The Big Issue : Edition 456
THEBIGISSUE18APR–1MAY2014 23 The Kindest CUTS “WOULD YOU RATHER,” I ask some friends, “have both testicles chopped off, or live alone for the rest of your life, never meeting or interacting with another member of your own species?” It’s the night before Babs’ appointment atthevet.Afewofusareatapubin Fremantle, sharing pints before a party. “Whoa!” Benee says, sitting back in his chair. “I don’t know how to feel about that.” “I’d keep the testicles,” said Benee’s friend John, without hesitating. “And then be alone for the rest of your life? Maybe there’d be a few monstrous creatures around, who might pick you up and give you a cuddle every now and then. But you wouldn’t be able to talk to them. You wouldn’t be able to interact...” John shakes his head. “Nup. Testicles. Definitely.” “I think I’d rather have friends,” Benee declares. “See?”’ I say with new resolve. “So would I.” AFTER THE OPERATION, Babs falls asleep in his litter tray. I quickly take a photograph, then snuggle him up with a hot water bottle. He stays there for about an hour – little eyes rolled back in his head, a small corner of his shaved belly peeking out from his slump into the pea hay. Rabbits are social creatures and Babs had been going mad with loneliness. At least, that’s what my partner and I decided was wrong with him. He’d last been in contact with another rabbit when he was six weeks old, which was when we’d brought him home. About a year ago. Castration and a friend, we figured. That’ll fix him. The vet recommends we wait two weeks for the hormones to settle down, but I’d already spent hours losing my mind over pictures of adorable bunnies on the internet. Matilda is from Rabbit Rescue. She’s a dappled brown, three- year-old doe. When we bring her home, about 10 days after the operation, Babs is fascinated. He goes right up and sniffs her all over while she stands stock still on the kitchen bench. After about thirty seconds, he suddenly figures out what she’s for and quickly and violently mounts her. We decide to keep them separated for a little longer. After a couple more false starts – Matilda, timid already, cowering behind the sofa to escape from Babs – the two rabbits finally make friends: cute, furry, platonic friends. This lasts a week. The next time I hear now familiar little shuffles from somewhere near the door, however, it is Matilda as perpetrator. It’s as if she’s trying to teach Babs the ropes: she chases him, corners him, clambers on top, and then climbs down and presents herself. Babs is frightened and confused, haunted by the absence of urges that died with his bits. He teaches himself to climb the stairs and hides under the exercise equipment. “THEY TAKE THE whole uterus out?” I ask Tim. “For girl rabbits... It’s the uterus, yeah?” Tim nods. I feel a bit queasy and unconsciously place my hand on my belly. “That’s a bit more hardcore than just pushing out the testicles.” Tim flinches, and I think about the operation I once watched in a Mexican dog-fixing clinic. The vet simply made a scrotal incision and popped the white testicles out like lychees. “I think we should wait and see it if wears off,” I say. “Maybe she’ll calm down.” One morning, soon afterwards, Matilda makes a beeline for Babs’ cage. We’ve been keeping them sensibly separated, night and day. Matilda sniffs around the cage for about four or five seconds before spraying out several bursts of urine in a wide twist like a sprinkler. “Whoa!” I say. Tim hands me the phone. At the clinic, the vet explains that Matilda is trying to attract a mate. “Attracting him with urine?” I ask. The vet nods. “It will be a quick operation,” she assures me. “We’ll make an incision here and take out the uterus.” Matilda twitches in the vet’s hands. “Then we’ll stitch her up again. You can come get her this evening.” That night, I neglect to fit Matilda’s enormous plastic collar and she picks out all but three of her stiches. The gash is long and mean. I take her back to the vet. Matilda spends the next two weeks with a cone on her head, looking ridiculous. Babs won’t go near her. FINALLY, WITH BOTH rabbits healed and collarless, all goes quiet. Platonic, simplified, the two are fast friends. They are cute as furry buttons – hopping around benignly, eating, snuggling. “Babs seems much happier now,” I tell Tim. “Now that he has a friend.” “Yes,” Tim replies. “I think we did the right thing.” » Zoe Barron is a writer, bicycle mechanic and student nurse based in Fremantle, WA. See zoebarron.com.au. ILLUSTRATIONSBYLWNSKI;IMAGEBYiSTOCK ZOE BARRON’S BUNNIES PRESENT HER WITH SOME BIG QUESTIONS.