Gather ’round, my children, and I shall tell you a tale to make your hair turn white, your bowels tremble, and set your toenails ablaze.
I used to have quite a second career centered around house-sitting, and I have a lot of very boring stories about it. Lots and lots of boring stories. On the flip side of that coin, I have a few interesting stories — or at least less stultifyingly boring — and now that I have you totally confused, I shall begin.
I house-sat for this dude who had what seemed like 80, but were in fact 4, large, smelly dogs. These weren’t meek and mild dogs, these were dogs who come in and make themselves KNOWN. They were large, hairy, smelly, and had the ability to shoot large clumps of hair at least 15 feet in all directions. This particular winter I was 20, and a sucker for big, sad, moist dog eyes staring at me saying “I’s cooold, let meee iiiinnnnn …” It was a damn cold winter, mind — averaging 20-below, NOT including wind-chill, for about 2 weeks. It sucked. The water froze in their dog-dishes outside — except the special electric-one that could plug in and had a heating element to keep it drinkable. Still, that bowl would get an inch rim of ice all the way around by the time I’d gotten home from work. So. The dogs. This blog is not about the dogs, but I can’t write about this house without mentioning the dogs, because they were terrors. These dogs would eat anything within reach. They ate a loaf of cranberry bread a friend had made for me that I had left on the kitchen counter, pushed alllll the way back, mind you; you’d think it was safe. They even ate my fucking toothbrush. What kind of dog eats a toothbrush? The indignity was compounded when said toothbrush showed up the next morning, cozily wrapped in a steaming fresh pile of dog-turds on the living room carpet. That pretty much destroyed the last vestiges of sympathy I had for these critters, so it was out to the back yard with the damn dogs (they had husky in them, don’t fret, so they were perfectly safe and fine in the cold weather, they just weren’t very happy about not being able to be inside, eating my crap off of the counter-tops.)
In this house was also … um … housed … some rabbits. Yes, these are the very rabbits you see in the picture here. Fucking rabbits.
This guy loved him some bunnies, and had turned his downstairs sun-room into a rabbit home. He made a little frame, put down Visquene, and strewed hay around for his little friends to munch upon. My job, as house-sitter and martyr-in-training, was to sweep up the hay once every few days and replace it with fresh hay from a bale conveniently kept in the downstairs office. (yes, in the downstairs office. This guy was a bachelor, can you tell?) This is what he told me before he left: “You can just move the plywood out of the way, let them hop around the basement while you’re sweeping up, they enjoy it. Just don’t let them chew on any cords, and when you’re done changing the hay, just shoo them back in, they’re very docile.”
Yeah. Docile means “rabid” in certain languages.
So. I let the damn bunnies out. I sweep up the old hay. I lovingly dribble new hay about, being sure to fluff it just the way the dude told me … and I go to get the bunnies.
The two small ones went in without any trouble. They seemed happy to go back home, and to nestle like a Disney character in the sweet-smelling (i.e. dusty, moldy) hay. Happy bunnies. Happy Happy.
The third bunny, the BIG bunny, was harder to find. I found him in the back office, under the desk, wedged into a corner. Big bunny had his taste of freedom, and it was sweet: he would not come quietly.
First, I stupidly tried to pick him up with my hands. He flattened his ears back and bared his long, yellow chompers at me and HISSED — he HISSED, I tell you, just like a cat does, but it was more frightening, because it was all so unreal … and those teeth were mighty yellow and long. Next, I tried shooing and herding him in with my feet, like he was a big, furry soccer ball. He would have none of that nonsense. More hissing ensued, plus a couple feints with the teeth at my ankles. I backed off, understanding that those teeth, should they hit their mark true, could potentially meet in the middle of the flesh of my ankle. I was not anxious to discover if his aim was true. Next, I grabbed the hay sweeping broom, and tried to bully him toward the pen: no rabbit was going to boss ME around …
The broom did not fare well. The rabbit attacked it with all the gusto one would expect out of a Berserker or a Serial killer: with that cold, methodical, yet terrifyingly persistent violence that will rip a body to bloody ribbons in a matter of minutes.
It was me and the rabbit, looking at each other across the room. I had been trying to out-muscle it for about a half-hour and was frustrated, tearful, and just a tad freaked out. I half-considered letting the dogs in, and coming up with a resonably tragic explanation to the house-owner about the untimely demise of Bunny-bun-bun … but then inspriation came.
I was raised on Warner Brother cartoons, and every good WB fan knows, rabbits love them some carrots. I figured since the dogs were ravenous, food (and other stuff) thieving creatures, the rabbits must be the same. I went to the fridge, grabbed a carrot, and cut it into enticing, orange disks. I went downstairs, and dangled the frothy greens in front of the Bunny, the air redolent with the smell of summer and lazy days spent basking under a tree.
Bunny got interested in negotiating the situation.
I let him have a few nibbles of greens, then offered the BIG prize — the root — the lovely, shimmering carrot disks — glimmering softly in my palm like Spanish gold.
I laid down a slice of carrot. Bunny hopped forward, dipped his head, and chomped it down quickly …
I laid down another, about a foot away from him. He hopped forward, again dipped his head, and ate the carrot.
It was working. Elmer Fudd was not wrong after all …
I continued laying down slices of carrot, and the bunny kept coming. I finally led him into the enclosure, and with a shudder pushed the sheet of plywood into place, artfully trapping my fat and happy nemesis with his more placid fellows. I threw the rest of the carrot in there, reconsidered the letting-in-the-crazy-dogs idea for a moment, then decided I’d rather not clean up that much blood and rabbit-infested dog shit, and went upstairs to have a good cry.
Rabbits are evil.