I get my nightly bout of exercise each evening by chasing Snow, my white lop-eared rabbit, around the fenced portion of my farm. She clearly knows my objective – to put her in her cage for the night – if not my reason for the chase. After dark, Snow is smart enough to run from anyone who lives here, the same people whom she willingly lets pet her by day. She has several clever hiding spots and a wide range of effective running tactics, on par with those of a professional football player, that she employs effectively to elude capture. Snow often wins this nightly game of “tag,” and although I still sometimes worry that a raccoon will devour her before morning, I am increasingly convinced that raccoons are no match for Snow.
Even though we live completely off the grid, with no street address or even any roads nearby, Snow managed in her own way to find us. Last year, our live-in cook Rachel was visiting her sister in the nearest town during her off-hours on the weekend; she was alone at her sister’s home when she thought that she heard a rat rustling around in the backyard. Rachel went outside with a broom, prepared to shoo the rat away from behind a storage container. Instead of a rat, out hopped Snow into the sunny open space of the yard.
Surprised but delighted, Rachel gave this adorable but dirty rabbit a carrot and later some water. The bunny seemed content to stay. Rachel and her sister asked the neighbors and then the local rescue shelter if anyone had lost a rabbit. Finding no plausible owner, Rachel brought our newest member of the family back to the farm.
And the rest is history! Snow is the undisputed queen of our yard. She consumes nearly all the plants and herbs to which she has access; she even ate a succulent recently. If given the opportunity, she eats horse and chicken feed too. Snow has been the driving force behind our need to redesign the farm’s landscape architecture. Because of Snow’s voracious appetite, we have been obligated to transplant many flowers and plants to other areas of the farm, and must carefully consider which plant species are suitable for the fenced area in which she lives. Our three cats are mostly afraid of her, and rightfully so. She loves to antagonize by chasing them relentlessly around the yard.
Living on a farm, we are surrounded by myriad sentient creatures. Snow lives alongside a finite number of humans, cats, chickens, and horses, plus an uncountable number of birds, butterflies, turtles, raccoons, snakes, fish, insects, and other wild creatures.
As a companion animal, Snow occupies the middle-to-upper range of the companionship spectrum. She has a name – whether she knows it or not – and is very intelligent. She lives inside our yard and receives food, water, and protection from us. She loves back massages and looks utterly adorable whenever she sneezes or yawns. She makes double chins look irresistibly cute. Simultaneously, she is much too restless for prolonged cuddle sessions and is never allowed inside the house because she would eat all the houseplants. SNOW!
Keeping up with her jailbreak-style digging activities around the perimeter of the fence requires constant vigilance. If I want to cuddle with an animal after a tiring or stressful day, Snow is not the creature toward whom I gravitate. She is simply too wild.
Snow, even if she could speak, does not need to apologize for her wild behavior. I appreciate her companionship, to the limited extent that she provides it, and her endlessly amusing antics. I appreciate the sense of companionship that I feel with many of the individual creatures who co-exist with us humans on this farm – the otters who visit our cabin by the river in the mornings, the turtles who make prolonged eye contact, the butterflies who fly alongside us as we walk, the inchworm crawling across my knee. In the chicken who refuses to stay inside the coop with the rest of the flock, I recognize admirable chutzpah and courage. My cats snuggling on my lap or visiting me at my cabin are just the most obvious examples of animal companionship available to me on this farm.
Later tonight, I will chase Snow around the yard in a valiant effort to protect her from the mortal threat of hungry raccoons. I will probably lose the chase, as she cuts left, cuts right, rushes head-on between my legs, and then hides somewhere completely out of reach. Then I will walk down to the river to bathe with the fishes, and perhaps encounter an owl along the way. Tomorrow morning, if I am lucky, a river otter will pass by to say hello.
Our Companions is a series focusing on the companion animals that add life and love to Sentient Media’s editorial team.