Friday, April 25, 2008


I crossed my fingers and toes hoping that my eight year old daughter Sapphire would have a severe allergic reaction. I wanted it to be like the one she has to cats: wheeziness of breath, red itchy welts on her face and hands and eyes rapidly puffing and swelling shut. So bad that she has to go to school for the next week with a note from her doctor stating that it was a severe allergic response and not the result of problems at home.

Alas, none of these events happened at her friend Maya's place and she skipped home with me, excitedly chattering about her victory against allergies. "I'm not allergic to them Mum! That's such good news - I'm not allergic to rabbits! So, can I have one now, Mum? Please?"

Poo. Bum. Bugger. Shit. Fart. I don't dislike rabbits per se; there's always some nice pictures of them on Cute Overload and they're sweet to touch when some other kid brings them into Sapph's class for Show And Tell, but it's just that I've never owned one and am perfectly happy to keep it that way.

We live in the burbs. A standard(ish), quarter-acre(ish) block, surrounded by dozens of other similar spaces, and we already have Milly the retired-runner dog and three contented chickens. When we go away for the weekend the chooks have a seed-feeder and a water dripper and can pretty much fend for themselves. Milly can either come with us, visit her Kelp-ador mongrel mate Coco or stay with our nice neighbours Jack and Una. A rabbit (or two, so that they have 'company'), is another task altogether. Fresh hay, shifting the hutch, keeping up a variety of fresh veges, making sure their front teeth don't grow too long and keeping wire underneath to prevent them from digging an escape route.....

All this information didn't deter my child. She had that standard expression that all kids have when asking for:
* showbags
* fairy floss for breakfast
* a sleepover on a school night
* a new game for their Nintendo
* more time at their friend's place
* to stay up later

.... that really just means that they are patiently waiting for your lips to stop moving so that they continue with their line of questioning: "So Mum, when are you going to tell Dad that I'm not allergic to rabbits?"

I tried another angle, this time suggested by Maya's mother, Sarah, and now full-time feeder, handler and keeper of their two pet rabbits. She suggested that I remind Sapphire that her one hour visit and petting session with their two - Dolly and Hutch - was the longest amount of time her kids had spent with them for months. "You see, being outside in their hutch all the time means that they're not directly involved with the life of the family, and the kids have lost interest in them."

"But Mum," Sapphire interjected, her blue eyes still beaming with hope. "I read in that pamphlet from the pet shop that you can train them to come inside and use a kitty litter tray---"

I seized my chance: "But what about Milly? She'd hunt them down and have them for dinner."

"Not if I build some little fences from my Ello Shopapolis set and train her how to be their friend and ....."

I let her burble on (as Love Chunks tends to do with me on many occasions) and again cursed the Creator for his/her negligence in the 'Total allergy to pets except chickens and dogs' department. Why let rabbits burrow under the radar?

We've had two weeks of school holidays and as the primary carer/social secretary/chef/entertainment coordinator and playdate wrangler, I could foresee a fortnight of 24/7 rabbit requests. It was time to ensure that Sapph's holiday was full of diversions.

Unfortunately, not all of these proved to be pleasant ones. On the first Monday we went to Dunstan Park with Lucinda and spent the first couple of hours videoing them on the whizzy sticks with the aim of scoring a few seconds of good footage to send in to 'Australia's Funniest Home Videos.'

What we ended up with was several clips of the worst fall-down acting ever, and Sapphire throwing up in the car on the way home.

Tuesday saw Maya and Sapph at Kensington Adventure playground, wedging themselves into the spinning teacups and taking it in turns to video the results. This time, no vomiting resulted, but no potential $200,000 prize winning clips either.

On Wednesday we found ourselves back at Dunstan park, with Holly. Eschewing the whizzy sticks for the spinning tractor tyre and the massive slippery dip, Sapphire's mind had temporarily forgotten the rabbit debate and was firmly into monetary matters. Not, alas for Holly, who turned a pale green and had to lie down on a park bench before it was safe to drive home.

And thus, the remainder of the holidays have involved a few days at Victor Harbor at her Grandparents' place telling them all about the joys of rabbit ownership; scooter trips; a school working bee; a couple of movies; some home cooking sessions with me (the hopeless teaching the messy); and several fruitful shopping expeditions.

It was all going well, with rabbits receding further and further into the murky distance of Sapphire's bunny brain.

That was, until yesterday's playdate at Maya-the-Rabbit-Owner's house. "Pleee-a-a-a-se Mum, can I have a rabbit?"

I said that sentence that all parents find themselves saying when they know that the answer is a definite 'NO' but they don't have the heart to tell their child yet:
"We'll see."

It didn't wash. "But you said that last week and the week before!"

Hmm. Time for the second-most dependable-but-non-committal response: "I'll need to talk about it with your Dad, OK?
"When? When he gets home from work tonight? Or why don't you call him on his mobile right now?"

*Sigh*. Love Chunks and I have not yet had the bunny discussion. He is, at this very moment, out in the back shed with our beloved daughter, trying his damndest to get the bright plastic, battery-powered potters' wheel he bought her to work. Maybe procrastination by pottery is the answer.


Naomi said...

Hmm the animal saga eh - we haunted my folks with guinea pigs - all fun and laughter til our dearest sweet Corgi (incidentally named Caesar) broke into said hutch and voila no more guinea pigs!

We have been pretty lucky our guys have the gorgeous Xena and Bella and they seem happy with that...then again perhaps the unfortunate end to their axylotyls many years ago was enough to deter them that their folks could only be trusted with dogs and budgies!

River said...

How about a rabbit trial? Get a bunny for a month and let (make) Sapphire be the sole carer, feeding, moving the hutch, cleaning the hutch, grooming the rabbits etc. When she complains that it's too much work or loses interest return the bunny to whoever you borrowed it from.

Anonymous said...

Let the voice of experience share a few thoughts.

Rabbits stink. Yes, they smell cute when they're new and fluffy, but rabbit poop accumulates quickly.

Rabbits scratch. Unless you work with them _a lot_, they'll surprise you with their ability to nip and scratch.

Rabbits are tasty. But I don't think that'll be much consolation to your 8 year old.

Baino said...

Tough one that! I acquiesced to mice in DrummerBoy's Bedroom. I also ended up cleaning out their very mod and toy filled glasshouse every week. Just wait until she asks for a pony! I've been feeding ClareBear's for 12 years! Maybe you could encourage her to 'save'.

Rabbit hutch $120
Food $10.00 a week
Tooth Trim $75 a year
Straw bedding $20 a bale
Pair of Lop Eared Rabbits $30
Vaccinations $160 each year
Desexing $260

ashleigh said...

The best sort of rabbit to have is...


Get her to strike a deal - go over to the friends house each night after school to look after the rabbit. Clean the cage. Feed it. Water it.

Do this every day for a fortnight, then see how attractive the idea still is.

franzy said...

Step 1: ever so secretly, purchase a life size rabbit toy. Hollow it out, line with sturdy plastic bag, fill with Pal and bikkies and then, oh so secretly, drag it around the yard on a long piece of yarn and train Milly that this is where dinner comes from now.
Step 2: Purchase inexpensive rabbit.
Step 4: Administer hugs and anti-trauma medication.

Alexandria Knox said...

Very cool site!

Cerry said...

Aw, don't be mean. Rabbits are great fun.
We had a rabbit up until a couple of years ago when she died. We actually never found her to be all that much work (that being said, I was 12 when we got her, and therefore probably more dedicated than Sapphire).
We used to let her out in the yard for a run for an hour or so, then when she got bigger (ie, almost the size of a cat), she had free reign of the yard until sunset, when she happily plodded back into her cage, quite often before we started chasing her (although, we didn't have a dog who might have thought she was dinner running around as well). Free reign meant she spent much of her day gnawing on wood and roots, so her teeth never got long, and she used to dig in the compost heap, much to dad's delight, because he therefore never had to turn it. And in our situation, you could leave her alone for a couple of days, if you made sure the food bowl was full, left a few water bowls in the yard and topped up the drippy thing in the cage, and put a couple of carrots or other fresh food in her cage. She never really had the enthusiasm to dig out of the yard, or her cage which didn't have a bottom on it, and only got out once or twice (usually cause we accidentally left the gate open). She also didn't need grooming much, cause lots of loose fur came out when she crawled around under bushes, and she would happily splash around in any water she found in the yard, which kept her fairly clean.
Straw and feed came in bulk from the farm supplies place down the road, and most years, we spent all of about $100 on her, including immunisations.
I can't believe I'm trying to bully someone I've never met into buying their child a rabbit...

Kath Lockett said...

I like the idea of Borrow-a-Bunny for a while, but can see why Cerry loved hers so much. Just not so sure that Milly will be able to prevent the Jack Russell terrier half of herself from hunting it down....

davey said...

If I'm not mistaken, it was your situation that spawned the creation of Watership Down. Get her to read that. It's rabbit freedom propaganda at it's best. Mixed with liberal doses of terror mind, but it does the trick.