Burton on the Bay:

Bunny Love: Don't Take it Lightly

Of the blood more stirs

To rouse a lion than to start a hare!

		-King Henry IV, Shakespeare.



It's that time of year; Easter approaches and I think of rabbits. Not the Easter Bunny in particular or the March Hare of Charles Lurwidge Dodgson. Just rabbits, any rabbits. It stirs my blood.

I find them among the most admirable of creatures. They are of such even temperament, so vigilant, so protective of their young, so swift, intelligent, friendly - and, yes, so adorable.

Even the wild ones that munch on the grass and clover of the Burton homestead at Riviera Beach appear friendly, though they prefer to be a few long hops from me as I make my rounds of the lawn.

A few have shown up already, welcomed by me, though wife Lois has reservations. Time approaches for her planting of annuals in the garden, and each year her efforts are followed by a procession of hungry rabbits.

She shoos them away, as occasionally I do, though I find it more enjoyable to watch a contented rabbit munch on a freshly planted flower than to enjoy the blooming. When I plant a seedling tree or bush, I know the risk - the top could be chewed off - but what the heck, I can plant another.

I'd rather have the rabbits, and so I do whatever possible to maintain a rabbit-friendly environment on the lawn. And, if the truth be known, I'd prefer a rabbit or two indoors.

Not a wild rabbit - I respect their legacy of the wild - but a nice domesticated rabbit would be fine. Only trouble is, two household members of the fair sex stand between me and my menagerie.

One is Lois, who among other things fears for the house plants and the pellets rabbits are known to drop. Possibly, a playful, snugly and fluffy young bunny with its own litter box could win her over, but she's only half the opposition.

The other half is Frieda Lawrence, my white cat who now weighs in at 1412 pounds and is of territorial mind. This is her house; she puts up with Lois and me - we open the cans of cat food in morning and evening - and she puts up with OJ, the marmalade feline, only because he was here first.

She's now 10, too old and set in her ways to share her space with another furry creature. Though normally of temperament comparable to that of a rabbit, she has been known to make visiting dogs cower. Heaven help the docile bunny who enters the household with its suitcase and litter box.

Frieda is basically healthy, thus will probably be around as long as I am, so prospects for a pet rabbit aren't particularly bright. But that doesn't stop me from looking with envy at Lynn Johnston's popular comic strip "For Better or For Worse," carried in both the Post and Sun. The Canadian family in the strip has taken in a pet white rabbit, which co-exists happily with the family dog.

My interest in domestic rabbits was rejuvenated when I attended the 1992 Utah State Fair at Salt Lake City. There they were, rabbits of all species, sizes and colors - friendly, clean and lovable. I was hooked again.


Couldn't Hurt a Hare

When a kid in New England, I had rabbits from time to time, but though pets, they were kept in coops. Farm cats and dogs didn't understand inter-species compatibility.

In the '50s, I decided to raise rabbits. I built a coop and run, and the dozen or so of the basic stock prospered, but when the time came I didn't have the heart to sell them for table fare. I drove all around Bennington County, Vt., finding loving homes for them.

My friend Calvert Bregel as a boy had a litter-trained, pink-eyed, white rabbit that slept nestled with the family Airedale terrier, but Frieda is no Airedale.

He, too, tried raising rabbits for market, but found it wasn't profitable. The hawks of the Cambridge area over on the Eastern Shore liked the small bunnies, and foxes burrowed beneath the fence.


Dos and Don'ts of Bunny Life

As Easter approaches, I think of the misguided but well meaning folks who will buy bunnies for their kids, then won't know what to do with them as they grow. Eventually many will be released to the wild where, sadly, they can't make it on their own. Thankfully, live Easter rabbits aren't as popular as they once were, nor are they colored with dyes. Some considerations for those tempted to adopt a bunny for Easter:

Treat your bunny right, whatever the breed, and you will have a pet for four to six years. If you're not ready for such a commitment, make that Easter Bunny chocolate. You'll be doing a real rabbit a big favor. Enough said ...

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VolumeVI Number 13
April 2-8, 1998
New Bay Times

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