If you read my post earlier this week, you’ll know that I did this fantastic science fair project back in the 7th grade. In fact, when it comes to science, I might have peaked in middle school—which is pretty sad. But I peaked in a big way with that bone-growing experiment. Please go back and read the piece if you somehow didn’t get around to it before, though I can’t imagine how that would happen.
I ended that text with my blue ribbon, as I should have. It’s good to quit after applause and high praise. But there’s a brief second chapter to this story that I’d like to share. It’s the part where the lab rabbit gets back at me for her entire miserable existence.
For the record: I felt very guilty about my part in causing the animal pain, even if she was in for it regardless of my participation. Of course she was given appropriate numbing medication and was put under for surgery. But still. Recovery always hurts. During my time in and out of the lab, I gave her a lot of special attention, love, and carrots through the bars of her cage. For what that was worth.
It was worth very little, I knew. So, after much whining and cajoling and promising to do the dishes every night, I convinced my parents to let me bring the rabbit home. And, because one rabbit might get lonely, I had to have two. Right? Rabbits are social beings. Like most other mammals, they need friends, as I well know now.
So, Snidely Whiplash and Darth Odor came to live in my bedroom in a metal pen with a plastic pan in the bottom. I laid down lots of newspaper and outfitted it with new food and water bowls. The bunnies were fresh-snow white with tall ears and eyes red as watermelon Jolly Ranchers. So cute and soft! And mine!
Here’s what I quickly learned about lab rabbits. They’re not cuddly. I’d imagine that seeing a human form looming over them with arms outstretched didn’t bring back fond memories, so it was hardly their fault. Both kicked and scratched mightily whenever lifted out of the cage, and neither would settle in my lap for petting. Darth was a biter to boot.
They’re also noisy as hell, and apparently nocturnal, with lots of ripping of paper and munching of veggies and scrambling through poop and making rabbit sounds. All. Night. Long.
And finally, they stink. Between the the rabbit chow scattered all over and turning to soggy sausages floating in the water bowl, plus the quick-to-mold, partly nibbled veggies and bunny droppings everywhere, my room went sour. Snidely was a pooper of impressive volume, always leaving some caked in his butt fur, and Darth seemed to enjoy squishing that poop deep between his toes. As soon as I’d clean the cage, the rabbits would start dropping little brown bombs. I swear they did it on purpose, laughing at me as they marked their territory. Their candy-red eyes, once endearing, started to creep me out. And that soft white fur? It lost its softness and whiteness as SW and DO spread their funk around. (I still liked the tall ears, though stroking them meant risking my hand to a surprisingly powerful chomp.)
Within a week I was sleeping on the couch in the living room because the damn rabbits kept me awake much of the night and my room reeked of bunny doo-doo and rotting cabbage.
I stuck it out for a month, which was at least two weeks longer than my parents thought I would. And on a dull Wednesday morning, with little fanfare, the rabbits went back to the lab. My scientist step-dad Mark promised they’d be treated with special care, and I chose to believe him. I was tired.
I felt guilty over how comfortably I slept that night, and I still really wanted a pet of my own. So after another round of cajoling, I got a hamster. In honor of the rejected rabbits I picked a pudgy white one with red eyes and named her Snowball.
Then she grew these weird tumors near her tail. I figured it was bunny Karma, but the vet took a quick look and reassured me. She explained that, despite what the lady at the pet store had said, this hamster was a boy.
So we changed her name. To Snowballs.
I’ll leave it there.
Bunny photo from Shutterstock