Where I blab about bunnies and encourage your bunny (and other animal) stories.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Strict disciplinarian

2:30 a.m. -- to bed.

5:15 a.m. -- phone call woke me up. (Thank you for calling; it meant a lot, maybe more than you know.)

7:00 a.m. -- As I'm trying to get back to sleep, Pea rattles her salad dish, which, as previously blogged, is made of metal and sounds less than euphonic in the wee hours of the morning. Her game is that she rattles said dish because it no longer serves its purpose as a salad dish (when the salad is gone), but now becomes a rather large toy in her cage.

I've gotten to the point where I'm no longer entertaining ideas of replacing the salad dish. It's the perfect size for her if you cram the salad in; it's got hooks, which work relatively well when it's being called a "salad dish" and not a "toy"; it's just basically good. I'm also sick of giving in to Pea and getting my tired butt out of bed at 3:00 or 6:00 or whenever she decides she's bored to take out the salad dish from her cage. I'm going to teach this kid some proper behavior, even if it means spending half an hour awake every morning for a month. I have confidence she'll catch on quickly, although I could be fooling myself.

So I've gone back to my roots of how to train a bunny how to be quiet during the night. Years ago, Ariel and Kayla had to be taught when it was acceptable to chew on the cardboard that lines the bottom floor of their cage (the sides, not the bottom -- that's linoleum) and when they just needed to shut the heck up (when I'm sleeping). The oh-so-harsh punishment of water spray therapy was instituted. Whenever they chew their cardboard (which makes an unbelievable amount of noise in a silent room) when I was in bed, they got a squirt from a water gun that rested on my nightstand. For years, I had the water gun there. And, as water guns are known to do, the freakin' thing slowly leaked all over. So I graduated to a spray bottle. The trick is to find something that can literally go the distance to the cage without having to get out of bed (an action which, in the morning, means that my kids are getting raisins).

So, at 7:00 a.m., I started with the loud and deep "PEA! NO!" But that only goes so far to a kid who thinks "no!" is the beginning of a game of chase, as it is in the living room when Pea carefully selects and pulls out and chews my singular copy of Cooking Light magazine. It's never the other 25 books on the lowest shelf of that bookshelf (or even the corner of that bookshelf, as it was when she was a baby), it's now Cooking Light, which I'm taking to mean that she realizes she has a rexy belly and needs exercise and not a reflection on her image of her mommy ;-).

At any rate, as you can imagine, there's no game of chase, as Pea is securely enclosed in her two-story cage, as illustrated hee-ah:

I get up to grab the spray bottle filled with water (not the one labelled "VIN," which is hanging on the rack right next to its unlabelled brethren, as I use both water and vinegar to clean cages -- a privilege I just had at 1:30 a.m.). Naturally, the three well-behaved bunnies, who are all cuddling on the top of the big condo, think it's morning (having the sunlight up and Mom out of bed clued them in -- wonder why?!) and promptly wake up from sound slumbers to hang their hands as high on the walls of the condo as they can and to sniff wildly for their treats. Oh, how I hate to disappoint a well-behaved (-trained?????) bunny (alas, perhaps it is I who is well-trained!). I give them two raisins each, but no papaya pill, indicating to them that it's not really morning and their breakfast isn't really on its way. (This is a message all three of them get, for after I give them raisins, they settle down again just where they were and don't even look for fresh food in their food dishes. The smarties!!) I don't give Pea any raisins, as she is not so well-behaved this morning and it's just an added treat to the twins and Hops. I explain this to the three raisin munchers, but in a cooing voice, so they couldn't care less the reason they're getting fruit and Pea's not. When they're sufficiently treated, I reach for and grab the water spray bottle, which is next to the condo. I head back to the squishy comfort that is my bed, complete with flannel sheets.

Pea predictably ponders the reason she was not given a raisin and continues begging and sticking her nose through the bars. This marks time No. 1 I think she's adorable this morning, even though she's being bad.

But I'm a strict disciplinarian, and so covered up and comfy, I wait for her to continue the raucous ruckus. Of course, when waiting for a bunny to continue being bad, one does not have to wait long. As soon as she rattles her dish, I squirt her three times with the water stream. She stops her pursuit of noisemaking and turns (literally) to face me and wonder why she's got water dripping from her and from the bars of her cage. Now, not for the first time in my bunny motherhood, I wonder if this training method has more to do with distraction than aversion. But I digress.

Pea, who is always interested in interesting things, finds that her bars are wet and, never giving up a chance for a fresh drink, starts licking them. Otherwise known as time No. 2 she's being too cute to be angry with, even though she's taking my oh-so-beloved sleep away from me.

Having dried the bars sufficiently (or at least temporarily having quenched her thirst), SweetPea turns back to the matter at hand -- the big metal toy in her cage. She's too smart to sit there and just be bored when there's a playing opportunity at hand and she's awake. Heck, it's dawn and bunnies are generally crepuscular. It's not her fault, but she's gotta learn what behavior is acceptable at what times of day. So she rattles again.

And I reach for the spray bottle, which is on the floor next to my bed. But I knock it over. And Pea then gives a whole new meaning to the term "Pea brained" because she promptly turns around and faces me, stopping the racket. Wow. Are you kidding me? She has already connected the spraying and the wet rump with the sound of sloshing water in a bottle? One time, folks. One time.

And speaking of times, the position she assumes after she does the 180 is time No. 3 that she melts my mommy heart this morning. She sits there in her litter box with her hands delicately and carefully placed on the rim of said box. Oh. My. God. There is something so utterly human and genteel about this pose, and one day I'll get a picture of it. With her tiny streamlined head and her thin, tiny hands, Pea is sitting there looking at me with the refinement (fake and imagined as it is, I realize) of a perfectly polite Southern woman in a white dress, white wide-rimmed hat and white gloves on a summer day.

So I just stare at her for a few seconds, trying to imagine what's going on in her head. Innocent, precious Pea. I try to remember the details of the whole event so I can blog about them when I wake up. Turns out the experience woke me up so much I figured I'd just get my butt out of bed and write it down now, as there's currently no pen and paper on my nightstand.

Now, also of note are the reactions of the other three bunnies. Ariel and Kayla know exactly what the spraying of a water bottle sounds like from the bed (as opposed to the more consistent, long-term spraying sounds of litterbox cleaning), as they were involved for months (they're slow learners, what can I say? We all have our strengths and weaknesses) in the aversion training of the aforementioned cardboard chewing. It was years ago, but bunnies have long memories for things they don't particularly like.

But the personalities (or bunnyalities) of each twin made their individual reactions interesting. Ariel, the more intrepid and confident of the two, knew the spraying was not for her. She perked up her ears and sat up straighter when I started it, but she knew from the first "PEA! NO!" that this was just not her problem -- that it was the baby getting into yet more trouble.

However, all Kayla knew was that there was a disturbance in the force and the sound of water spraying did not sit well with her. Instead of hunkering down and letting it play out, as Ariel did, Kayla got worried. She started grooming Hops, who was laying next to her, and begging him to console her. For those of you without bunnies, this means that she was asking him for kisses back, but not even grooming ear kisses -- actual mouth kisses, which he does a lot. She did this by giving his ears a few kisses and sticking her mouth as close to his mouth as she could position it, twisting her head up underneath his in the process. Comfort kisses are slightly different from grooming, attention-seeking kisses -- Kayla just shoves her whole head in Hops' or Ariel's chest for them. This was definitely a mouth-to-mouth favor being requisitioned.

Hops, it must be stated, has never needed the spray tactic performed on him, as he's had no noisy habits at night. Well, that's not entirely true. Every now and then he'll decide that Mommy going to bed means that he has to chase one of the twins around the bedroom in a horny frenzy. Sometimes this lasts for a few minutes; sometimes it lasts for more than half an hour, in which cases I don't go for the water bottle spray method because he moves too quickly and it's hard to spray accurately while hanging upside down from the bed and aiming at a moving target. Also, there's always the risk I'll hit the pursuee and not the pursuer, in which case I'd be in effect punishing Ariel or Kayla for being sexy. When he gets going like this, I need to just give the girls a break from all the running and get them closed in their condo for the night and let Hops work his aggressions out on Willow. I'm all for getting the girls some exercise, but at some point it turns into sexual harrassment. ;-)

So Hops was asleep and honestly couldn't be bothered with Kayla's request for comfort. It happens, she knows, and so she moved to Ariel, who, as previously stated, was also not all that concerned or -- frankly -- awake. Like Hops, Ariel took the ear kisses and didn't return any to Kayla. So, Kayla, maybe being reassured not by the kisses she was seeking but by the aloof air of her bonded mates, relaxed and lay yin-yang style next to Ariel and face-to-face with Hops. Maybe just in case he'd wake up and grace her with a little lovin'. She's a smart cookie -- she knows he'd do this for no apparent reason before Ariel would, maybe even in his sleep. He's just that kind of a guy.

So that's my story of water-bottle training for this Sunday morning. And now, maybe, I'll get another three hours sleep, as Pea seems to have given up rattling her dish around. Or maybe I'll spend the rest of the contents on the spray bottle and she'll keep me up until noon. Either/or.


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