It’s been two months since we settled on the name Cecil for this new pet bunny of ours. Every afternoon when I collect the kids from school, they ask for a “Cecil Report” from me, as most days I’m home with him from dawn ’til the time I head to the pickup line. (They do this by singing “Cecil Report” to the tune of the “Creature Report” jingle from the show “Octonauts”, in case you’re familiar with it. I plan to explain to them that this is a play on “Bleacher Report” as soon as I have a better idea of what that actually is.) Many days, my report centers on his conniving antics in and around our home. The thing about Cecil is that he’s so smart and determined that often I find myself wondering who is training whom over here.
It started with the air vents in the floor. He loved to luxuriate on top of them while the air conditioning blasted through the swelter of August, which was really cute. EXCEPT. Something about the sensation triggered his system to release, and we began noticing deposits made right near the vents. So we closed the vents to prevent anything untoward finding its way into our duct system and began shooing him away from those areas whenever he bounded near them after enjoying some food. We got in the habit of nervously glancing at the vents whenever we didn’t have Cecil in a direct line of sight to ensure that he wasn’t slipping through the cracks of our training, so to speak. Next he became fixated on getting to the wires behind the TV cabinet, so I blocked off access to those. Then he discovered that he could leap onto the living room sofa, and what delight ensued! So much hopping and skittering, which we also thought was cute. EXCEPT. This excitement, compounded with the instinctive territorial impulse, also compelled him to deposit what we wanted to keep confined to a litterbox. So we made a “no bunnies on the sofa unless on a human lap” rule and trained him out of that behavior, nervously checking the sofa whenever we didn’t have a bead on his whereabouts. While we were worrying about the sofa, guess what Cecil was doing? You got it; while we were attentively haunting the couch cushions, he was pooping by the vents. I began to wonder if he was just trying to distract us with the sofa business so he could get to his favorite elimination spot.
Next up: the stairs. Perhaps emboldened by his newly-discovered vertical range, Cecil began jumping on the stairs to get to my trailing jasmine plant, which I was training to weave around the railing leading to the second floor. But he didn’t stop there; as soon as I’d reworked the jasmine to be out of his reach, he began disappearing upstairs whenever our backs were turned to explore the bedrooms. Well, that just wasn’t allowed, so we’d retrieve him and put him back in his hutch to send the message each time. Now our eyes were never far from the staircase, constantly scanning in that direction in case he tried to break the rules. Meanwhile, our vigilance directed toward the three areas we wanted Cecil to avoid, he discovered the candy shelf in the dining room. I heard noises coming from there one morning and, upon investigation, came upon the foolish animal positively chowing down (a term I don’t like, but it describes so well what he was doing) on dark chocolate Reese’s cups, almost in a fugue state of rapture over this newly-discovered flavor profile. I blocked the shelf off, using cases of seltzer as bricks to form a wall, but it was all over by then. Cecil had tasted chocolate, and he was HOOKED. Well, now the worry was next-level because it wasn’t our carpets or upholstery in the danger zone; now our concern was that our pet was hell-bent on poisoning himself. Cecil’s desire to reach the forbidden fruit was so strong that he began doing everything within his earthly abilities to get to that shelf. He leapt higher than anyone knew he could leap, contorted himself with circus-caliber calisthenics, tried ferreting under and squeezing between and climbing up…everything possible. I found him twice more having somehow gained access to his toxic Holy Grail (once it was Dove milk chocolate; the other time he’d found a Hershey’s miniature) and fortified my seltzer ramparts accordingly. Now the stakes were high enough that whenever I didn’t know his whereabouts, I’d hurry to the dining room to make sure he hadn’t breached the barrier. And guess what Cecil would do while I was hunting for him in the dining room, which was conveniently on the other side of the house from the staircase? That’s right.
This adorable, velvet-coated, mostly silent animal, so friendly and smart and companionable, so gentle and easy to care for, was also an artist of manipulation. He’d mastered the “bait and switch” so completely, as if he were thinking, “If I can get them paranoid about my safety, if I can guarantee that my impending mortality is at the forefront of their minds, if I can fool them into thinking I had scaled Mount Seltzer and ingested an amount of M&Ms equal to my body weight, THAT is the moment I can hop upstairs to find something else I love to chew but am not supposed to, like a hardback book or a rainbow loom bracelet or a peperomia plant or yet ANOTHER iPhone charger or perhaps a pencil, graphite and eraser and all.