So you want to take your rabbit on holiday, do you?
Where can I go on holiday with my rabbit?
It's a question we all ask ourselves, isn't it?
It is, isn't it?
Or is that just me then? You don't even have a rabbit? Well then, I suggest you......no, wait. I don't suggest you get one. Not until you've given it some serious thought - they're not for everyone. Of course, I could start listing all the joys of keeping a rabbit but it would take me all day and besides, there are already plenty of excellent hubs that do that job.
What I can do for any prospective rabbit owner is give you an idea of what holidaying with your rabbit may be like (because your rabbit's going to need a rest after all that munching on hay) and likewise, for any non rabbit owner I can remind you why you didn't get a rabbit in the first place.
Choosing the destination
Planning your holiday is rather a one sided affair when going with your rabbit. She isn't likely to contribute much to brainstorming for holiday destinations and may even just sit munching on hay and watching you as you spend hours searching for the perfect campsite on the internet.
She's managed to get that much across to you - if she's going to leave her comfortable home she won't stay in anything but the best. It has to be a wooden chalet in the heart of the French countryside with fresh, clean grass surrounding it, few or no dogs nearby and with a decent quota of German bikers staying in the neighbouring chalets. Ah. Did I mention the Germans? Perhaps I had better mention it now.
We're all going on a summer holiday!
The best time to go camping, I think we'll all agree, is the summer (unless of course you're Scott of the Antarctic). For rabbits the summer countryside is especially good - they're in their natural element and can sit meditating over delicate greens, dappled with gold and sprinkled with daisies and butturcups, and once they've got the meditating out the way they can get down to munching it. That is the beauty of summer - it's just so edible.
Ah, but I mentioned the German men so I'd better get back to that - summer isn't just a time for eating, it's also the time for, well, loving.
I think most of us know that rabbits are renowned for it and I can confirm that they live up to their reputation. Of course a lot of rabbit owners will decide to have their pets neutered but that's something I've chosen not to do.
'But that's cruel!!' I hear you chorus and I must confess that yes, it is cruel - my boyfriend has an absolutely miserable time; there's rarely a moment during summer that my rabbit isn't chasing him through the flat trying to grab hold of his lower leg but he spends most of these months closed in the kitchen and therefore doesn't suffer too much.
On a serious note, to any fellow rabbit lovers worried about my rabbit's welfare, well, I thank you for your tender hearts but I can reassure you that having kept animals all my life I have a good idea of when they're happy and when they're not and I can confidently say that as my rabbit chases my boyfriend through our flat the look in her eyes is not one of suffering; although in his - perhaps yes.
Apricot (my rabbit) has a thing about the lower leg, you see, and particularly men's lower legs. But of all her lower leg pin-ups, it has to be the German biker's lower leg that is pinned up right next to her hay rack.
That is one lower leg!
I discovered her penchant for German bikers the first time we went camping. It was the summer of 2006 - the air seemed sweeter, the sun seemed warmer and that German biker had a lower leg to rival no other's. For little Apricot, it was love at first sight - it was the lower leg of her dreams.
A summer leg affair, you may say whilst shaking your head sadly.
And yes, that was all it was. Just a quick leg fling. The poor German biker was sent on his way, his lower leg used and discarded.
But let me defend my rabbit, she didn't mean to hurt anyone - it was the lower leg that started it - by alluring her with its jeans and flip-flops . Little Apricot was minding her own business munching on the grass when the German biker came out of his chalet and spotted her.
"Aaah! What a lovely little rabbit!" he exclaimed in rapture.
For a good few days he was content to watch her from outside his chalet his face glowing in gentle affection as she grazed and hopped amongst the buttercups (occasionally tearing a few out because she was peckish). His was a pure love - he admired her from afar as she munched and did droppings in the grass.
If only it could have gone on that way forever!
But alas! One morning the German biker (and his lower leg) were walking past our chalet, towel slung over his shoulders, on his way to the shower block. Apricot was quietly grazing under the olive tree, looking peaceful and demure.
"Hello, my little friend!" he said affectionately, bending down to stroke her soft coat. I looked on, smiling rigidly.
"What a sweet little thing you are!" he carried on.
It was a beautiful moment, it really was. The birds were twittering, the sun had just peeped over the mountain and the countryside was at its most peaceful. Man and Nature were at one. But Nature had other ideas.
"Aaaaagh!" he yelped his face contorted in surprise and embarassment. "Now, there's no need for that!"
"Apricot!!" I yelled, running over to the scene of the crime. The German biker was gently, but insistently prising her off his lower leg.
"Ah! I think she likes me!" he laughed awkwardly.
"Sorry about this," I said trying to pull her off. But she wasn't going to let go of her leg pin up that easily; she was hanging on like a lycra leg warmer. I mumbled an apology and the biker smiled politely but there was desperation in his eyes.
"Apricot!" I said in my warning voice. Like she cared. She loosened her grip slightly though and the German's leg was freed. He laughed as cheerfully as he could as he walked away but a second later his laugh went hollow as she wriggled from my grip and leapt on his leg again. Again, I prised her off but by then the beautiful moment had been lost forever. Man and Nature had been separated and Nature was chasing after him as he fled to the showers trying to trip him up with a rugby tackle.
Their paths crossed again of course - they had to, our chalet was right by the toilet block, but it was never quite the same again. They were two ships that crossed in the night; well, one ship and one motorboat that relentlessly sped after the ship. In the end the ship changed route and used the other toilet blocks.
"At least she's found someone new to torment," my boyfriend sniggered.
It was good that he was laughing again - a few days ago I wouldn't have believed it possible ever again.
You see, having a rabbit as a chalet mate isn't for the faint hearted.
If anyone believes rabbits to be shy and retiring creatures then I must shake my head in melancholy and sigh, 'I fear you do not know rabbits very well.'
Sharing a chalet with a rabbit and sharing it with the Who during a tour amounts to the same thing. Except that with the Who in there you may get a bit more sleep.
Things that go bump in the night
"Will you stop eating the chalet?!"
Yes, we've all used that phrase a hundred times whilst on holiday! And usually at two in the morning, right? Right?
Well, all right, perhaps it's not the most popular thing to whisper to your spouse (although there's no accounting for tastes) and maybe it's not even something you need say to a rabbit.
But when your rabbit is a hellraiser, all she wants is sex and grass and rock n' roll - it doesn't matter what time of night it is.
It was all my fault of course. I committed the cardinal sin of….listening to people.
'You can't let a rabbit free in the countryside!' they all said. 'It'll run off! You'll have to keep her inside!'
I had somehow allowed that fear to be implanted in my subconscience and had eventually succumbed to it. Consequently for the first few days on the campsite I didn't even let her go down the chalet steps onto the grass.
At first, she sat serenely on the terrace, twitching her nose and listening, her innate caution stopping her from venturing out. But it was a different story when night fell and the chalet door separated her from the sounds and smells she wanted to explore.
Doors in any animal's book are a ridiculous concept. Why should an open passageway suddenly no longer be an open passageway? It's just silly and the hindrance has to be either scratched, bitten or chewed out of the way. In Apricot's case it's rattled and shaken on its hinges until the sound of it is so unbearable to any human being misfortunate enough to be nearby that they realise yes, doors really are a futile invention.
'But 'tis a small, wee rabbit!' you exclaim and I say again with a heavy sigh, 'I fear you do not know rabbits very well.'
A mere door can be rattled to such an extent that in the dark you can only assume a twenty stone bricklayer has broken into your chalet and is banging on the door. And it doesn't stop at doors. Wooden skirting boards are gnawed at and with such insistence that in your bleary state it seems a giant is munching on the chalet walls, every thump on the flimsy chalet floor rebounds as though a hippopotamus has bounced off it.
And when it comes to torturing, rabbits have no mercy.
'So put her in a cage!' you cry and although I've never closed my rabbit in a cage, desperation pushed me to it one night in that chalet. For the first time ever I closed her inside her hay pen. And I went off to bed for some much sought after sleep.
Well, I can chuckle indulgently and sigh 'I fear I didn't know rabbits very well then.'
To this day I wonder whether it wasn't really Apricot I closed in that cage but a rather small sumo wrestler. The banging and thudding made me suspect that it was the latter. After ten minutes I could stand it no longer. She burst out with great indignation and leapt through the open bedroom door in search of my boyfriend's leg.
All tales have a happy ending of course and so does this one - by dawn the noise had abated and a pleasant sleep was seeping through our weary heads. It was at that moment Apricot chose to give a last goodnight thump on the chalet floor and the final hippopotamus bounced off the floor.
But don't be put off. It's now three years that we've been going yearly to that same campsite, exact same chalet even, with her teeth marks still in it. And since that night, I've never kept Apricot from her Mother Nature - she hops around where she pleases (always in sight) and has a true holiday.
There have been no more 'Who' nights either. In truth, animals are just as conservative as people - if they have a nice home to come back to they're not going to run away.
The Germans however - they do run away. Year after year.