This is the second installment in the story of Hazel the rabbit. Part one is here
Hazel Part 2 Making Her Home
by Stanley McFarland
Hazel liked the apple a lot and nibbled on the lettuce. She ignored the carrot sticks.
Fifteen years of Bugs Bunny cartoons had deceived me.
There were a few stray brown balls in the room but no puddles or even any sign of dried ones. The newspaper in her box was soaked and a respectable pile of poop leaned against one corner.
I changed the paper as she hopped around the room. She made no effort to dart out the door when I opened it. When I returned she started running a few paces to pick up speed and allowed herself to slide across the tile floor.
It looked like fun. I took off my shoes and joined her. She didn’t mind though she wisely kept a safe distance when I started sliding. I think we were both glad I had a double sized room.
In spite of the newspaper, the box was already beginning to smell from rabbit urine. I knew I wasn’t going to find enough good-sized boxes in the trash to change one every day. She needed a more permanent cage that I could keep clean.
I didn’t have enough money to go to the lumberyard and buy new materials and Al couldn’t loan me his car to go. If I were going to build her a cage, I would have to find the materials for free and on the campus.
I got my hammer, pliers and screwdriver and started my search.
There was an old house on campus that was waiting to be torn down. Last Halloween, one of the civic clubs had used it as a haunted house and raised money, giving tours.
I started there.
One of the displays was included a large papier-mâché rock for their haunted forest. It was no longer in the house but out in the back where four months of rain and snow had not been kind. The wood and paper were rotted but the chicken wire was still good. I stripped it away.
I found wood in the house, but it all looked usable for future haunted houses. I didn’t think it was right to rob the civic club in order to house my rabbit. The chicken wire was a good start. I headed back to the dorm, stored the wire, petted Hazel, left her food and water and went off to class.
When I got back from class Hazel was hopping around the room. I looked around for puddles and poop. Her box needed changing but the rest of the room was clean.
Did I really need to make a cage for Hazel? Maybe all I needed was a litter box.
We played her sliding game until we were tired and I decided to sit do some studying before dinner. I pulled a book from the shelf and noticed something about it felt different. There was damage to the binding.
I looked down at the shelf and saw two other books were damaged as well. As I was wondering what might have caused it, Hazel hopped over and started gnawing on the bookcase.
She still had food in her dish so I knew she wasn’t eating my books because she was hungry. Maybe she needed to chew on hard things for her teeth.
There weren’t marks on any books except those on the bottom shelf where I kept my textbooks. I decided it was OK.
That night at dinner, three of us walked out of the common eating apples that found their ways to Hazel. There was also more lettuce along with cucumber, crackers, radish and half a tomato.
“Do you think rabbits eat tomatoes?”
“Hey, it’s a vegetable.”
“I thought it was a fruit.”
“Whatever, if it grows in a garden, I think a rabbit will eat it.”
That evening we decided to experiment to see what Hazel liked best. We put different foods a few feet apart and put her down in between. She would go and sniff one food, then the other. Sometimes she seemed torn like when we offered her radish and lettuce. Sometimes it was easy like between carrot and apple.
The other guys didn’t believe me when I told them she wasn’t wild about carrots. Either Hazel had unusual tastes or Bugs Bunny had fooled an entire generation.
Hazel seemed to understand the game and I think she enjoyed our reactions as much as she liked the food.
“Well, it looks like her favorite is apple.”
“Yeah, she sure seems to like that best.”
“We didn’t try the tomato.”
“C’mon, she’s not going to like tomato.”
“You don’t know that.”
“We’ll, try it against the carrot.”
“No, try against the apple.”
“She won’t eat it.”
“So what? Try it.”
We sliced some more apple and cut a chunk of tomato and put them down.
Hazel looked up at us. Was she trying to draw out the moment? She went over to sniff the apple and then wandered over to the tomato. She took twice as long sniffing the tomato than she had with any other food.
She ate the tomato first.
“I don’t believe it.”
We left all the food piled on a single dish and sat down. Hazel finished the tomato and left the rest for later.
“Watch what she does.”
“What do you mean?”
On cue, Hazel started playing her sliding game. Her enthusiasm got the better of her and she bumped into the wall a couple times.
We laughed but it didn’t deter her.
“Will she hurt herself?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t know rabbits played like that.”
I stepped into the middle of the room to block her path.
Hazel ran right at me but instead of sliding, she stomped her feet right in front of me and sprang into the air. She rose all the way to eye level, looked me in the eye and then turned a hundred and eighty degrees in mid-air. When she hit the floor she ran back to her original spot, turned around and looked at us.
“Did she mean to do that?”
“I don’t know; she didn’t do that before.”
Rabbits don’t have very expressive faces or maybe Hazel liked keeping us guessing but she looked to me like she was enjoying our reaction.
She hopped off to use the litter box.
“How did you train her to do all this stuff?”
“I didn’t train her to do anything. She’s doing it all on her own.”
“How old is she?”
“I don’t know, maybe ten or twelve weeks, I think.”
“Are all rabbits like this?”
“I don’t think so. All the other rabbits at the store looked dumb and scared. Hazel’s the only one who came up to me to be petted.”
Hazel scampered across the room. There was a smell of ozone in the air.
“What was that?”
“I think she just shorted out your extension cord.”
Sure enough, there were teeth marks not only on my extension cord but the cord to my alarm clock and my radio.
“That can’t be good for her.”
“Why would she want to eat plastic?”
“Maybe she’s not as smart as we thought.”
“I’m going to have to make her a cage.”
Until I had a cage, I needed to find another box. I had a stack of newspapers from the trash room but even though I’d changed her box the night before, this one already smelled bad.
Would a cage have the same problem?
I found a new box in the trash room along with some newspaper and also several pieces of wood lath. The lath was a little thin but if I put two pieces together, it would be strong enough for the cage structures.
I figured Hazel’s cage needed to be at least a foot and a half by two feet. I did calculations in my head as I lined the new box to see if I had enough wood lath and chicken wire to make a cage that size. I had more than enough for the walls and top. I still needed a floor.
Hazel waited patiently while I fixed her new box and hopped into it as soon as I put it down. She peed and pooped immediately. There was no doubt that she understood what the box was for but I couldn’t help wishing she done it in the old box so the new one would last a little longer.
I rolled up the newspaper in the old box and took it out to the trash room. It was getting dark so I had to turn the light on. Behind one of the cans where I hadn’t noticed it before was an old piece of plywood leaning against the wall. It had cobwebs all over it. It must have been there for months. I wiped off the cobwebs and some of the dust and was surprised what good shape it was in. I brought it back to the room and started working on the cage.
My father was one of the Boy Scout leaders in my town. Though I had dropped out of scouting after Weblos I was still raised with the saying, “be prepared.” I had a remarkably complete set of hand tools, nails, screws and fasteners. I had a workable cage finished in an hour.
The plywood measured twenty inches by thirty and so that was the size of the cage when it was done. I was left with two lengths of lath each less than a foot long and barely any chicken wire. What kind of lucky charm made me find just about exactly the amount of materials I needed and all of it for free?
Hazel did have four rabbit’s feet.
Hazel nosed around the cage as I put it down. I realized why I had lath left as Hazel started gnawing on the cage. I propped a piece against the side of the cage and she gnawed on that instead.
I ripped up strips of newspaper and dropped it in the cage. Hazel jumped inside and raced around inside kicking the paper strips and knocking them in the air.
I went up to the lobby to tell the guys about the cage.