Another episode from Mick's fledgling work The Philosophy Of Love And Laughter - a work in progress. He's getting all Beatrix Potter in his old age, the daft get.
So the word on the street was that a pet rabbit had gone rogue. The gossip gathering over Thackley was of a small, young, fast and very smart doe that no one could get near. It was never a first hand report but always 'Blah-blah sez that….’ Might be a ghost or fevered imaginations.
Rumours exaggerate and spread faster than Usain Bolt on a travelator round ’ere, especially when it’s something as exciting as a pet rabbit breaking out to fight for its Leporidaen rights.
Everyone in Thackley knows it’s happened before, there’s sommat that rabbits like to do and all you have to do is look at the wild rabbits around the farms and common ground. The variation in size and colouring attests to the brave, pet rabbit freedom fighters of the past. We should make a plaque and lay dandelion leaves once a year to honour them.
We’d not seen the insurgent doe - so I let the rumour ride - but we had witnessed packs of frantic people across the road, moving fast, arms out, bent at the middle, shouting and trying to co-ordinate. Has to be a rabbit, a very scared and, counting the people, very astute, agile rabbit.
Confirmation of the rogue rabbit emerged when Vicky and her sister came in, hot and flustered, they needed to sit down, catch their breath. ‘Spotted the shadow rabbit, middle of the road, slip of a thing, tried to catch her, too fast. We could only get within two feet of her from either side and she was gone. Like a ghost, just disappeared.'
So she was real but too fast, too slippery and, by the sounds of it, way too clever… I was taking notes.
I suggested to Vicky - who was well aware of my ancient Leporidaen gifts - that maybe I’d go pick the rogue rabbit up.
‘Mick, that’s one special rabbit. I’m telling y‘, fastest, twitchiest rabbit I’ve ever seen, faster than Fairy… and she’s smart, learns every tricky manoeuvre you try first time, she’s a tough catch… maybe even for you.’ The gauntlet was down.
Being a member of the Ancient Order of Rabbit Whisperers - we’re sworn to secrecy but I’m not one for tradition - I’ve trained many rabbits over the last 15 years. I come out and whistle on a night and they run, jump fast and happy into the hutch. But my current rabbit was an easy train. Eevee 2 was relatively docile and compliant and she's probably three years old now. With rabbits being social, group animals, I feel slightly guilty that she lives alone but…
It’s probably seven years since I’ve had to enter the spirit of a truly wild-at-heart rabbit. I’ve had a lot of non-advanced rabbit whispering years. A lot of years without transforming mi head into that of a prey.
Facing my fear, I entered the shadow’s head, and thought, she’s probably sussed that the main road, twenty yards away, is fast and furious, a dangerous thing to face. Problem is she’s trapped, she can rattle around the back streets getting chased by giants for months but she can never make open ground. Although her instincts will be telling her it has to be here somewhere, probably over that metal box river. A dangerous thought.
What she has no way of knowing is that she’s made her break for freedom in the manor of the only known Rabbit Whisperer in Thackley. My doubt kicked in. Perhaps I’ve been getting whispering-flabby? Perhaps I’ll no longer be able to gauge and hold my patience or slow mi breathing down and relax a truly defiant rabbit enough for it to let me into its head?
The thing average, untrained humans miss is that rabbits are the ultimate international prey animal. The slightest hint of a hunter and they’ve got an automatic, genetic switch that screams RUN. They run at the smallest hint of a shifting shadow in their peripheral vision. They’re like them kids from Village of the Damned, if you even think about catching a wild-at-heart rabbit they'll know it and scat, and you’ll never beat a clever rabbit in a foot chase.
I can’t leave a rabbit living in a hutch, it’s the same thing as a bird in a cage, it’s no longer a bird but a slightly sick ornament. From the outset of keeping rabbits, I used to let them run free in our very large garden and worry about catching them, to put away, later.
My early rabbit-whispering training was fraught with hours of searching long into the night by torch light, trying to get to the rabbit before the local foxes - I dint always succeed. A few escaped the garden but I quickly returned them.
As an apprentice Rabbit Whisperer (I trained under the late, great Wilber Pussyfoot), you’re learning all the time, sussing their blind spots and discovering how to exploit them, moving without making a sound, or calculating how long it takes for a spooked rabbit to calm. Get that last bit wrong and it’ll be a long night.