This is a column about bunnies. Not the Hugh Hefner variety, sadly, but the little guys that hop around and leave pellets all over our lawns.
Rabbits have been in the news a lot lately.
Vice President Mike Pence’s adorable adopted pet bunny, Marlon Bundo, has been called the only positive thing in Washington, D.C., and has nearly 17,000 followers on his Instagram page. BOTUS — Bunny of the United States — is also the subject of an upcoming children’s book penned by Pence’s wife and daughter. The family, which also includes cat Pickle, kitten Hazel and Australian shepherd puppy Harley, lives just down the street from the White House.
Much has been made of President Trump’s disdain for family pets — other than Stormy Daniels, one assumes. The Atlantic reported that our president thinks pets are “low class” and was “embarrassed” by the Pences’ menagerie. Meow! A Trump booster from Florida offered to give Patton, a goldendoodle, to his son Baron. Never happened.
According to the Presidential Pet Museum — yes, there is such a place — the last time the White House was pet free was during Andrew Johnson’s term in 1865 to 1869. Is it time to start a #dogandbunnyinthewhitehouse movement?
And then there’s the controversy surrounding the new animated children’s movie “Peter Rabbit.” No, Jemima Puddle-Duck and Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle have not accused Peter of sexual harassment. The film has been boycotted by parents because of a scene that’s supposedly insensitive to those affected by food allergies. In one scene, Peter, Flopsy, Mopsy and other forest friends throw blackberries at the mean Mr. McGregor, who is allergic to blackberries and starts choking, forcing him to inject himself with an EpiPen.
I know this is a serious issue, and if I had a family member dealing with life-threatening allergies I might not think that this is a huge overreaction. It’s a kids’ cartoon movie, for heaven’s sake. Are there really bullies out there who would bring blackberries, peanuts or a bag of gluten to school for the sole purpose of attacking a classmate?
When I was a “Looney Tunes”-obsessed kid I tawt I taw a puddy tat named Sylvester get bashed over the head and electrocuted by touching live wires time and time again. Stooges Curly and Larry were constantly on the receiving end of Moe’s eye pokes, slaps, head thumps and slapstick violence. Not once did I feel the urge to imitate these characters. Nor did my friends.
Peter Rabbit is getting a bad rap.
This leads to my own bunny story. My backyard is home to four cute little wild cottontails that visit every evening about dusk. My animal-loving wife is obsessed with feeding them and watching them playfully stretch and jump around.
Each week during the winter we buy two 5-pound bags of carrots at Market Basket. Each night we cut up three or four carrots and carefully place them under the birdfeeders (we buy a 20-pound bag of seed each week, too; we spend more on rabbits and chickadees than we do on ourselves). If it has snowed, I shovel to the bare ground “so the bunnies’ bums and noses don’t get cold.”
One night, heavy traffic was delaying our return home from work. My wife was agitated and driving like a maniac. “Get outta my way. We have to feed the bunnies. Don’t you know they spend most of the winter hunting for food, you heathen,” she screamed at a slowpoke motorist. “Please slow down, hon. The bunnies need us,” I replied in my most soothing voice.
Lately, darkness has set in by the time we escape glacial Wyoma Square traffic. When we finally pull into our driveway, the rabbits are there, waiting for their carrots, pointing at their watches and shooting us annoyed looks. They sit and watch us while we place the veggies on the frozen grass. They are not afraid. “They trust us,” my wife insists.
Three of the bunnies appear to be related or best buds. The fourth somewhat sheepishly and slowly nudges its way into the carrot party. The trio hops straight up as soon as the intruder enters; we can’t figure out if this “binky” is a friendly greeting, mating call or “get away from our victuals” statement. Before you know it, the four are side-by-side nibbling away.
Last year, we had several rabbits, including a one-eared cutie — Vincent — who had obviously survived some kind of attack. We haven’t seen him in ages and hope he’s OK. Maybe he moved to Florida during the cold months. Winter survival rates for rabbits is about 30 percent.
Don’t tell my idealistic wife, but I’m sure we’re just fattening them up for the coyotes and hawks that lurk in the meadows behind our house.
This bunny love started a few years ago when my wife noticed a chubby rabbit behaving strangely on our side lawn. She took to Google and learned that a mother rabbit was building a nest. It was a bare spot covered with fur, grass and twigs. I was prohibited from mowing that part of the lawn for weeks. The grass was taller than the rough at a links golf course in Scotland.
One morning, as we were getting ready for work, I noticed tiny furry things emerging from the ground. “Honey, look outside. Bunny babies!” Five in all. Two looked hardy and strong; three were tiny and struggling. None were big enough to climb over the drainpipe. We hoptimistically chose to believe they survived and went on to lead exemplary lives, like Bigwig or Hazel in “Watership Down.”
Sorry, gotta go. It’s suppertime and the pampered bunnies are outside protesting, holding signs that say, “What do we want? Carrots! When do we want ’em? NOW!” and “Bunnies are people, too!”