Tuesday, April 07, 2009
Free to a good home.
Happy almost-Easter. Here’s the story of a giant rabbit.
I opened my Tuesday by rifling through pictures of Chicago Easters gone by in the Trib and then somehow stumbled upon this picture of a giant rabbit. This man in Germany raises them and sells them to the Koreans for food. Or something. So while giant rabbits might make people in certain cultures think of nachos, they make me think of my childhood. Since my very first pet doesn’t count – her name was Peggy, and she was a cat, and we had to have her put to sleep after only two weeks – I will go ahead and claim a giant rabbit as my first official pet. Hot off of sitting shiva for Peggy, my mom and dad were patronizing the local pharmacy when they noticed a sign on the door that said something to the effect of:
Housebroken rabbit. Free to a good home.
I have this sign memorized because my mom quoted it all the time. So they decided to adopt said housebroken rabbit. His name was Jackie, but my mom thought that name was too white (rabbit) trash and changed it to the much-classier Jamie. Jamie was a Giant Newfoundland that had been abandoned by his previous owners, probably for being too mind boggling. He was the size and shape of a big Rockwellesque Thanksgiving turkey. He had black ears and a black tail and piercing red eyes that meant business. He used a litter box, and his terds looked like cocoa puffs.
Jamie was allowed to roam free – he slept under beds, sunned himself on the back porch and ate from a bowl in the kitchen. Sometimes he would sneak out the back door and hang out on the front porch until my mom let him back inside. When he felt like being an asshole, he’d chew through the washing machine hose and flood the basement. When he felt like being an even bigger asshole, he’d pee on our legs.
Jamie hated being picked up, which made taming him the unspoken goal of all of my friends. Everyone tried to hold him. Everyone was bitten, or scratched or kicked in the chest with powerful giant legs. His teeth were like Bic razors. He existed to confuse – never had anything so cuddly and cartoonish-looking been more intent on eating antiques and murdering you in your sleep.
And yet we loved him.
So much so that we refused to add to our menagerie while Jamie was alive. He spent his days ruling the roost and eating his own poo (I remember my mom informing me that it was due to a vitamin deficiency; for people, it’s Flinstones, for rabbits, it’s feces). I didn’t truly realize the limits of Jamie’s abilities until we moved to a new house with linoleum basement stairs. Jamie slowly became confined to the basement, arthritic and unable to climb such a slippery incline. We got older. Jamie got slower, more isolated and crotchety. We found more exciting ways to occupy ourselves, like eating Pop Tarts and quitting piano lessons, and eventually, we got a cat.
Once in a while, someone would ask about Jamie’s whereabouts, and we’d have to think for a second before answering. Jamie? Jamie! Yes. Good. Basement. Old.
One day, my mom and dad gathered us in the front hallway with sober looks on their faces. Jamie died, they said… We gasped, fumbled with our the drawstrings of our Umbros, wondered what was for dinner.
…a few days ago.
We thanked them for getting around to telling us and asked what was done to dispose of the body. Even though we were a little older, a rabbit of that size still seemed like it would have a corpse rather than a carcass, and we couldn’t recall any body bags passing through the front door in the last day or so.
It turns out my dad had buried him in the backyard one evening, quietly, discreetly - partly out of respect, partly because it was against the law to bury something that large in a city backyard. He led us out to a small mount of dirt near the apartment building that flanked our yard. We stood in silence for a few seconds, the cat making triumphant, youthful circles between our legs; I might’ve pretended to wipe a tear from my eye. We breathed deeply, turned toward the house and went inside for dinner.
And on the third day… just kidding.