Tuesday, October 18, 2011

little rabbits

Alan’s flat is tucked round the side of the main house. Everything is nicely ordered – the roses have been pruned back early, the bark chippings on the soil swept back from the path, the fallen apples from the neighbour’s tree picked up and put in a plastic crate. Alan looks tidily put away, too. He sits waiting for us on an armchair in the centre of the room, a view of the garden off to the left, a large TV to the right. A low bookcase neatly filled with DVDs – Jarhead, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, The Good, The Bad & the Ugly. To the left of the armchair beneath a picture window is a large wire cage with two tiny rabbits, whose ears hang straight down like the flaps on a winter hat.
‘Did the doctor leave a letter?’ asks Frank. ‘Or was it done on the phone?’
‘On the phone. He said we shouldn’t mess about.’
‘Fair enough.’
I go back out to fetch a chair.

***

The hospital is as busy as ever. Whilst Frank stands and waits his turn to handover at the desk, I wait alongside the trolley with Alan. He watches the chaos with the same taut readiness as one of his rabbits; I half expect him to leap off the trolley and scamper out the door if I cough or shift my position unexpectedly.
‘So your carer will look after the rabbits?’ I say.
‘She’s very good. I couldn’t manage without her.’
‘How often does she come in?’
‘Every other day.’
‘Do you manage to get out much?’
‘A little. To the corner shop.’
‘How long does that take you?’
‘Half the morning. It’s a major expedition.’
‘I bet.’
Frank waves to us from the desk, then leans back into a semi-conscious slump. I’ve never seen so many nurses, doctors, junior doctors, porters, police, patients, relatives – it’s like a casting call for a disaster movie.
‘Busy today, isn’t it?’ says Alan, studying me intently with his dark eyes.
‘Sorry it’s taking so long.’
‘That’s okay. I’ve got time.’
As if to illustrate the point, he folds his hands neatly on the blanket and sighs.
‘So – tell me about your rabbits,’ I say.
‘What about them?’
‘Erm – they look like baby rabbits.’
‘No. They’re actually quite rare. They’re Holland Lops, a dwarf breed. House trained, of course. Great company. They’ll wander about, then all of a sudden do a complete flip in the air.’
‘I’m glad you’ve got two. I think rabbits get a rough deal sometimes. Kids want them, but they get bored and the rabbit ends up banished to some lonely old shed.’
‘Oh no. Mine are great company. They help me undress.’
‘They help you undress?’
‘Yes. I slip my shoes off, they take a sock each and tug.’
‘Wow.’
‘They they climb up on my shoulder and we watch a film together.’
‘And what do they eat? Popcorn?’
‘No. They have special pellets that my carer gets. Looks exactly like their poo, but they seem to enjoy it.’
Frank comes over.
‘Sorry it took a while. But we’ve found you a space.’

Mind your backs, please! he calls, Mind your backs! And we nudge the trolley slowly forwards like an ice-breaking ship.

10 comments:

Sabine said...

Never understimate the healing power of pets. I remember reading a (serious medical) report once on how small pets (cats and rabbits) can be trained to warn their people of oncoming epilepsy attacks.
As always, thanks for a superb story, Spence.

jacksofbuxton said...

Nice to have rabbits keeping Alan company.Hope his family do the same as well.

Although I don't expect them to pull his socks off with their teeth.

Spence said...

Thanks Sabine. It is incredible how in-tune animals can be. Although having said that, our oldest dog Buzz is so decrepit now he's started barking at things that really aren't there at all!

Hi JoB. That made me think of the scene in Snow White where she cleans up the house with the forest animals. That's just what you had to do before Hoovers were invented, I suppose.

VM Sehy Photography said...

I'm impressed. That's a cool trick to train your rabbits to pull off socks. I've got a cat that sits on my shoulders, but that's about as far as I've ever gotten training an animal, and that was by accident.

Spence said...

I've not heard of rabbits being quite so proactive before, I must admit. Our pets can't do all that much. Lola, the whippet/terrier cross - she'll roll over and play dead if you keep on, but that's about it. I had a friend who's cat would rap the doorknocker when she wanted to come in, though (balanced on a fence by the door). :)

Nari said...

Those tiny little rabbits sound adorable. I have a dog that pulls off socks and ponytail holders too...but he just eats them afterwards so it's really not much help at all.

Spence said...

It's incredible - and maddening - what dogs like to eat. Lola's favourite snacks: the beech footstool in the kitchen and the bamboo plant in the garden. So I suppose genetically that makes her about 1% deathwach beetle and 5% panda. Grrr

PaperTigger1 said...

I love the idea of the rabbits doing a flip in mid-air, to say nothing of their job as a man-servant for sock removal. I think they should have a small trampoline so they could leap up and help him with gloves and hat as too. However,I think Alan had best handle the walking stick himself. I wonder their skills couldn't be extended further - maybe the carer can't train the pair of them to do most of the dusting simply by walking across a dusty surface

PaperTigger1 said...

And if we are going to categorize dog genetics based on diet, then I figure our two must be 15% cat, based on the amount of cat fur they consume; 10% termite for the firewood they nibble; 10% Hoover to cover the small stuff they get of the floor that is going down their throats just as we spot that there is something going on. It would be and additional 5% clothes washer since they eat socks & other small clothing items. Since I've never found where socks go during the washer load, I figure the dogs are doing me a favor because they are bound to find and eat the other sock. That way I don't have all those unmatched and unmatchable single socks. And what eats books, besides my puppies?

Spence said...

It brings a whole new meaning to the phrase 'domestic animals'. I think the trampoline's a good idea - maybe a zip wire for moving from room to room, too.

It is incredible what dogs eat. One thing that's always bothered me - they're supposed to have a sophisticated sense of smell, and smell is closely allied to taste - so why is it they find the most disgusting items so delicious? I won't describe what the dogs have eaten in the past (having just eaten myself), but it's amazing they lived afterwards...