Power Plays

Contrary to the general rule that dogs are a menace to rabbits, the following is a not-so-rare exception in many HRS households.

Greta lived in our home with a number of other rabbits, a cockatiel, a dachshund and three basset hounds. There was never any doubt who was the leader of the pack. The dogs learned early on that Greta was not to be messed with. In fact, it was a really smart move to stay completely out of her way. From our breakfast room window, we would often witness Greta standing on the walkway to the backyard. If one of the dogs wanted to pass by her to enter the house, they would religiously give her at least a three-foot safety perimeter, even if that meant having to wade through the low shrubs to do so. If any of the dogs should come within that buffer zone, Greta would grunt and lunge at them, which always got exactly the result she wanted.

Another little power play Greta exercised whenever the opportunity presented itself was to bully one basset in particular whose name was Gwendolyn. Gwendolyn would try to enter through the doggie door and Greta would position herself in the hallway, just inside the doggie door. Gwen would back out and decide to wait it out. Several minutes later, she would again push her head through the doggie door, only to find Greta firmly planted like a devil at the gates of hell. Gwendolyn would eventually give up and start baying at the back door for either Don or me to come and save her.

Greta did worse things than that. She would often “set up” the poor dogs for a sting by leaving a part of a carrot or other treat uneaten. Knowing that the dogs considered anything we gave her a delicacy they must have, Greta would hop some short distance away and then sleepily wait for her prey. Her victim would watch her for several minutes to make certain she was truly asleep. Then, salivating, the dog would quietly tip-toe up to the irresistible morsel and ever so carefully curl her lips around it. Greta would then burst into life, grunting, lunging, nipping and occasionally chasing the thief out of the room. Satisfied (and clearly amused), she would usually go right back to “pretend” sleep near the tidbit to see if she might get any more takers.

When Greta would grow bored with the basset hounds, she would next pick on my poor, old dachshie. The dogs had their own blankets to sleep on, but of course no blanket could ever be so heavenly as the blanket that Greta slept on in the kitchen, just under the window. As the sun moved around to the backside of the house in the afternoon, the dachshie would start lusting for Greta’s place in the sun. Don’t think Greta didn’t know that and looked on it as a wonderful opportunity for a little fun. She would vacate her blanket long enough for the dog to get completely sacked in and start having those funny little nightmares that dogs have when they start making little woofing noises and twitching their legs like they’re running in their sleep. That was the exact moment Greta would pick for an all out assault–growling, biting and pushing with her front feet. Sometimes the dog ran halfway to the living room before she really woke up. I’m sure it was her nightmare come to life!

When to our great sadness Greta’s life came to an end, we buried her on the opposite side of the oak tree from where we had buried the bassets. We felt they would have wanted it that way.

Janis Wild

House Rabbit Journal Volume II, Number 7