They've never been short of ways of making you feel insecure, the bastards, and then they make you pay through the.nose They stir up your neuroses about your house, your job, your possessions, your old age, your children's education, your heart, your lungs, your teeth. But not, so far as I know, your rabbit. It was only Glenn Close who got at anyone through their bunny. And there were extenuating circumstances.
Then Rachel called. She was a PR and usually such people get short shrift. But Rachel was strangely compelling: "Have you heard the news? Rabbits are the hot pet."
My mind lolloped to thoughts of our Snuffles sitting quietly behind the settee, chewing it. "I'm not sure hot is how I'd describe it," I said. "Boring, yes. Warm, perhaps. But not hot."
"When I say hot," says Rachel, "I mean HOT. Executive women are keeping them instead of cats and dogs. And City women."
"Oh sure," I said, "and you can call me Roger."
"And you can call me Jessica," said Rachel. "Anyway, Roger, I'm phoning to tell you about Rabbit Insurance?"
"Did you say Rabbit Insurance?"
"Sure," said Rachel. "The little darlings can have terrible trouble with their teeth and it's hellishly expensive when they do. Cost you an arm and a leg."
Five minutes earlier I didn't know that rabbits were hot. Now I was starting to feel that they're not so hot.
"An arm and a leg?'
"Sure. The teeth grow at tremendous speed. If you don't give them enough to chew on they're absolute martyrs to dental malocclusion."
"Yes, hay or straw. Their teeth have got work away for at least six hours a day. Otherwise it's malocclusion city. And there's a good chance of anorexia."
And thus was one of the unworrying figures in my life, a small, trouble- free and not especially captivating example of "companion animal" (that's what Rachel calls them) turned into a potential volcano of pus, intestinal mayhem and crippling expense.
"One in 10 consultations at the vet's are about rabbits, but vets know pitifully little about them. They're also-rans at veterinary schools. I think they're still classified as exotics."
"Exotics? Now I've heard everything."
"No you haven't," said Rachel, rather firmly, and embarked on another more gruesome story about teeth. "Yes the roots of the top ones sometimes grow right up into the eye."
"Oh come off it, Rachey, you'll be telling me they're prone to ulcerative pododermatitis next."
"My god," she gasped, "you're really getting the point. Actually we had a conference with the British House Rabbit Association and 180 vets came. It was an eye-opener for them."
"I bet it was. At least for those whose eyes weren't full of teeth, if you get my drift."
"Now less of that please," said Rachel. "People don't realise the damage they're doing."
"Oh Rachel, stop. You're scaring the life out of me."
"Oh my dear paws, oh my fur and whiskers," said Rachel. "The point is that for a mere pounds 36.45 per year you can have Rabbit Plan and all your worries will be over. But it's pounds 53.85 if you live in London."
"Gee thanks Rachel," I sighed, reaching for a standing order. "Until you phoned I didn't even know I was worried."
Then she was gone. And how was I left? Like a companion animal caught in the headlights, that's how. Then I saw my mate John across the office.
"I've just had a rather disturbing phone call," I said. "And I"m worried about my Snuffles. I'm not feeding him right, I'm not holding him right and he's got no health insurance."
"Health insurance?" snorted John. "Bloody pension plan more likely. Rabbits are never ill and they live for ever. If I knew how to get rid of one, I'd sell the formula."
"How about a one night stand with Glenn Close," was my whimpering riposte.
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