A few weeks ago, 7 yo was coming back from shul at night with my husband. When they got home, they excitedly told me about spotting a white rabbit sitting under a bush right at the side of the road, not far from our house. 7 yo told me how he got very close to this rabbit, almost touched it before it ran away. I joked about whether it was a rabbit at all, and how weird it is that it is all white. We have a few regular grey rabbits in the neighborhood. Then I started wondering whether it is somebody's pet that escaped.
Next morning, as we were all going to shul, we spotted exact same rabbit, sitting in the exact same spot. It gave chase once the kids got too close, but I became sure that it is somebody's. Now we have a busybody lady on our block ( doesn't every block have one?!), so my husband went to knock on her door and inquire whether anyone is missing a rabbit. Sure enough, she said that our neighbors' bunny got away, and they are unable to catch it. This got the boys all fired up. They started planning mission "rescue the bunny", a la Wonderpets style. I chuckled, thinking that if the owners cannot catch it, we might not stand a chance. I was also hoping that it would not become roadkill in the meanwhile.
Since then, we have been seeing it here and there, lurking in the bushes. This week, the bunny made an appearance on our lawn. The boys gave chase, with IKEA collapsible hampers. The bunny was faster. Then, on Friday afternoon, it came back. The boys grabbed the hampers and followed. There was a a cartoonish chase around the pine, with 9 yo chasing the bunny running around and around, but he got him in the end. The boys triumphantly called my husband, who closed the hamper up, and the bunny was in the process of being returned to its owners. I stayed at home, washing the dishes and cooking something or other. Next thing I know, the boys are running back home, announcing that they are giving the bunny to us, with the cage and all. My first reaction was: absolutely not! I also know my husband well enough to know that he would not willingly accept this rabbit without consulting with me first, so I knew that something was up.
|His name was Snowflake, |
but since he's a boy, 9 yo renamed him Blizzard
Who the heck throws out a pet, especially a totally domesticated albino rabbit? Who teaches their kid that this pet is there when you want it, and when you don't want it, off it goes? Now I saw why we were getting this rabbit. It is almost miraculous that it lasted outdoors as long as it did.
All of this was taking place on Yom Tov, so I was quite worried that I don't know how to take care of this rabbit. The cage that the owner gave us was a bird cage, with those three little lift-up doors. You had to dismantle the top to get the bunny in. Then there was some dried pellet food, which the bunny at first refused. There was no water bottle. I figured that we will feed it lettuce and carrots for a day, till Shabbos ends, and then I can look up how to properly care for a rabbit.
As we were walking home, I explained to the kids that we are just keeping this rabbit temporarily, until I can find it a nice warm family to take care of it. My baby will be crawling any day now, and I know that I will not be able to keep him out of rabbit's food and droppings. I also know that the time is not right for us to get a pet. My cup runneth over just from homeschooling and taking care of the house, so having a pet will just add to the stress.
On Shabbos morning, we sat down to learn some parsha not far from the rabbit. Al of a sudden he closed his eyes and just collapsed. I looked at this with horror: the rabbit passed right before my eyes! The kids seemed not to notice, so I let it be for a moment, and that was a good thing, since five minutes later the rabbit was done with his nap, got up, and brushed himself, as if nothing had happened. Whew!
Then we went to the pet store, to get hay and the water bottle. I asked about them taking the rabbit back, but they said that they cannot do it, only put it with a sign for adoption. They also recommended finding a classroom that is interested in keeping a pet, since they have a special grant program where the store would supply the cage, food and training.
Was it so hard to find a new home for this bunny? Did he have to be kicked out? Why couldn't the neighbors take five minutes to think what to do with him before cruelly setting him loose?
Finally, I am not so sure how halachically OK it was for us first to capture this rabbit, and then to take ownership on Yom Tov, but somewhere between the lesson of hashavat aveida ( returning a lost object) and tzaar baalei chaiym (not inflicting suffering on animals) I think my kids learned a few valuable lessons. Oh, and I hope that whenever we will be ready for a pet, they will take the responsibilities that come with it seriously.
I much rather be called a sucker than heartless.