We’re now over a year into turning our front lawn into a fruit and vegetable garden, and have been enjoying harvesting our goodies very much. So, alas, has the local rabbit. We came back after a week away in the summer to find said bunny sitting in the middle of the pathway, fat and bold (and fluffy and cute, it has to be said…), munching on the last of my kale. It had troughed an entire 2 x 4 foot raised bed of kale and broccoli. The minxes barely repressed their glee at the sight of the decimated leaves and cheered loudly, while I chased that pesky varmint away. It dashed into the back garden while I huffed and puffed and abandoned the chase in favour of unloading the car.
The next day I waddled round to the compost bins at the back of the house to get rid of some of lunchtime’s veg peelings. I heard an ominous rustle behind the bins, so squeezed past to investigate. Last night’s rabbit was trapped between 2 slats in the fence! It had scraped a pile of dirt away with its back paws and rubbed all the fur off its sides. There was no blood, but it didn’t exactly look too comfortable. It must have been there since we’d arrived home and I’d chased it.
Now, I have to confess to considering roast rabbit for dinner that night, and went back to the kitchen for a big sharp knife. En-route, though, I thought about how scared it must have felt for those 14 hours and felt a rush of pity for it. Instead of fetching the knife, I put on 2 pairs of rubber gloves, went back out and tried to gently guide its back legs through the fence slats. No chance – its behind was too fat on my greens. So I gripped it over its haunches and middle and pulled. It slid right out then let out a scream like a banshee meets a scalded cat. I mean, I wasn’t expecting gratitude or anything, and I’m no “manky Scots git”, but I didn’t expect to be confronted with those long brown teeth.
(Oh come on, you can’t expect me to tell you a tale about a rabbit without a single Monty Python reference!)
Anyway, it jumped down, scampered off, and I forgot about it. Until I discovered that it had also munched all 10 of the carnations I’d cossetted and pampered and planted along the edge of the little fence I’d put up to shield the mess of my Steptoe’s Yard of a veg garden from the rest of the neighbourhood. Right down to the ground. I regretted my knife / gloves exchange, but got over it.
Time passed. Killer Cat was a little more successful at keeping the wild rabbit away from the rest of my vegetables and the kale and lettuces grew back. The carnations and broccoli didn’t. Last weekend, the minxes came in from playing with tales of a rabbit that had lost an eye. I was quite dismissive (“Really? That’s nice, dear…”) as they guessed that it had been in a fight with a cat or dog. Then yesterday, I found a big fat rabbit right in the middle of the lawn.
“Shoo!” I hissed. It ignored me and hopped once in the general direction of my kale.
“Move along!” I chided, and walked right up to it. It just sat there, ignoring me. It did indeed look like it had lost one or both eyes. I was in a rush to get Midi The Animal Lover home from school for lunch, so stalked off in exasperation.
On our return, the rabbit was still there. Midi identified it as the rabbit the kids had been talking about over the weekend. I had a closer look at it. It was a very manky and unhappy little thing. I admitted to Midi that if I had any backbone and/or thought I knew how to do it without causing it further distress and pain, I’d kill it to stop its obvious suffering. As I didn’t, sadly we’d just let it get on with it. Midi had a long think about my attitude while she munched her lunch. Presently, she announced her judgement:
“Phone the SSPCA, Mum”, she said, “They’ll take care of it”.
Nooooo, they’re for things like baby squirrels and rescuing pets suffering cruelty and… and… well, they’ll not be coming out to wild rabbits with myxomatosis. Midi insisted I was wrong, and that the SSPCA representatives who’d visited the school last year had been clear that they would help any animal that needed it. She looked at me with her big, owly eyes full of compassion. So I called (03000 999 999 in the UK).
I spoke to a brisk and helpful lady who assured me that it wasn’t right to let the animal suffer any more, and talked me through finding something to put over the rabbit to immobilise, comfort and calm it (a big laundry crate). Five minutes later, my local SSPCA called to say they were on their way. Twenty minutes later, a very kind chap turned up in the van. He looked at the rabbit and agreed that it had myxomatosis and was suffering badly. He thanked me for the call, was happy at my admission that it was Midi’s idea from a school visit, and said he’d take it away and euthanize it gently with an overdose of anaesthetic.
Now, I can’t afford to pay vet’s fees to have called one out to come pick up and deal with the rabbit. And as I said, I’ve neither the skills nor the moral fibre to deal with it myself. Although the SSPCA are a charity, I’m sure the staff don’t work for free, the anaesthetic wouldn’t have been cheap and the man didn’t arrive on a broomstick: fuel costs a fair bit nowadays. So I’ll be making a donation to cover as much of that as I can.
Poor bunny. I guess I won’t have to be defending my greens against it or its burrow-mates now – I imagine they’ll be equally afflicted. And how did Midi react?:
“Poor Charlie-Felix Rabbit. I hope it rests in peace”, she said sadly. Then took a breath, and said brightly: “Oh wow, Mum, does this count as this week’s Good Deed for Cubs? Excellent!”