Wednesday, June 23, 2010

the boys and bunnies

I have a woodpile next to my shed, mostly large-ish dead tree limbs that have fallen.  It's become home to a number of rabbits over the last few years, much to my and the dogs' delight (for different reasons).  Chasing rabbits just might be their favorite pastime.  Fortunately, they're so bad at it that I'm not worried about the bunnies.  I'm thinking of getting a set-up on my fence in the back yard like they have at greyhound tracks; put a fake bunny on a wire and let the dogs chase it back and forth until they tucker themselves out.  :)  We've had some fairly interesting encounters with rabbits over the years:

When one of the dogs (usually Oliver) catches sight of a rabbit from the back door or porch, they tear into the yard after the creature.  Usually, Oliver heads counter-clockwise around the shed and nearby trees, and Chester goes clockwise - the better to catch the bunny with.  Except the rabbit invariably gets past them and runs around to the front of the shed or through a hole in the chain-link fence while the boys are still reconnoitering behind the shed, "Where'd he go?"  "I thought you had him!"  Sometimes if the rabbit stays in the yard, he pauses to catch his breath until the boys come back around, and then they all go 'round and 'round the shed again, and sometimes back and forth through the yard.  But eventually the bunnies escape through the chain-link fence.  But two of them almost didn't make it.

The first one led the dogs on a merry chase then bolted for the fence, the dogs close behind him.  But instead of slipping through a hole in the fence, the rabbit miscalculated and bounced off the fence back into our yard.  It was hilarious to watch the boys watch the rabbit, their heads arching as they watched the rabbit rebound back onto the ground.  Then they just stood there, stunned, "What are we supposed to do now?"  I've never seen a Keystone Kops film, but these two could nail the part.  While the boys stood there looking at each other, the rabbit collected himself and tried again, and made it through this time.

The second rabbit wasn't quite as lucky, but it could have been worse.  One evening around dusk, I heard Chester barking and growling frantically, and when I looked I saw both dogs were very agitated at the back fence.  I went to investigate and saw that a rabbit had gotten stuck in one of the holes in the fence and his rear end was at the mercy of the boys.  I dragged them back inside, then went to help the rabbit.  First I poked him with a stick, but, surprisingly, that didn't really help.  Finally, I took his back legs and hips and maneuvered him until he was able to slip through (if you find yourself in a similar situation, straighten the legs out directly behind the body, then the hips close in and the rabbit can get through).  The next day, the dogs went back to the spot to investigate, and Oliver found and began chewing with relish on something small, round, and white.  I realized I hadn't seen a tail on the rabbit the previous night, and although I hadn't seen any blood, either, I suspect Chester did the deed and Oliver reaped the reward.

Oliver is very sweet with baby rabbits, though.  Twice last summer he brought me a baby bunny that he'd carried inside from the back yard.  He put the bunny down, backed up a little, then sniffed it and poked it with his nose.  He acted friendly toward it, as if he wanted to play with or take care of it.  When I took the babies back outside and let them through the fence, I couldn't find any signs of damage.  I think Chester would eat them as soon as look at them, but Oliver seems to want to make friends.

We're all looking forward to more adventures in the coming months.  I wish I could say the same for the rabbits.

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