Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Bunny chase is underway

New dog has eye for plethora of hares

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Is it just us, or is everyone in this city experiencing an unexpected explosion of backyard bunnies?

Along with a thick blanket of snow, our backyard is awash in a sea of bouncing bunnies -- big ones, little ones, medium-sized ones.

Normally, this would not be a hare-raising problem. For years, everyone at our house has lived in relative peace with these long-eared interlopers.

On occasion, my wife, She Who Must Not Be Named, will curse the carrot-craving invaders when they penetrate the defences she erects each summer around her vegetable garden, but she isn't one to fret over a few extra grey hares.

As for our two main dogs -- a sandbag-shaped basset hound named Cooper and an overstuffed miniature wiener dog named Zoe -- they are only marginally aware of the bunnies' existence.

From time to time, they pay lip service to the presence of a bunny, giving half-hearted chase for several seconds until they are distracted by something their tiny brains find even more intriguing, such as a stick or an empty potato-chip bag blown into the yard by a gust of wind.

My point is, the bunnies have had it good for years. Having grown up with no serious predators, I suspect it is encoded in their DNA to ignore the marginal threat the complacent canines that ineptly patrol our backyard pose.

But this sea of tranquillity has been thrown into chaos by the arrival of Mr. X, an emergency backup dog we inherited six months ago. I am not entirely sure what kind of dog Mr. X is, but one thing is certain -- he has a singular passion for chasing bunnies.

The thing is, Mr. X -- my wife and daughter refuse to let me besmirch his reputation by revealing his real name -- is barely larger than a rabbit himself, but what he lacks in size, he makes up for with the heart of a lion and the damn-the-torpedoes attitude of a charging rhinoceros.

I became aware of Mr. X's bunny-chasing proclivity the other morning when, as per our normal ritual, I accompanied all three dogs outside to allow them to perform their daily ablutions, so to speak.

I was standing there, shivering in the last remaining shards of my ratty green bathrobe and the flip-flops I keep at the back door, when, suddenly and without warning, a bunny hopped out from behind a tree.

Our main dogs, naturally, were oblivious, but Mr. X, his tiny brain on high alert, immediately gave chase, dashing through the snow in pursuit of the startled bunny.

At this point, I should mention that foremost among Mr. X's attributes is speed. He is like a small, furry bullet fired from a gun. As the two docile dogs and I looked on in horror, Mr. X rocketed after the bunny, darting behind a tree, unleashing a burst of even more bunnies, all of which scattered in different directions, all of which Mr. X tried to pursue at the same time.

Fearing the outcome of his bunny blood lust, I gave chase, my ratty bathrobe flapping in the icy breeze, my flimsy flip-flops sinking into the frozen snow, my heart pounding like the drummer for a heavy metal band.

"STOP, MR. X! STOP!" I shrieked at the top of my lungs.

Awoken by the bunny-related backyard brouhaha, my cranky daughter hopped out of bed and, clad only in pyjamas, ran out the back door to investigate, only to slip on a patch of ice on the concrete steps, fly through the air and land with a painful thud on the snow-covered stone patio.

"Are you OK, sweetheart?" I screeched in a display of fatherly concern as the chase continued.

"Arrrrrggghhh!" is the sound that came from my bruised offspring as she flailed on the snowy ground.

It was at this point, a defiant Mr. X, ignoring my pleas and my daughter's groans, trapped one of the slower bunnies in a small thicket beside the back gate. In a bid to prevent the imminent demise of Peter Cottontail, I hatched a rescue plan.

Racing to our kitchen, I grabbed a gourmet doggy treat and thundered back to the scene of the looming bloodshed, where I hollered the only word Mr. X understands. "TREAT, MR. X!" I bellowed. "EAT THE TREAT INSTEAD OF THE BUNNY!"

When he glanced up with longing in his eyes, I hastily scooped up the wiggling Mr. X and, accompanied by my disgruntled daughter, trudged back into the warmth and safety of our home.

After restoring the blood flow to my frozen feet, I graciously decided to give all three dogs a treat, which is when I read the label on the package and, to my horror, discovered the main ingredient listed on the doggy snacks was (cue eerie music) "rabbit."

Yes, by accident, I was the one who gave Mr. X a taste of his elusive prey.

Which explains why we had such a bad hare day.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 28, 2012 A2

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