Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Girls Will Be Boys and Boys Will be Girls.

Here’s a tip: if you dread being stared at or suffer from debilitating self-consciousness, never stand in the middle of a busy pet store and loudly inquire “Can anyone here sex a rabbit for me?”

The rabbit in question is temporarily living in the back room of said pet store, which is also home to a neighborhood rescue group. I help out when I can. Generally, this entails petting abandoned kittens that tend to reward my efforts by clawing painfully up my shirt. I have become expert at holding down seven-pound bundles of blind fury while their nails get trimmed. Here’s a little-known fact: a cat getting his nails trimmed can escape the grasp of a Sumo wrestler, levitate three feet in the air, and embed his one remaining claw into your nostril. I also administer stinky food in all stages of digestion. You know, cat stuff.

Last weekend, someone dumped a rabbit with these hard-working people. I mean, dumped it. Shoved it in a box and left it on the doorstep like a bad melodrama. I believe they actually stapled the lid closed, just to be sure the rabbit wouldn’t…what? Leap to freedom? But they did have the sense – however dim – to punch three very small air-holes in the lid. The rabbit managed to breathe shallowly until saved from this idiocy by the arrival of the shop’s morning clerk.

Astonishingly, the rabbit is really cool. I’m not usually a rabbit person, as I find it hard to become fond of something which endlessly mistakes me for a bloodthirsty predator.

(leaning over cage with carrot)
Hi, sweetie. I have a treat for you.

(darting into shoebox)
Eek! A hawk!

No, I’m not a hawk. Hawks don’t wear khaki shorts and offer treats. Please come out and let me admire you.

I wait patiently. Smelling the carrot, a nose appears from the box, wiggling wildly. Emerging further, the rabbit catches sight of the horrible creature in loafers waiting to devour it.

Eek! A coyote! A coyote trying to confuse me by wearing conservative footwear!

Rabbit darts back into box.

Repeat until Quinn gives up in disgust.

I don’t need to be worshipped by an animal, but I also don’t know how often I am prepared to explain I’m not even thinking about a nice mustard/tarragon sauce and a side of parsnips.

However, as I said, this rabbit is cool. It’s a perfectly social lap-rabbit with a complete understanding of the theory and practice of litter box. I could wax on about dating men with fewer social graces, but I won’t. It was somehow comforting to know that my little friend needed the right home.

It was also comforting to know it wasn’t going to be with us.

Frequently, when animals get that mournful “Whatever am I going to do?” look, they end up in the animal equivalent of my guest bedroom (See: Dave, Stink-Eye). However, I am completely allergic to rabbits. Even the smallest amount of that deliciously soft fur nears my eyeball and I’m Cyclops; both eyeballs get furred and I’m Oedipus before the final curtain. Even my overly-developed guilt muscle has come to realize that dying from anaphylactic shock is counter-productive.

But, since I can’t give Buster the home he deserves, I am simply not allowed to rest until this rabbit is in a new home (Please imagine this last being said out loud while pointing my index finger in the air and jutting my jaw in an especially noble jut). One side effect of this kind of obsessive mission is that there will be no such thing as casual conversation until it has been accomplished.

School Playground. A handful of Mothers are waiting to pick up their children. QUINN sidles up to another mother from Daughter’s class. She is watching her toddler throw wood chips at a bench.

QUINN: She’s getting big. Is she two yet?

MOTHER: September.

QUINN: Speaking of which, aren’t you going to miss the class rabbit this summer?

MOTHER: Uh…I guess.

QUINN: Didn’t you take it home one weekend?

MOTHER: Once. He chewed our computer cords in half.

QUINN: HAHAHAHA! Nothing more fun than a rabbit. You should get one.

MOTHER: We were talking about getting the girls a dog. Maybe when they’re eight and ten or so.

QUINN: In the meanwhile, you should totally get a rabbit. By any chance, is your back yard fenced with chicken wire?

I assume she was going to change schools anyway, but it’s hard not to take personally.

So imagine my shock when asked point blank “Could you be talked into a rabbit?” one of the first grade teachers said thoughtfully. “Maybe”

I perked right up and began selling Buster’s charms. Clearly, some ancestor of mine was a marriage broker. I think I alluded to Buster’s intelligent forehead and strong thighs.

“The only thing is…” she said, interrupting my Paean to Buster. “It would have to be a male. I have a female rabbit, and she’ll try to kill another female. Territoriality, you know.”

I nodded as if I had seen another gear on any rabbit beside Asleep and Cowering from Predator. Nevertheless, Buster was one quick gender check away from a new home, and I wasn’t going to screw it up by talking.

I went straight to the pet store, walked into the back room where the rescue animals are kept, and stared at Buster. Buster, asleep, was soft, black, and shaped like a furry dinosaur egg: not much in the way of gender clues there. I reached in and grabbed Buster. I slid the protesting body out and flipped it over. I saw fur. I moved the fur around daintily. I saw nothing which would indicate manliness, but I couldn’t remember if they kept their bits mostly inside. I palpitated gently. I palpitated less gently. The rabbit thrashed as if to say “Hey, at least buy me dinner first”.

I went outside and broadcast the rabbit sexing question. Customers shrank away from the crazy scratched-up lady who wanted to date domesticated rodents. Fortunately, one of the salespeople who knew me followed me back to Buster. She and I took turns staring at the rabbit’s nether regions, while its not-nether regions were placated with a carrot.

She said slowly “If they’re like guinea pigs, the stuff is inside”, and fondled the rabbit tentatively. “It seems male to me.” She concluded with new-found authority.

I breathed out in relief. Buster had been given a second chance at a good home. Of course, by that point he had also been given a rather thorough hernia examination.

I bounded from the pet store to pick Daughter up at school where I sought out the teacher and informed her that Buster was all man – he was the Antonio Banderas of rabbits -- and gave her the address of the shop. I left school today with a genuine sense of accomplishment.

If you have read any of my previous entries, you know what happens when I feel a sense of accomplishment. It took only twenty minutes to drive Daughter to a friends’ house -- a friend who, as luck would have it, owns a rabbit. I was telling the friend’s mother about my good deed for the day and the hard science of rabbit-sexing, but her brow curled before I could finish.

“You’re kidding, right?”

I shook my head. I plan to kid about rabbit-sexing, but not quite yet. She reached in the pen, grabbed her daughter’s rabbit and quickly turned him over. Moving the fur aside, I saw…them.

“Male rabbits develop these by the time they are about a month old. You really can’t miss them”.

You really couldn’t. If male humans had the same proportions, we’d all be wearing kilts. I swear the rabbit smirked at me.

So… What part of today was more embarrassing?

The sending a teacher on a pointless errand several miles out of her way part?

The not being able to recognize the basic sexual anatomy of a domesticated mammal part?

Or the part where Daughter and her little friend walked in to find me pondering a rabbit’s testicles?


Anonymous Kate said...

Very funny and reminded me of an incident with a pet hamster I had a few years ago. Wanting to pick a gender appropriate name if possible and unsure how to determine the gender, I looked online but ironically, "hamster sexing" isn't a big topic on the internet. So I contacted a friend who was a vet and learned that the key was determining the number of opening below the hamster's tail. Excited about learning more about my pet and apparently not thinking how it would sound, when my houseguest at the time walked through the door, I said "Hi! I need your help holding up the hamster's tail while I look for sexual openings." No surprise, the hamster and I ended up alone, with my cornering the little thing in the bathtub so I could determine this information. For future reference - in case you get a hamster - the females have two openings...Did you ever find a home for Dave the Turtle?

8:30 PM  
Blogger Quinn Cummings said...

First of all, I am SHOCKED that there weren't fifteen very special and unnerving websites under the heading "Hamster sexing".

Dave the Turtle, I am relieved to say, is currently dazzling a classroom full of first-graders. The God of Pet Placement smiled down on me and allowed me to find the one situation on the planet where a turtle is actually wanted.

8:39 PM  
Blogger LJ said...

Just found your blog (via Wonderful writing! I can't wait to read more. I particularly loved the post about your dad.

Take care, and I will visit often!

11:13 AM  
Anonymous Lydia said...

It seems like you need a good place to start with rabbit info. The best place is with links to local rabbit rescues. Having a bunny live outdoors is very dangerous. If the teacher's rabbit isn't spayed she probably won't get along with any other rabbit and if this abandoned rabbit is male there will be lots of unwanted baby bunnies. Unfortunately all of the rabbit rescues and shelters are over run with unwanted rabbits just like cats and dogs and the euthanasia rate is high in the shelters. There are quite a few local rescues with websites that give info. on rehoming a rabbit. One is BunnyLuv at and the other is Cats and Rabbits and More . You can post your rabbit as a private adoption on some of the sites, the second one for example. Until you find a good home for this bunny it is lucky to have a guardian angel in you.

11:22 PM  

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