Archive | July, 2012

The Rabbit Hypnotist

29 Jul

This is Alasdair, the head hypnotist at Broadleys Veterinary Hospital. He also happens to be the head surgeon, but it’s his shamanic skills that impress me the most. Like Gillian the Bird Nerd, who captures wild birds with her bare hands, he has this notion that he is not a wizard – but as you can see, he clearly is one.

The entranced Broccles in the crook of his arm is a rabbit of a few strong opinions. One must not pick him up. One must not touch his mouth or legs. One must not prod him with instruments or stabbity needles. As long as one follows these simple rules, he is a perfectly unfrenzied ball of non-fury.

For whatever reason (probably involving witchcraft), the vets and nurses of Broadleys can convince him to go along with all the sorts of things he normally disapproves of. Alasdair is the king of coercion, thanks to his hypnotic approach. He picks up Broccles, flips him onto his back and then sits there, stroking his forehead until that excitable rabbit nose stops twitching. At this point, Broccles will remain motionless while Alasdair presses his bad eye, feels his guts, sticks endoscopes into various orifices, shaves his leg or ear, inserts needles, and draws blood. Once he’s done, Alasdair flips him back onto his front and pets him. Broccles spreads out under Alasdair’s hand like he does at home when he feels relaxed and sleepy.

Chillin’ at home

Broccles is one of those incident-prone pets who always seem to be in and out of the vet hospital. Recently one of his back teeth grew all misshapen and gave him a tongue abscess. Then his tearduct got blocked and his blind eye got infected. Then we feared a kidney infection. It now looks like he will need to have his blind eye surgically removed by one of the Broadleys wizards.

Here he is bandaged up after Alasdair extracted blood from his ear this week. As soon as he got home, he went back to investigating ways of reaching Bunty’s herbage. Bunty has had to place his fruit, flowers and vegetables on higher and higher levels over the course of the summer. Several of his plants are on the roof, thanks to Broccles. That rabbit is fond of his Sky Cabbage and Sky Strawberries, and he brooks no argument – except when he’s being hypnotised.

I once asked Alasdair what his secret is. He was amused that I thought he had a secret. (Like I said, he is oblivious to the fact that he’s a shaman.) He replied: “I think it’s just a case of taking your time and not rushing it.”

He lies the rabbit along his forearm, with its head tilted slightly downwards, then gently strokes its forehead. “It helps if your forearm is the same length as a rabbit,” he observed.

I noticed that he has a very calm and low-pitched way of speaking around rabbits too. Nothing sudden, nothing loud. He sounds like my yoga teacher when she’s getting us to drift into meditation.

He makes rabbit hynotism seem like something any muggle could do. But it’s not true. I’ve tried it. Broccles was immediately beside himself with indignation. There was no option of “taking my time” about it. He kicked his way out of my arms and stamped every square foot of the living room floor, before retreating under the TV table to sulk. It appears that only wizards can hypnotise rabbits.

The Hidden Gardens Dog Show

3 Jul

This is Tallulah the Irish Wolfhound, who is seven months old and the size of a small horse. I met her while I was staying with my Internet friend Lemongrass, who lives in a converted church in a village that seems too quaint to exist outside of a novel.

The cobbled high street was closed for its annual Hidden Gardens Fayre. It was lined with stalls offering bric-a-brac, fairground games and baked goods for charity. A brass band marched between the puddles. The villagers had opened their gardens to the public, and among their herbaceous borders and goldfish ponds were ballet dancers, jazz musicians, jugglers, and trestles overflowing with strawberries and cream.  Brollies opened and closed  against the vagaries of the English Summer.

This homeopathically-proportioned dachshund is called Darla. It’s that sort of village: all the dogs have posh names.

Tallulah and Darla were on their way to the village dog show. Having never attended a dog show before, I followed them with some excitement. My first impression was of chaos. This couple below spent the whole event untangling their four dogs from everyone else’s, while their Jack Russell barked hysterically at the world at large.

Inside the show-ring, these dogs were the most well-behaved. They won several rosettes, and the collie on the right won Best in Show. The blue marl collie under the man’s legs competed against Tallulah and Darla for Best Pedigree, and won.

I loved that the show’s judging categories allowed for non-pedigrees too. Even the oldest, most fleabitten family mutt had his opportunity to shine. The category for Best Mongrel was called “Best Mixed-Breed”, because we don’t say the M-word, not in this village.

A proud day for the Best-Groomed Dog

Second Best Senior Dog

Contestant for Fastest Sitter

All contenders for Best Trick were told to “sit!”

My favourite competition was for Fastest Biscuit-Eater. Here they are lining up for their biscuit-eating race. The biscuits were laid down in lines leading away from each dog. I thought Tallulah would be a fast worker because of her size; on the other hand, Darla was closer to the ground and thus to the biscuits, which had sunk into the grass and were hard to see.

“Ready – get set – GO!”

There was a surge of total confusion. Most of the dogs did not know what the hell was going on, but got excited anyway. Some noticed the biscuits, though not necessarily their own biscuits, and ate them. Tallulah gallumphed to the far end of her line and ate her last biscuit. She was getting away from all the little yappy dogs, because, as her owner explained to me, a chihuahua had once verbally abused her. Darla wanted to be picked up because there were too many Irish wolfhounds around for her liking, so her human had to patiently pick up each biscuit and place it in Darla’s mouth.

It wasn’t clear who won this contest, but we can rest assured that all the biscuits got eaten by the end.