This is a cautionary tale. Sometimes through generosity, love, or a misplaced innocence our acts become more than what we wanted or bargained for, and we find ourselves trapped with no means of extrication. I know, for this happened to us. We thought it was cute. Endearing, even. And now, well, now we have a problem.
These things always begin slowly, almost unnoticeable, easily excusable.
“Oh, how cute,” we say, knowing full well that what we’re doing isn’t really cute or even wise.
“Just this once,” we say, but it’s never just once.
“No more,” we say, though it’s always more.
Soon, what once was overt becomes reclusive, secretive, as if something deeply shameful, illicit, or illegal.
This is where we now find ourselves: cringing at the crinkling of a plastic bag, feeding our addictions in dark hallways and back rooms, ever conscious of the sharp hearing of one who lays in wait to snare us in our guilt.
So please, heed our advice. Mark the words of those who have fallen into the shadows and now live in constant dread of exposure. Whoever you are, whatever you do, mama, don’t let your bunnies grow up to be snackaholics.
When Sheba first came into our lives she was guileless, sweet-natured, unwise in the addictions of humans, having known only the narrow confines of a cage in an outbuilding that broiled in summer’s heat and froze under winter’s icy grip. Her days had been dull and tedious, an unchanging monotony of tasteless meals and weary resignation heightened by the occasional bouts of terror when her human pulled her kicking from the cage and raked her fur with a hard-toothed comb. And then we came along.
I like to think it was the love and care we afforded her that eased her fear of this new place she suddenly found herself in, but I suspect it was something else. Something more basic even than love or trust. Something like—food.
Gone were the insipid generic pellets, replaced by high-quality, expensive Oxbow Hay timothy pellets. There was fresh broccoli for breakfast, a carrot for supper, and, in season, fresh-cut alfalfa. And for a bedtime treat there were papaya pills and a lengthy rub that left her a melted pile of bun-fur.
Oh, she took to her new life as if it were her due. Her queenly mannerisms compared favorably with her name, given for her dark beauty, her lustrous coat that shaded from jet black across her face and ears to a soft velvety gray and silver on her flanks. A dusky princess, reminiscent of the pictures shown to us in Sunday School of the meeting of King Solomon and Makeda, the Queen of Sheba, she adapted with grace and not a little haughtiness to the freedom of the Parker household. Good food, unfettered independence, she had all she needed or wanted. Until one night my wife offered her the bunny version of the apple from the Garden of Eden.
Sheba, always mindful of food, had watched us take the pale crunchy things from a colorful bag and scarf them down but had never expressed an interest. And yet behind those adorable brown eyes was a terrible intelligence at work. She saw that the things were good to eat and pleasing to the eye, and that they were desirable for the knowledge that they could give. So when Lori handed her a portion of a Lays potato chip, she took it greedily.
Then her eyes were opened and she knew she was a rabbit, and she was slightly miffed at the injustice of it all.
We fought the urge to give her more, and yet she would not be denied. If we could eat chips, then she required her share. Nor did it end there. Tortilla chips, barbecue chips, sour cream chips, Fritos, crackers, anything that made a rustling sound when opened, had to be shared. She quickly equated the sound of a plastic bag with snacks, and there was no muffling the sound from those long tapering ears.
There was, in short, no place for us to indulge in our addictions to grease and salt without having her crawl on top of us demanding an equal portion.
At first it was merely cute. We’d give her a few chips, mindful to limit her intake, and sit back to watch the joyous dance she’d give in return. But we soon found ourselves putting them away to save the hassle of keeping her at bay. Her presence was a damper on our own addictions, which meant that eventually we began sneaking them at odd hours of the day or night.
They had to be kept in the living room, far from the back room or dining room where she stayed. And furtiveness was the key to successful noshing, though more often than not as soon as the bag crinkled we would hear the pitter-patter of furry feet dashing from the cage. She would be found waiting impatiently, and accusingly, at the foot of the kitchen’s linoleum floor, ears erect, nose twitching, eyes gleaming with a feral light.
It was like having our own diet cop living with us, ready to cite us at the slightest infraction.
Last week I found myself craving potato chips, so I left Sheba sleeping by the computer and made my way to the kitchen. Carefully lifting a plastic bowl from the cabinet, I went into the living room and picked up a bag of chips, wary not to make the slightest noise. I tiptoed to the bathroom, closed the door, and carefully filled the bowl. When I walked back to the kitchen she was waiting for me.
Bunnies are not supposed to be snackaholics, but I suspect that people aren’t, either. Since Sheba has gained the knowledge of good and evil, our own wisdom is being tested. There are other things to eat that are better for us—chocolate, for instance. She hasn’t figured that out yet, and this time we won’t let her.