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Things as seen by Miv Schaaf

Eh Bien, Agouti

July 07, 1985|MIV SCHAAF

"No, don't use a cake pan," Hazel said. It's too shallow. They like to get their backs against the rim."

I was trying not to buy a cat litter pan. Cats are bad enough, but it has always seemed to me that the nadir of consumer goods is a cat litter pan. Last Thursday, it seemed safe enough to go into the pet store to look. There were only two German shepherds. Inside were the parrots I like to look at, the usual cage of kittens--one handful of calico fur already climbing up one side--and a glass box of guinea pigs. Some of the guinea pigs had even more cowlicks than I have.

Next to the guinea pigs were bunnies, all of them white, except for a gray one that seemed more curious than the others, and less tame, as if, back in her heritage memory somewhere, she still heard wind in hedges. Gia and I agreed that she was far more interesting than the others. That was about noontime.

By 5 o'clock, I was convinced that half the people in the San Gabriel Valley would be banging on that pet shop door first thing next morning, waiting to carry off that gray rabbit.

Suffice it to say that we now have a rabbit. We bought a bunny, but in two days she turned into a rabbit, changing her coat from gray to brown to yellowish to black-tinged fur, just as Calico dog did, and imitating the dog's noisome but amusing habit of lying down by throwing herself into a corner, like a used baseball.

Hence we were, next day, in Balk's Hardware, trying to find anything but a cat litter pan so that we could housebreak the rabbit. As always, Balk's holds surprises. Hazel had always been the one whom you asked about electrical sockets and wrenches. Hazel gave her pronouncements as to the toilet habit of rabbits with, we found, indisputable authority; she runs a rabbitry with 100 rabbits (as of this writing). So there I was, gnashing my teeth, buying a cat litter pan.

As regards teeth gnashing, Hazel informed us that it was good and proper for rabbits to gnaw wood, and that the little darlings should be given chunks of untreated 2x4s or some such (but not redwood, which is poisonous). She also told us that you should feed rabbits as you do dogs--only a cup or less of alfalfa pellets each day. Otherwise, they will eat their heads off and become not only dull but so fat that they will not be accepted for prize-winning purposes at rabbit shows--which she found out with her first two rabbits.

I don't know what kind ours is; maybe part lop-ear and part agouti--which means wild , Hazel said, kissing the rabbit's nose (imagine--after 100 rabbits). Whatever she is, she's curious and smart; she was housebroken in two days and in three had learned to dodge from corner to corner under the big wicker chair, escaping my hand. Once on your shoulder, she likes to burrow into your neck and, dog-like, likes to be patted when she is not about her business.

Her business is perforation. Within two seconds there will be a four-inch row of perforations on the the edge of your shirt (she prefers one moderately starched); one could hire her out to a bank or stationery store.

Don't expect people to be surprised when they find that you have a rabbit; everyone you meet has a rabbit, or has had a rabbit, or has an uncle or an aunt who raises rabbits or raised them during the Depression so that his or her family could eat. Those rabbits were all housebroken in half an hour and could bring slippers, your pipe or the telephone. No wonder all the world loves a rabbit.

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