Watership Downton Abbey

We have rabbits among us. They have many grievances against modern industrial life.

When we first adopted Christopher (in February 2013) he expressed his displeasure with all of our electronics in the living room. These creatures chew electrical wires, and will sometimes electrocute themselves doing so. Luckily, Christopher never went this far. I dutifully went to the hardware store and got those plastic strip things to secure cables to the wall. It’s much neater in here, and we were long overdue to turn our old CRT television in for recycling/dismantling anyway. It’s a brave new world of HD entertainment, and yes both Watership Down and Downton Abbey look better this way. Thanks, Christopher.

He also burrowed into a vintage comfy chair and pissed all over the place in it. It was sad letting go of his makeshift home, but it smelled atrocious.

Things settled down, and his fur shed in interesting patterns  Рfirst I spotted Ireland, then the Philippines Рas the weather warmed.

Then in August we got wind of an unspayed rabbit in North Van that had just given birth to her third litter, and had been rescued (along with the ~30 babies) from the situation that made these circumstances happen. We adopted her last Fall, after she finished weaning the little ones. The babies are still up for adoption via the Small Animal Rescue Society – adopt one if you have the space. Eight of the babies look exactly like Myrtle, as if her clones. (Also – another fun way to help out – the girl is doing her pet portraits – the thing that earned her front page story status in Vancouver, and got her on national TV – again for a limited time to raise funds for this wonderful organization) … plug over, back to the story…

Myrtle and Christopher didn’t get along right away. There was an epic struggle for dominance as we tried at first to gently bond them. One morning I came into Myrtle’s designated area to find that Chris had gotten into her space, and they were in the midst of a bum-biting chase/competition. As Myrtle is white and Chris is brown, they sort of looked like a yin & yang design as they chased each other in circles like that. After a bit more forceful bonding over three weeks (i.e., my spouse holding them down side by side, first for a few minutes, then longer, then longer still) they stopped biting and humping and started transitioning into grooming each other. Within two months they became inseparable, and things at the Abbey settled down.

Together Myrtle and Christopher have wreaked some havoc in our living room, chewing walls and furniture, so the assault on modernity is continuing. Not to mention the savage mess that needs cleaning up daily. They’re like the Crawleys on Downton Abbey, and we’re their servants. I fancy myself Carson, trying to answer all those different bells as they ring. I’m a bit of a hapless taskmaster, I’m finding out. Gotta put the brakes on that.

Then we got River. River is an older bunny – about 4 years old – with special health requirements, and we are fostering him. He cannot be bonded with the other pair, so stays in a separate room, and has separate outings. He’s been in and out of critical care due to facial abscesses (and complications related to treatment for them), which has caused many sleepless nights and (thankfully premature) predictions of his imminent demise. He’s out of the woods for now, but only has about 5 teeth in his face. He’s a very well socialized bunny, though. He bonds well with humans. The other two have become “bunnies’ bunnies”, preferring to go about their lagomorphia, nearly oblivious to what we do. They don’t give a hraka.

We take them to the agility club, too, so that they get a chance to socialize with other rabbits and get some damned exercise.

Their existence in a human-dominated world is extremely precarious, as with all pets. They are always surrounded by servants and escorts. By insisting that their demands be constantly met (promptly), they are in effect waging a relentless war on the modern conception of human-animal relations, and the electronic media technologies that work to reinforce these incumbent relations. We get little out of this deal, save that they’re adorable, and sometimes cuddly. As I type this I’m on my guard against an attempt to nibble my laptop’s power cord. I’ve been vigilant on this count for over a year now. There is rabbit fur to clean up all the time, and our little aristocrats can make large messes, as I’ve said. Our home is half burrow, half dying electronics empire, as I try to finish my thesis on the wonders of wireless.

In Watership Downton Abbey, the rabbits settle down to build a burrow inside a human dwelling, assume the role of aristocrats, and implement a system of bells by which to command their adopted servants. They resist all servant innovations (but reluctantly – and sometimes crassly – rely on them when their health or well-being is at stake). Is this analogy working? Are you amused?

The bunnies aren’t really in control, though it often seems that they are. I must emphasize that, in reality, my wonderful, activist spouse has been the primary author of our adoption efforts (as well as being primary taskmaster for the kid’s fundraising efforts noted above), so this story wouldn’t exist were it not for her.¬† Chris Weakley (a volunteer at HRS Rabbit Center in the SF Bay Area) remixed the image below, which inspired me to tell this story in this way. Thanks, Chris:


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