A great many people now reading and writing would be better employed in keeping rabbits. ~ Dame Edith Sitwell
It is places, not people or things, that leave an indelible impression on me, sinking down into my very bones to stain them with the scents & colours of the past. More than the house I actually grew up in my Aunt's house stains my memory. There was a generosity & wildness to it's nature that appealed to me that was lacking in my own well ordered home ~ for the most part. We owned animals so there was the exception.
I am not sure, given a choice, that my mother would ever have owned pets. They are never as easy to govern as children & can't be arbitarily ordered & inevitably a lot of their care fell to my mother but my father was a well known softie & so we owned both a cat & a dog, various fish in a tank on the kitchen bench & for a time budgies ~ then never again. Their escape into the wild was far too traumatic.
Then my youngest brother, Mark, began school & a whole new world of possibilities opened up for Mark promptly became friends with a family who owned & bred rabbits. Now in Australia rabbits are declared vermin & you need a special liscence to own & breed them & in some states, like Queensland, even desexed & kept as a pet you are not allowed them & they will be removed & put down. Even the travelling Pet Animal Farm that goes round to all the schools is not allowed a rabbit. N.S.W is not so strict & so long as your animal is desexed & properly housed you are allowed to keep a rabbit as a pet.
Mark began his propaganda campaigne. He raved about the cuteness of the rabbits. He visited & explained how they were housed so cheaply & ate grass or the odd lettuce leaf so wouldn't cost anything [perish the notion!] to feed. They were cute & cuddly & mummy rabbit had just had babies & there was the most adorable snow white bunny & he would dearly like a little white rabbit all his own! Either Mark's tactics were extremely effective or, more likely, he simply wore down all resistance with his persistence because my father promptly built him a rabbit hutch & in due time a tiny white rabbit arrived on our premises.
It looked very cute. Butter wouldn't meltish but it had a nasty mind! My mother, who is a fair & just woman & takes all her responsibilities seriously, felt sorry for Snowball [yes, originality is not the name of the game] cooped up all day in his hutch so each morning when she went to hang out her load of washing she would let Snowball out of his hutch to gambol at her feet while she worked. Gambol he did, happily keeping her company & staying within easy reach until the moment she decided it was time to go inside & finish her chores~ at which point Snowball promptly disappeared under the cubbyhouse from whence it was impossible to extract him. No amount of celery sticks, lettuce leaves or carrot sticks was enough to lure him close enough to be grabbed until he tired of the game & wandered out into the open waiting placidly to be picked up, roundly scolded & deposited back in his pen.
Snowball was not the cute & cuddly type. He was a biter & an Alpha Male of the most notorious sort & I learnt the hard way why rabbit kicks are so dangerous. Despite this I was rather fond of Snowball. He had one redeeming quality for which I would forgive him multiple sins; he did not like the neighbour's labrador!
The neighbour's labrador & I had issues. I'm not really a dog person though, on the whole, dogs like me & will happily slobber all over me given half a chance ~ & there have been dogs I have been fond of, even liked, though none have captured my heart the way my cats have. The neighbour's labrador was not one of them!
I have heard all my life what wonderful family dogs labs are; how child friendly; how docile & biddable & trainable yadda yadda. For my money they are the stupidest mutts on the planet & the one dog I loath with a passion!
There was a period when I would arrive home from school to start walking down our drive ~ our long steep drive with it's towering gums & burgeoning bracken winding its slippery way down, down, down through the stippled green till the rich smell of mould & eculypt was overpowered by the salt smell of the sea & piles of carrageen ~ when the neighbours mutt would promptly arrive, on cue, wrap his jaws firmly around my wrist & escort me home! OK, bird dog, so it didn't actually hurt & I wasn't frightened but I didn't need escorting down my own drive to my own front door either! I used to dread the Lab's arrival with a great & fearful dread. Perhaps I just wasn't firm enough but I could never dissuade the stupid thing. If I put my hands in my pockets he simply gripped my wrist through the cloth & all. If I held them away from me, he lept for them.
Then one day The Mutt came wandering down our drive while Snowball was loose in the yard. Snowball was definitely an Alpha Male & the territory was all his because both the cat & the dog were females! He took one look at this great hairy monster invading his territory & his ears stood straight up. He raised himself on his haunches for a better look & his eyes took on a steely glint. He took a giant leap & biffed the Lab a good one around the ears. The Lab turned tail & fled yelping up the hill with Snowball in hot pursuit! Go Snowball!
I went away on camp. When I returned Snowball was no more. R.I.P.