“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single rabbit in possession of a large back yard must be in want of a rabbit lady friend.”
Meet Sunny’s rabbit, Doof. I hope the photo gives you a hint of what a very eligible rabbit he is: beautiful, elegantly marked with silver, velvety to the touch, curious, athletic, a great lover of apple leaves and wilted vegetables. Not long ago he moved into our back yard from Sunny’s college dorm room. He lived in rather cramped quarters in his cage for a few months until we installed what we hope is a predator-proof fence, and now he has a huge outdoor yard at his disposal. He likes roaming around and eating whatever he can find and looking for escape routes.
This being spring, and Doof being newly neutered, our thoughts naturally turned to finding him a rabbit companion. No problem! we thought, and took him down to the local shelter to meet some lady rabbits.
A “rabbit date,” as they call it at the shelter, consists of putting two rabbits in a small enclosure together for a few minutes. If they don’t try to kill each other, they are pronounced compatible. If they actually pay a bit of attention to each other, such as nibbling on each other’s backs, so much the better. Doof found a lady rabbit named Pom Pom, a calm rabbit with white fur and red eyes, who seemed unconcerned by having Doof try to mate with her fifteen or twenty times during their date.
That’s when the trouble started. Keep in mind that all the rabbits we met at the shelter were sitting OUTSIDE in bare little outdoor enclosures. (Enclosures, I might add, that are dwarfed by the magnificence of Doof’s back yard, which is, if I may allow myself a little bragging room, a veritable Pemberley of a yard for a rabbit, complete with old plastic pots and cardboard boxes to chew on, an ancient apple tree for shade, an assortment of delicious weeds, and lots of space for digging and tearing around.) Nevertheless, the shelter told us that they only allow their rabbits to go to homes where they will live INDOORS. Indoor rabbits live longer than outdoor rabbits, they said.
This puzzled us. Don’t rabbits live outdoors in nature? If you were a rabbit, wouldn’t you rather live outdoors (with a warm rabbit house to go in when it’s cold or wet, of course) than in someone’s bedroom, where the only things to chew are shoes, power cords for electronic devices, and drywall?
I don’t get it, I said. Isn’t there a large group of rabbits at your shelter right now, waiting to be adopted? Aren’t these rabbits actually KILLED if they don’t get adopted? Isn’t it preferable for Pom Pom to live in our rabbit yard with Doof than to sit alone in a hot little concrete yard at the shelter, waiting to be KILLED?
The shelter people were firm. No outdoor rabbits. Indoor rabbits only. Unfortunately, we can’t have an indoor rabbit because my husband is allergic to pretty much the whole animal kingdom.
Therein lies the conundrum. Is it nobler in the mind to tell one or two judicious lies on the extremely long and detailed rabbit-adopter-supplicant form, knowing that by doing so you will be saving a rabbit from the shelter and the solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short life there? Or is it better to be honest and destroy, perhaps forever, the best chance of happiness for a most beloved rabbit?*
Full disclosure: I don’t like telling lies. I always pay all my taxes. If someone in front of me drops a twenty dollar bill on the street, I pick it up and give it back to them. With that in mind, I’d like to know your opinions.
*Two points for anyone who can name which scene from Pride and Prejudice I’m quoting.