Monday, May 24, 2010

Adventures in 1990s house-sitting – Rabbit Care

Not Rabbit Care - excusez-moi!, French Lop care!

The first few years I worked as an admin assistant for my boss D., I would house-sit for him when he and his wife S. were out of town. I didn’t receive any money, because they (and I guess I, since at that time I lived in an efficiency apartment) considered that having the use of their large house and pool, in a lovely Dallas historic district, was payment enough.

It might have been enough (they had cable TV, plus I loved using their top-of-the-line washer and dryer), but it seemed I always had to water LOTS of plants (the inside downstairs and upstairs, out by the pool and on all three patios) and deal with crises (fire ants, birds in the chimney, urgent messages - both business and personal - on their answering machine that I felt I had to handle). Combine my conscientious personality with being the key-holder for an expensive home without an alarm system, and you get a tense housesitter.
One year S. was going through a pet phase [this was a decade before they got real pets – matching white German shepherds named Sola and Mia, get it?, a little opera reference – Sole, Mio, to reinforce D. and S. being sponsors of the Dallas symphony and maybe the opera too] and I was forced to maintain her rabbit while staying at the house. (Previously she’d had a bird, who died when she put him back in his triple-decker cage too soon after she’d freshly spray-painted it in designer mauve…I could say more about this, but I don’t think I need to.)

For some reason she felt this fancy rabbit had to be sunned and aired every day. She had noticed he liked to hop around on the wood chips in her rose garden, which was basically an area of flower bed next to the swimming pool that had had several rose bushes planted in it, with mixed results.

After about a half-hour in the summer sun (helllllooooo! Dallas in AUGUST) this fluffy/fuzzy thing would supposedly hop into a shady corner and I supposedly could easily reclaim him. Unfortunately, I’d have to hang around out in the heat and watch Francois (I had been corrected that he was not a mere rabbit, he was a French Lop, with of course a French name) during his half-hour of freedom - I guess to protect him from cats and snakes and from his own stupidity in general.

Insert on French Lops – my housesitting was eons before the blessed help of Google, and only now do I understand (sort of) the pride that S. felt in her pet:


“The humorous antics of the French Lop have endeared them to many people all over the world and earned them the title of "the clown of the bunnies." [I was not amused.] They thrive on attention and love, aim to please, love to play with toys and have been known to die of a broken heart. [I would have liked Francois to have SOMETHING broken…] The French Lop is a massive breed having the heaviest bone structure of the Lop breeds. Very muscular and large boned, the breed has a longer coat with roll back to enhance massiveness…. Possessing delightful personalities [in WHOSE opinion?], French Lop rabbits are the most lovable and easy to handle regardless of the weight and size.”

Counter to this charming essay, Francois did not aim to please ME – I had a terrible time getting the darn rabbit (oops, was it a problem that I did not vocalize the word “lop” to him?) out from behind bars. He was very set against me (did he, by chance, sense my hostility?) and, although an extremely lethargic creature in my observation, he would muster all his energy and spread his heavily muscled legs (he was over-fed and fat, but he WAS A RABBIT with the corresponding musculature for jumping), spreading them inside the cage - behind the cage door - so that he was firmly braced inside. With his legs extended, the total width of his lop self looked to be more than three times the width of the open door.

There I was, trying to drag the stupid thing out, against his will, so he could have his outing…his airing, his treat, his sojourn in the rose garden. (And neither of us was getting paid…don’t forget that part.)

Maybe in my next life I’ll be more highly evolved, or less evolved, or whatever change will take away some of my conscientiousness…I truly did try to “walk” this damn rabbit at least once a day. And why? Not like he would have complained about me…even fancy French Lops cannot talk!

Another question I could never fathom the answer to…how long should I leave him? It was quite hot outside. But didn’t he need time to recover from the trauma of my grabbing him and carrying him out? How much recovery time before he had heatstroke? How much heat could a European rabbit handle?

And when I looked for him – beating at the wimpy rose bushes to see if he had sought shade behind - should I call his name? I knew he wouldn't come, but it might establish some familiarity, and I felt silly moving silently (except for my cursing) to look for an animal. I am not a whistler…and I assumed he would not hear a whistler.

But geez, what did I know…


Other adventures of that particular house-sitting stay included the pool/yard man yelling up at me in Spanish - I was up on the second-floor balcony, watering plants - that he needed more toilet paper. (He always used the poolside bathroom, which wasn’t well stocked with supplies.)
It took us some time to cross the language barrier, but I guess he was really desperate because he persevered for what felt like half an hour. It took me a while to figure he had a reason to be on the premises (we had never been formally introduced), and much longer to figure he was talking about tp.

And you know, something else that I’d like in my next life is to be able to sit beside a swimming pool, unselfconscious about my much-less-than-perfect body in an old bathing suit and unashamed of my relative laziness, knowing a citizen of the Third World (i.e. the pool/yard man) toils just a few feet from my toes… But, again, would this change in my personality require that I be more or less evolved?

PS I delayed asking D. or S. about Francois after my stay, in case he had complained about me…but when I finally did inquire after his health, months later, I was told that a neighbor’s dog had eaten him. !!!!!

1 comment:

Library Lady said...

Poor Flopsy! To have encountered such an end as to be eaten by a dog!

I remember your house-sitting days for D. and S. and the Pool Man! Wasn't that house also the locale for your engagement party?

I also remember the Pool House and all those patios that seemed to go onandonandon.

Funny I can remember years ago, but can't seem to remember what I had for dinner last night!