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Friday, April 3, 2009

Bunny Good - Rocket Scientist

I don't know if it's because of the connotations of Easter or because I may get an emergency foster dog tomorrow (foreclosure foster) but I was thinking about the animal shelter and my last experience there; so enhanced by a real, if eccentric, person named Bunny Good - Rocket Scientist.
Years ago we expanded our business into a large outdoor yard by the train tracks. 50,000 sqft of not much but grass and hard-packed dirt and a light industrial zoning. We import antique roof-tiles and limestone and custom carve fireplaces and such, none of which has to be stored indoors. My main office was at home and I would meet clients by appointment at our stone yard.
The yard came to us with the added attraction of a couple of roving rabbits. There had been an old man living in a trailer and I always supposed that they were his. Somehow over the years word must have gotten out that this was some kind of bunny heaven. New rabbits would be glimpsed amongst the palettes nibbling grass or hopping around trying to hump one another. I was always surprised we didn't have a sudden explosion of bunnies, but we never had babies.
One day there was a lady with a large net wandering around. Her rabbit had escaped from her home on the other side of the railroad and she had tracked him to us. She tried several times to catch him and then brought me a bag of food and "passed the bunny", so to speak.
Now, our business was not big enough to use up all the space and so we also rented parking spaces for trucks, boats an old school bus and, for a while a caravan/trailer. The caravan became inhabited by the druggie-pimp son of the vehicle's owner and there was far too much "activity" there for a while. You don't learn anything for free, as we say.
Back to the rabbits. Quite a few of our renters would bring carrots and such to feed the rabbits. One of our most bohemian people who cared about the rabbits was a scrawny, semi-homeless woman who's hands were twisted with arthritis and who stored all her worldly goods in a green van that never moved. For a long time I thought her name was Bonny, but she corrected me and later showed me a letter that she had written signed Bunny Good-Rocket Scientist.
Bunny would show up on foot, clutching multiple brown grocery bags of who knew what. She would root around in her green van for hours and leave again with a large number of paper bags. She always brought something veggie for the rabbits and gave each new one a name.
Over time I learned that Bunny lived not too far from us; just across the freeway from our home. I always offered her a lift if I was headed home because her version of the five mile trip took hours of walking and changing buses several times. She lived behind an office building, by the Palo Alto Municipal Airport, under a blue-tarp construction in a corner of the parking lot.
So Bunny and I would chat as I kept the car windows discreetly lowered. (No good deed goes unpunished). She really was a Rocket Scientist, had worked at NASA, had been married too, although that's not a sure sign of a sane person. She was a little quirky, bordering on conspiracy theories and such, but harmless enough. The letter she showed me was to some local government agency, in defense of an iris plant that was blooming in the Baylands and scheduled for removal as a non-native species. She took me to see it one day. Her letter included a poem she had written and you just know she was a true thorn in the side of all bureaucracy.
As the four-footed bunnies in our lives grew older and diminished in number we got down to only one. Janeau was very striking, white with black spots. He became friendly as he matured and would eat from our hands. He also peed on my foot one day as I was showing some important clients around. Not just wet and squishy but stinky-boy pee. A sign of affection I am told.
Janeau had been with us for a decade and I didn't want him to be lonely. The local newspaper had run an article about a female rabbit and babies that had been abandoned at the Baylands and rescued by the Park Rangers and brought to the animal shelter. The babies were easy to rehome but Mummy-Bunny didn't have a bright future. Of course I went to see her and found out that Bunny Good was a regular visitor at the shelter too and was very keen to participate in matching me up with this rabbit.
Anyone who has ever adopted an animal knows that there is paper-work involved. In this case I was asked to fill out a description of my home and family as well as a full page explaining every minute of the proposed adoptee's daily routine.
I thought I knew how to work the system so I began with: early morning greeting, cleaning the cage, fresh feed, time for some affection, grooming and requisite ammounts of exercise and rest followed by more affection. I lied about where the bunny was to be in residence and did not disclore that she was destined to be a free-range rabbit.
I told the tale of my family of one husband, one daughter; realized that the dog was no-one's business but my own and made an appointment to collect Mummy-Bunny, after my "Screening Interview" the next day.
Bunny Good had someone lined up to lend me a temporary cage until everyone got acclimated and she gleefully met up with me at our appointed time outside the shelter the next day.
Oh My! The volunteer shelter-person was shocked that my husband was not with me to fetch Mummy-Bunny. She could not conceive of handing over an animal without also screening the new "Father Figure" entering into it's life.
I appoligize. I was unladylike. I reminded her that I could easily have gone to the local feed store and purchased a brand new bunny for less than they were charging me for "I left my Uterus in Palo Alto, Microchipped Miss Floppy Ears" and I believe I suggested she could have her bunny stuffed and mounted wherever she so wished. I was going to say "Bunniless, I departed", which is incorrect as I did leave with Bunny, just not the one I had planned on.
As this story drags on, I promise we are close to the punch line. Ms. Good had me drop her off in town and later that afternoon I received a phone call from the Shelter Director begging me to please accept both their appologies and Mummy-Bunny.
Ms. Good had demanded to see the Chief of Police, who I now know, has oversight of the shelter. She worked her relentless magic and he sorted out the officious officials at the animal shelter. Mummy-Bunny came to live with us and her new friend Janneau.
Footnote: Janneau outlived all the other bunnies. At the age of fourteen he was partially disabled and I researched the local vets to find one who knew rabbits. Late one warm Friday afternoon in August, after a full examination and much amazement at the over-all health and advanced age of my polka-dot rabbit, we decided that putting him to sleep was the most humane solution.
I carried the cardboard pet-carrier back to our workshop with the intention of laying him to rest where he had lived long and free. It was just me and Janneau as everyone had gone home for the day. I was composed, even stoic as I opened up the box to see that the vet had covered him with Marguerite Daisies. I bawled my eyes out over that crazy rabbit.


  1. Wonderful story!! They get to you, don't they!
    Di x

  2. Not sure which one was actually the "punch line" but it's a great story, nonetheless. Both Mommy Bunny and Bunny the Rocket Scientist proved to be quite a pair.

    As for Janneau...what a beautiful ending to his tale. (I decided not to make the obvious pun here as those daisies were too serious.)

  3. You better not fuckin' die on me!

    You are too damn tenderhearted and good for this world and are working yourself up to being a character in one of those old 60s songs about the best girlfriend dying young. Knock it off! Go run over a squirrel or something for protection, to ward off evil.

    You're livin' in a parallel universe that I haven't visited since I paid to have my pound dog, Shirley's, heart murmur repaired in Davis at the veterinary school and after I brought her home some SOB ran over her, paralyzed her, and I had to have her put to sleep. For a republican, pro-capitalist, your heart bleeds more than mine.

    I'm just sayin'...

  4. Hey Framericaine, reality check. A certain 3-legged cat called Chubby who was a part of your deliberately-grumpy life? Truth will out! And yes, I ended up driving the rescue dog to Sonoma, to his new home last evening. I now have an official Collie rescue volunteer T-Shirt, with matching bandana for Diva.

  5. In high school my best friend and I wrote a play for French class, "Bonne Idee," about two families, Les Lapins and Les Lievres(hopefully my spelling memory is intact). We, of course, thought it was hysterically funny. Our humor has not matured much:>)

    I love knowing I live in the same world as Bunny Good, Rocket Scientist. All's well.

  6. Hi Magpie,
    Now I want to know the story line of your "Bonne Idee". I hope it pops up (or hops up, groan)on your blog one day.
    I also enjoy the notion of a world accessorized with Bunny Goods. I was impressed by her tenacity and ability to face down the system, from without.
    Her name was in the minutes of a town meeting once and the writer mentioned something about her dancing hamster. Anything is possible, it seems.

  7. What a interesting story! Real life really is better than fiction.

    I actually re-told this post to my 5 year old. She loves a good story, especially a true one. I had her both giggling and in tears. It really would make a great children's book. It's been several days and she is still chattering away about "Bunny Good - Rocket Scientist".

  8. Hi Ms Shattered, Sorry I didn't see your comment until today. I hope you decide to write the book. Great possibilities for illustrations.

  9. Ms. Good passed away recently ( I really enjoyed reading this story of how she touched your life. Thank you.