“What the (expletive) is that?” screeched the man laying down my new carpet, as he danced around the room, trying to escape the creature sniffing his shoes.
“That’s just my rabbit,” I said.
“Sorry, ma’am, but that is no rabbit.”
It’s rarely love at first sight when folks meet my 18-pound gray-haired Flemish giant, Pig. With free rein of my house, Pig often catches unsuspecting people off-guard — especially those guests who aren’t forewarned about Pig’s favorite hiding spot, behind the toilet, and meet Pig when he pops up between their legs. There have been a few startled screams from the bathroom. One friend even ran out with her pants around her ankles.
“He’s perfectly harmless,” I told the carpet man.
“Harmless?” he scoffed. “Aren’t you afraid that monster will eat your baby?”
Funny he’d mention that.
A few years ago, my husband and I were going through that odd nesting phase couples experience when talk of having children is on the table but the act of doing so is still a ways off. We were looking for something to fill the void — something to, well, practice on.
So we began searching for the perfect pet, an animal with fewer needs than a dog but one that wouldn’t be restricted to a cage.
We settled on becoming proud parents to a potbellied pig. That is, until I read a harrowing article about new parents whose jealous pig had sneaked into their nursery, lowered the crib gate and eaten their baby. Yes, you read right; the pig ate the baby.
We decided, instead, to get a giant rabbit and name him Pig. Close enough.
As first-time pet parents, we marveled over the rabbit, whom we affectionately referred to as our firstborn. In no time, we transformed into those snarky parents everyone hates.
Aww, your rabbit eats carrots and hay? How adorably bourgeois. No, Pig doesn’t feel as if he has to conform to bunny stereotypes. Rather, he dines on organic strawberries and the occasional baseboard molding.
We took videos of Pig pulling pillows off the couch to create obstacle courses for himself; made Facebook status updates about his litter box training; laughed heartily as Pig jumped back in fear during his daily discovery of his arch-nemesis, a bench that hasn’t moved from its spot since before Pig was brought home; and took the parenting duties of our firstborn very seriously, ensuring that he came on command and made good choices when we told him.
The week I brought home my newborn son, I posted photos on Facebook of him lying next to his furry big brother. Pig tripled my son’s weight and size. Facebook friends and Facebook fans alike flooded me with messages, needing to know how Pig was coping — not how I was doing, just how Pig was.
Truthfully, Pig’s struggled with the change. When I sing to my baby, Pig chews on curtains, demanding attention. When I’m breast-feeding, Pig nuzzles his face under my feet, forcing a head rub. Every time I’m in the nursery, Pig makes a mad dash to under the crib, and when I try to entice him out, Pig breaks into a full-blown temper tantrum. I half expect him to yell “you don’t love me anymore!” and run away to the next-door neighbors as I did when my mom brought my little brother home.
But for as jealous as Pig gets, he’s become very protective of his little brother. Every time my son cries, Pig comes running to check on him and waits, looking up attentively, until the crying stops. Pig may not have the jaw strength to eat my baby, like his namesake, but he also doesn’t have the temperament.
“Only place I’d want a giant rabbit is in my stew pot,” the carpet man said. As if he understood, Pig began chewing on the cuff of the man’s jeans. The carpet man squealed.
“Pig, make good choices,” I sang. The carpet man’s jaw dropped as my well-trained rabbit hopped away and out of the bedroom.
Pig made a good choice, and I smiled at my furry firstborn, one of the best choices I’ve ever made.