Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Conspiracy of Rabbits

Duncan and I were out at a little past six this morning. I'd left the office window cracked open a bit and the air was warm enough that I didn't need a jacket. And even though it was still mostly dark, I could see the rabbits on the other side of the window. There were three huddled along the fence directly behind my apartment, all watching through the glass as Duncan watched me pull on my socks and shoes. They were nearly invisible, dim gray humps against the yellow grass and Duncan would not have noticed them except that when we appeared outside their ears perked up and their bodies went stiff. Duncan tensed, slid into his sleek hunter pose and led me slowly toward them, his feet lifting slowly in the air and almost trembling with anticipation as he stepped forward and brought them back down. It was too early for games so all three bunnies darted through the grass and across the parking lot to the small oasis of green which winds between the three buildings across from our own.

We followed slowly behind, Duncan pulling hard on his leash while I keep murmuring, "Poop. Go poop, Roo." He would have none of it, focused as he was on the bouncing white moons of the retreating rabbits. We crossed after them and as we neared the corner of the closest building we stopped long enough for Duncan to sniff a shrub and raise his leg over it. I squinted into the dim morning and spotted our three rabbits not far away, and just beyond them three more. All six seemed alert, but none of them were paying any attention to us.

And then there was pandemonium like I hadn't expected. The three rabbits closest bolted straight at us, the three beyond them close behind. Duncan jerked, stopped peeing and lunged forward around the corner of the building in time to spot four or five more rabbits charging directly at us, their ears back tight, their bodies sleek as they bounded, hardly touching the ground. I took a step back, startled, wondering if after months of chasing them across the park and all over our property, if the rabbits hadn't held a council and reached some sort of consclusion regarding the fate of Duncan and his companion. Had they lain in wait, plotting, lead us into an ambush? And what exactly would that entail? How much damage could a small herd of rabbits do to a person? I didn't have long to think as they swept around us for Duncan reared up and lunged and a moment later the coyote appeared.

He was in a dead run, chasing rabbits, snapping at them as he went. He was big, taller than Duncan, and very white with spatters of gold and grey along his back and head. But his tongue was wide and pink and lolled out of his mouth in a way that reminded me of Duncan when he chases the raindrops. The rabbits, trapped between us, paused for only a moment and then decided to take their chance with Duncan and me. They skidded past and around the building, scattering under the bushes, making for the other side of the fence. The coyote stopped and stared, maybe twenty feet away.

Duncan didn't know what to make of him, and after our long visit to The Ponds last night, I'm sure he thought he was about to make a new friend. I, on the other hand, knew exactly what he was and didn't like the nearness of him, the look in his eyes, which alternated between playful puppy and feral animal. He simply stared for a long time and when Duncan whined, wagged his tail and pulled on his leash, the coyote retreated a few steps, but all too soon leaned far forward on his long legs and sniffed. I could see his nostrils undulating as he took us in. He took a single step forward before I reacted.

The only thing I could remember about wildness encounters was about mountain lions but I figured, why not. I raised my arms high above my head and in a very low, and very absurd voice, moaned loudly, a deep gutteral Dickensian-ghostly sound that surprised even me. The coyote flinched and darted away, looking back once over his shoulder as he loped off. And once he'd gone I'm sure I felt the eyes of countless rabbits on us, breathing a soft sigh of relief, perhaps reevaluating their earlier plans.


David said...

Hmmmm... your description of fending off the coyote... sounds a lot like the way you used to get rid of me.

Charlie said...

wow... what an incredible experience!

caboval said...

Oh my goodness!!Thats a close call! What a sight it must have been all those rabbits charging you!!! HUgs Valerie Joey and Kealani

duncan's internet friend said...

...as my husband would say until it was verified by our neighbor..."are you sure it wasn't a dog?" So. Cool. They are fascinating. You were blessed to be able to see them all on the same "playground"

traci said...

"the bouncing white moons of the retreating rabbits"

Heh heh heh. I can totally picture it.

What an experience. I'm not sure I would have known what to do. Glad it ended well.

ruth said...

...so are you saying that this is the accepted technique for warding off mountain lions? Forgive me, but I keep picturing the Ghost of Christmas Past. HILARIOUS. I'm sure you gave Duncan a great story to tell the kitties that day.