There’s lots of reasons not to take home a stray rabbit

NOVEMBER 23 2005

Walking back home last night, the ice forming on the windscreens of parked cars, the crisp chill descending, I was amused to see a quaint little white rabbit spring out from between the cars in front of me, it looked at me for a second and then lolloped on in front, a child's beloved pet escaped into the freezing night. Starting to feel this is Escaped Pet Road, last month it was a parrot on a telegraph wire occasioning small crowds standing there holding their mobile camera-phones aloft like indigenous peoples making their offering to the Parrot God, me looking out the window with childish joy magnified ten thousand times more than seeing a shy Mr Robin Redbreast.

Part of me wanted the rabbit to stop so I could stoop down and pick it up in my arms, and take him to a warm place, it seemed confused like an Alzheimer wanderer, yet happy enough bounding without rush in front of me. There is something saddening about seeing an animal that knows little more than cardboard boxes and wire-net fencing in a small enclosure at the bottom of the garden suddenly cast out into the big wide world where the ice is crushing down on insect life, where it is unlikely to survive the night unless it finds some warmer place, like old carpets dumped in a garden freezing by chance into a little igloo; its white fur so exquisitely coiffured and pink nose petshop fresh it is the antithesis of a street animal, a street-wise animal like a tabby cat that knows how to befriend a temporary human on a doorstep at two on a cold winter morning struggling with keys in a drunken sway and there it is rubbing up against your legs like you're just the kind of sucker to get a warm fire out of until bored and making 'I want to shit' noises at the back door, scratching with mock urgency pulling in even the most comatose drunkard's genetic awareness that you've got precisely a minute and a half before it shits, the scratching sounds reach into the cochlea that would easily sleep through a smoke alarm rousing you from your collapsed stupor on lounge cushions to let out this once cute little kitten that is now a thing that wants to shit. Oh I've followed them out sometimes out into the night. They never shit, they just know what works.

It must have made an amusing scene me walking home down the long hoarfrost pavement preceded by a jolly little white rabbit bounding along as if it had not a trouble in the world. And then I thought, what if I did manage to grab hold of it and carry it into the warm, what then? Rabbit droppings all over the place, the hassle of putting up hastily printed telegraph pole posters 'Is this your white rabbit? Phone -----'. The overjoyed child seeing Fluffy up there, and dad inwardly sighing as he was doubtless the culprit in the first place, like I once found my terrapins Laurel and Hardy floating like unflushable turds treading water in the lav and dad insisted they must have climbed up there and fell in I can hardly believe I bought it. There's lots of reasons not to take home a stray rabbit. How many weeks might go by with it in a bathroom penitentiary? Going to Sainsbury's especially for lettuce. No point concerning myself, it was in the hands of Fate, not mine. If it rushes in when I open the door, fair enough. I won't be the one to turf it out to its death.