Rabbit is not Rich

 

(This 1193rd Buffalo Sunday News column was first published on February 2, 2014.)

 

I am one of many people who talk to animals.

 

In doing so I realize that such talk is not at all uncommon. Anyone who owns a pet, whether it is a dog, cat, bird, gerbil or lizard, and does not talk to it is most unusual.

 

But what is really unusual, I think, is that in a few cases – well, actually, just two so far – the animal has talked back.

 

The first time this happened was almost exactly 17 years ago. I don't know why I was thinking about that episode, but I was as I opened the gate and walked into our snow-covered backyard a few days ago.

 

There sat a rabbit in exactly the same spot where that one had sat the other time. And it looked identical to that other bunny. Of course, all rabbits look pretty much alike, but this one seemed to have the same downcast, Rodney Dangerfield – I don't get no respect – character as his predecessor.

 

Before I could think what I was doing, I blurted out, You're not Peter, are you?

 

The rabbit seemed startled by this question, but he responded, Yes, of course I am. And our conversation continued:

 

Are you the same Peter who talked with me 17 years ago?

 

Are you nuts? No rabbit lives that long. In fact, on average we seldom last more than a few months.

 

You have the same name as the rabbit I talked to then.

 

Is that unusual? I happen to know that you have a son with the same name as yours. In my case Peter is a name that represents a tradition in our family. I am probably Peter the zillionth, but I don't think anyone has kept track.

 

I suppose then that the Peter I talked with earlier was your father or grandfather or great grandfather.

 

Are you kidding? You need a lot of greats before that grandfather. As it happens, that talk with you has become a legend in our family so I can trace it back exactly. That other Peter was 23 generations ago.

 

Wait a minute. That's more than a generation a year.

 

So?

 

That's pretty rapid breeding.

 

Wake up, mister. We don't live long so we have to mature fast.

 

Okay, I can see that. But with all that breeding, where are all your brothers and sisters? Or were you an only bunny?

 

You don't live in the real world, man. All along the way there were lots of rabbits born. My family has always been typical so we have averaged about five kits in each family, but my great aunt Flopsie had a dozen.

 

Wow. That's still a lot of rabbits and with 23 generations since I talked to your forbearer, we ought to have a lot of rabbits around.

 

Buddy, join the real world. If I was a pet, coddled in a cage somewhere, I could live eight or ten years, but in the wild we live at the bottom of the food chain and our chance of dying of old age is about zero. I'm considered a really old rabbit at 28 months, because our average life span is only 13 months and only a fifth of us live a second year.

 

I'm sorry to hear that.

 

And well you should. You are a good part of the problem.

 

Do you mean hunting?

 

Well, there is that, but consider this. How many miles of roads are there in your town?

 

There must be hundreds.

 

Well for each of those miles ten of us are killed by cars each year.

 

I can see that is a lot of deaths.

 

I've studied this and I'll give you some more statistics if you want to hear them.

 

Okay.

 

It's pretty gruesome, but here goes. Almost half of us are killed by dogs, foxes, house and wild cats, weasels, raccoons, to say nothing of hawks and owls. Then there's disease: tularemia takes another fifth. Those cars and hunting take the rest.

 

You're right. Not an easy existence.

 

Then there's people who don't want us eating their flowers and bushes. Your wife is one of them and, oh oh, there she is at the window. I'm outta here.

 

For my earlier conversation with Peter's relative see January 6, 1997.-- Gerry Rising