Sunday, 10 May 2015
Eight Toes, A Dew Claw and A Cottontail
Growing up I was surrounded by animals, we had hundreds, literally. I have recently been involved in sharing my knowledge of guinea pigs and it started me thinking about some of my forever friends who are no longer with me. One which comes to mind time and time again was my rabbit, Morgan, who was my pride and joy in my early twenties.
The journey began in the garage of a family friend, looking at a newborn litter of lionhead rabbits (kittens). They were gorgeous, no doubt about it. Naked and blind but still gorgeous. I was off to university a few weeks later and the friend had offered me my pick of the litter, a companion to see me through university days and beyond. I couldn’t choose immediately because I simply couldn’t tell what their individual personalities would be, so I arranged to come back a couple of weeks later. When I did I chose a white ball of fluff, with dark coloured ears and a map of the UK and Ireland positioned on his nose. He was the runt of the litter and had been partly hand reared; he was not only gorgeous but inquisitive and friendly. He would be a perfect companion for me, and hopefully me for him. I already knew where my digs would be and my landlord had told me that he was quite happy with me having a house rabbit. I envisaged nights snuggled up, me reading my books and my little friend having his head tickled.
Before long I picked up my little ball of white, now called Morgan (which according to the baby name book meant White Sea) and headed up to Liverpool with him on the train. About halfway through the journey after checking on him for the umpteenth time, I thought he looked a little sad so lifted him out of the cat carrier and wrapped him up in a nightshirt much to the delight of the lady sitting opposite who declared herself to love him at first sight (although she did have to ask what he was first). He snuggled in my nightshirt, in my arms, for the remainder of the journey, and our bond started from there.
Morgan quickly became accustomed to university life. He particularly appreciated the coos of family, friends, housemates, friends of housemates, friends of friends, workmen, and in fact anyone else who saw him and wanted a cuddle. He lapped up the attention like a spoilt child and I considered that he was worth every second of it. He would delight people with his mid-air aerobics, kicking his feet out and scampering around the room. When he got particularly excited he would circle people, although fortunately that was where his flirtatious attention to them normally stopped, and most didn’t realise that their feet had become objects for his amorous attention. If they were singled out for extra special attention he would lick their hand as a mark of his friendship.
His attention seeking behaviour soon transferred to our train journeys. I would often return to my parents’ home for the weekend, to catch up with them and old school friends, but I would never leave Liverpool without Morgan accompanying me in his cat carrier. Unlike some animals, he relished the sight of the carrier, as he associated it with having a captive audience. He quickly learnt that women would coo over him, as would children, and he particularly liked poking his nose through the bars at the front of the carrier to get a good look and announce his presence to them. He also learnt fairly quickly that men did not share the same enthusiasm and would almost glare before turning his back if a male passenger sat next to me, as though it was somehow my fault he wouldn’t be getting much attention.
He was demanding for treats. His normal rabbit food was ok, but not nearly as interesting or enticing as toast, which he would jump onto my bed to share with me in the morning, or anything else that he thought he liked the smell of. Pasta was a favourite smell until he got close enough to stick his nose in my bowl and realised that it wasn’t so interesting close up. Again, this behaviour transferred to train journeys. To his mind, sandwiches were made to be shared, at least the bread was, as was anything else that he was interested in (please note, bread a not a recommended food source for rabbits except as a very occasional treat). Carrot sticks, apple or anything that resembled food I would give willingly to him as part of his diet were to be huffed about. Normally this was displayed as a pronounced turning of his back to me, with an occasional kick of hay towards me for good measure. Anything where the packet rustled as it was opened was of particular interest and, again, if it resembled something that turned out not to be very interesting, hay would be forthcoming. This behaviour didn’t stop with me. If a nearby passenger was eating something that he thought should be coming his way his nose would appear, and very few could resist his big dark eyes, made all the more alluring for the dark circles of hair around them which looked something like thick liquid eyeliner.
Morgan was a constant friend. When I was sad he was great at sitting patiently with me being cuddled, when I was happy he loved to play. Long after my time at university he lived as a house rabbit, enchanting those who met him. The end of his life was an incredibly sad day for me and one that still brings tears to my eyes nearly 10 years later. I still have a photo in a frame of him. Never forgotten.