist a face like THIS!
I decided that I HAD to have TWO of them so that they would have companionship. One night, as we were going to sleep, I told my husband sadly that, I REALLY REALLY needed to have TWO rabbits. Knowing that he would never get any sleep otherwise and resigned to his fate, he said OK very reluctantly.
When they were about 6 weeks old, we went to pick them up. Flopsie, the brown one, looked like a fuzzy stuffed animal, and Mopsie had shiny sleek black fur like a panther, except for his one white front paw.
When we first brought them home, they were tiny, so we kept them in a wire cage on the lanai. As they grew larger, we decided to build a playpen out on the grass in the back yard so that they could exercise. We constructed an oval pen with thick plastic netting two-and-a-half feet high, staked down into the ground, naively thinking this would contain them. Now when I look back on it, I have to laugh. (to be continued)