Our neighborhood is crawling with rabbits. Maybe hopping is a better word. Ours are not the big jackrabbits you might associate with the Southwest. They're the familiar cottontail bunnies I grew up with in Cincinnati.
They're everywhere around here, and our backyard is one of their favorite spots. That's because it's mostly grass. Here in Phoenix the (mountain) lion's share of yards are some kind of crushed rock with a smattering of drought-resistant plants. Cacti prevail.
So the bunnies think our well-watered grass is swell. Actually, there's an exchange transaction going on here. The bunnies love basking in our backyard and the dogs love eating what they leave behind. They go after it like it's a gustatory delicacy. Which I guess is OK. My vet tells me that rabbit poop is generally harmless; the parasites that come with it don't seem to bother dogs.
It's July here in the Sonoran Desert and the high temperatures have been ranging between 107 and 119. Right now as I look out the window I see two bunnies. One is stretched out full-length in the cool grass, hind legs stretched all the way back. A flat bunny. The other has dug himself a shallow bowl under a rose bush and he's luxuriating there.
He emerges from the back door. Sees the bunnies. They see him. Nobody moves. Presto! freezes. High drama. From the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail (what there is of it, given that as a puppy he chewed the white hair at the end unmercifully) his top line is low and flat.
His left front leg elevates, pointer-like. Which is where it stays, suspended for a good 30 seconds. Then, slowly, he lowers it. Now the back right leg comes up. It too stays suspended. Meanwhile the rabbits remain frozen in place.
I've seen Presto!'s dramatic act go on for five minutes. The bunnies fixed with his steely gaze. Each of his paws taking its turn, raised, suspended, then lowered. Across those long, theatrically charged minutes Presto!'s forward progress may approach six inches. Or not.
One night a rabbit was stock still no more than 10 feet in front of my little guy as Presto! went through his stalking act. The light was limited and my view of the bunny was partially obscured by a tall bush. Cautiously I worked my way around to the side for a better view. Only to discover that the bunny had his back turned to Presto! The ultimate put-down!
Cheddar, my 11-year-old golden, occasionally gives the bunnies a half-hearted chase. And Bravo!, my other border collie, can give them a run for their money.
One day I heard two of the rabbits talking. One said, "Don't worry about the one in the red collar (Presto!), he's harmless."
Do we have herding instinct being manifested here?
The truth is the bunnies keep Presto! around for comic relief.