Scout was seven years old when the cheeky rabbit arrived into his home. Scout is a typical boisterous male Labrador, and from the start, he was curious about the strange small creature that had moved in beside him. He sniffed him in his hutch a few times, but showed no sign of aggression. Barbara and her family began to feel relaxed about the risk of conflict between the two animals.
Starksy has always lived in a hutch, but he also goes for walks in the garden. He has a special rabbit harness, and he hops around at the end of a long lead. He enjoys grazing on the grass, and he likes to stretch his legs, rushing one way then another. It was during one of his early excursions that the situation went a little out of control. Starsky was being walked peacefully in the garden on his harness, when Scout came around the corner, and caught sight of the small rabbit. He bolted towards him, and at that moment Starsky darted in the other direction, somehow managing to wriggle out of his harness. A stressful five minutes followed, with the Labrador chasing the rabbit around the garden. It could have ended very badly, but in fact, it was the rabbit that came out better from the encounter. Starsky learned that he could run faster than Scout, and this filled him with confidence. Even on that first day, he seemed to taunt Scout, stopping a few yards away from him then darting off when the dog tried to rush up on him.
From that day onwards, it was as if a dialogue had been opened between the two animals. They have each continued to have a significant interest in the other creature. Starsky’s hutch is in the hallway, and Scout pauses as he passes several times a day, pushing his muzzle up to the cage, as if to greet the rabbit. Scout’s food bowl is right beside the hutch, so as the Labrador eats his dinner, the rabbit comes out of his nest box and looks down on him.
After a few months of the two animals becoming familiar with each other through the wire mesh of the hutch, Barbara decided that it would be safe to try another direct face to face encounter. This time it was indoors. She introduced Scout to Starsky – nose to nose – and neither animal seemed in any way anxious or excited. Scout sniffed the rabbit, then ignored him. Starsky eyeballed the big dog, and did not seem in any way fazed by his comparatively huge size.
Barbara and her family then started to take the rabbit out to play in the house. A free-ranging rabbit can be a liability in a home – rabbits like to chew anything chewable. Wiring, in particular, seems to have an appeal, causing problems with equipment and rabbit health when live electric wires are gnawed. The Collins family discovered an unusual way of confining their rabbit. They noticed that Starsky dislikes slippery surfaces, because he cannot get a grip with his nails. However, he is very happy to hop around on rugs and carpets. This led to a simple way of confining him to safe parts of the house without a cage. By placing a large rug on the lino floor of the kitchen or the wooden floor of the living room, they discovered that the rabbit could easily be confined to this “island”. They could put him on the rug, go out of the room, and when they came back, he would still be sitting safely where they had left him.
It was during these rug sessions that the relationship between the rabbit and the dog began to deepen. Scout came into the room when Starsky was on the rug, and this time, he didn’t even try to chase him. Instead, he went over to the rug, and lay down on it quietly, beside the rabbit. Starsky was not at all afraid, and carried on hopping around the rug as if nothing strange was happening. Soon, it became part of the normal routine. Scout started to join Starsky regularly on the rug, lying down beside the rabbit, and the rabbit in turn began to interact more with the dog. He began to clamber up onto Scout’s back, sitting on him as if he was riding a horse. Scout didn’t mind this at all, continuing to lie peacefully on the rug. The rabbit has become even more familiar with Scout as the years have passed. He now clambers up onto his back, and hops along on top of the dog, ending up by pressing his chin on the of Scout’s head. There are scent glands in a rabbit’s chin, so presumably Starsky is claiming Scout as his own territory, and Scout seems quite happy to be claimed. The two animals often sit together on the rug for long sessions of just being together.
Starsky is small and dark-haired, and Scout is bigger and fair-haired. The two animals bear more than a passing resemblance to the famous cops from the television series and movie. Barbara is very tempted to do the obvious thing – rechristen Scout as “Hutch”. They may not jump into cars together, but they certainly have some remarkable chemistry going on.
- In the pet world, it’s common for different species to become friends
- Even animals that are normally predators can become pals with creatures that are normally their prey
- There are, of course, risks involved, so owners need to supervise such relationships carefully