Rabbit Stew

In the last two weeks we have tackled back-to-school and readying the house to put it on the market. I ramp up quickly and unwind slowly so it has been a couple of weeks of my feeling like a high-wire performer who has had too much caffeine. I wish it were a foreign feeling; it is not. Usually, just about the time I think I might come undone, my brain starts to send out satellites to see what else we can add to the mix to really tip things over the edge.

Over a week ago, as I was talking to an incredibly interesting woman on the phone, I looked out the back door to see Rosie putting her nose on the ground then lifting it up. Touch, pull back; touch, pull back. Like a ballerina whose shoe hovers just above the stage. "Great," I thought, "there's something icky and dead out there and now I have to go get it before the carnage begins."

So, still on the phone, I made my way across the yard to see what was up. There, in the dry grass was a very still furry creature. I couldn't quite tell what it was, mole or mouse or rabbit. Rosie stood next to me, looking down at the discovery then up at me to see what I would do. I put an index finger under her collar and brought her inside so I could pick up the boys.

I filled them in on the way home and when we got back they went to investigate. "A rabbit," they declared, "Really small, but a rabbit." Sakes. The last thing I needed was a baby rabbit in the middle of my back yard. Later, I was off to "Curriculum Night" so I brought Mr. B up to date and was out the door.

One of my best friends is well educated in wildlife. She amazes my children by picking up turtles and frogs and most things furry. She recently filled me in on chicken sex, but that is another story for another day. She mentioned that the nest was probably very nearby. "I don't think so. It's right in the middle of the yard."

When I got home Mr. Blandings and I went out with a flash light and our rabbit was where we had left him. With a bit of poking around we found the nest was, indeed, just a few inches away, nearly directly in the center of our backyard. And, naturally, our new friend had siblings. Three. "What a dumb bunny. What in the world was she thinking? And he must have been quite a dashing hare to have swept her off her feet so late in the season." We sort of nudged the loner back into the nest and went inside.

"I really don't know how I'm going to keep Rosie away from them."

"I was thinking I'd put up a little fence." Pause. And a beat.

"You kill things."


"You kill things. You're kidding me that you are going to create a wildlife perserve in the middle of our backyard."

And the mighty hunter indignantly declared, "I don't kill infants."

The next day began with tragedy. Our friend from the day before had been evicted from the nest again and had passed in the night. It was a speedy service; we did not tell the boys. When they left for school I purchased some wire fencing and had a chat with my old friend the internet. As it turns out, our bunny was not so dumb. Rabbits nest in the open because their predators are less likely to hunt there. Also, rabbit mommies are not nearly as high strung as I. They do not fret over homework and transitions and the amount of sleep their darlings are getting. They nurse their babies about five minutes a day, usually at night. So basically they deliver their children into a shallow den in the middle of the open and kick some grass and fur over them and come back to check every twenty-four hours or so.

The fence, of course, did not keep out the curious Boxer. I looked out a couple of times to see her looking back at me with rabbit fur on her muzzle. It was not the fur of the young, but the camouflage of the mother; the bunnies were fine. I rolled a wheelbarrow into the yard and tipped it upside down over the nest, propping it on bricks so their mother could drop in if she felt like it. The boys sprang to Rosie's defense, "She doesn't want to eat them," they declared, incredulous that their pal had been labeled a potential mass murderer, "She's protecting them."

"Really? You think so? That seems a little inconsistent with canine instinct."

"She's seen you taking care of them, so she is taking care of them, too." Maybe.

We checked every day, lifting the wheelbarrow and pushing aside the dry grass and hair. As their cover began to stir they would jump slightly like the pulse of a heart. I can't say they welcomed our intrusions, but they allowed the petting and cooing, turning their faces to the side of the den employing the strategy of human toddlers, "If we can't see them, they can't see us." We referred to each as "he," "him" and "his brother" because it is all we know. They were significantly bigger every day.

Then, about a week into our ministrations, when we lifted the wheelbarrow, one hopped out of the nest. He didn't go far and my middle son corralled him back in. That night we saw another in the yard. The next morning they were gone.

We haven't seen them since, dead or alive, and as the boys liked to imagine Rosie the Great Protector, I like to imagine they are happily munching the landscaping of my neighbors and making plans for their own litters in the Spring. I like to think those bunnies made it despite the odds and that sometimes cute and fluffy prevails over hard and sharp. I like to think that sometimes things work out.