This Side Up

Down the rabbit hole

By JOHN HOWELL
Posted 5/28/20

They looked like a trio of good friends - the three amigos. Standing in the middle, Carol was looking up at the brightening morning sky. To her left was Ollie, sniffing the ground and occasionally carefully selecting a blade of grass to chew. And on her

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This Side Up

Down the rabbit hole

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They looked like a trio of good friends – the three amigos.

Standing in the middle, Carol was looking up at the brightening morning sky. To her left was Ollie, sniffing the ground and occasionally carefully selecting a blade of grass to chew. And on her right was a rabbit barely at the six-foot distancing, his back turned to the two of them while munching on one of the weeds that substitute for a lawn.

Last year I called DEM and URI to learn why we were seeing so many rabbits. My question was met with some skepticism, as if I as hallucinating. When reporters get questions about the veracity of the information they’re seeking, it can be a sign that you’re close to the target and this is a deflection, or that really there’s not a story here. Why would the folks at DEM or URI care whether there was a spike in the rabbit population or not? I figured there was a more prolific family of rabbits in my yard until other rabbit-sighting reports filtered in.

Mike Healey at DEM tracked down the information, and readers learned that rabbits can live up to their reputation to multiply rapidly and what we were experiencing was part of a cycle where food was abundant and predators were scarce.

This year they’re back and in numbers.

They’re fearless, or maybe just dumb.

They’ve learned that although a hound and perhaps trained as a breed to hunt, Ollie has no interest in them. They won’t even look up from incessant chewing as Ollie patrols the yard for other critters. Remarkably, since the gate was closed, I’ve found them in Ollie’s pen eating dandelions. And there’s little doubt what was responsible for nibbling down the Swiss chard to little red shoots and leveling the parsley in the vegetable garden. The lettuce starters were left untouched – probably not worth the trouble until larger.

Carol loves rabbits, but she also loves her flowers and vegetables. We tightened the garden fence and on the advice from the folks at Yard Works went in search of Irish Spring soap. It wasn’t easy to find, but I knew she had nabbed her quarry as soon as I entered the kitchen. The heavy saccharin scent was enough to drive me away. It’s now in the garden, but it hasn’t cleaned out the bunnies. They’re propagating. I’ve counted as many as six including the little guys, which I’ll grant are cute.

And it’s not just my yard. Rabbits have taken up residence in some of the most unlikely of neighborhoods. I found a pair looking out at me from under the bushes in the parking lot at Honey Dew on Jefferson Boulevard. Well, somebody is moving into City Centre.

Perhaps it’s fitting.

These days we’ve gone down a hole into world where we stand on lines outside shops, hardly talk with one another from beneath our masks and question whether we can drive beyond the borders of this Wonderland and return without self-quarantining for a couple of weeks.

Where is the White Rabbit that led us on this path? And the Queen of Hearts, who might she or he be?

And just maybe we’ll meet a Cheshire Cat who can make sense of it all. Wouldn’t that be good.

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