By Hannah Reich Berman

Many children ask their parents for a pet, most often a dog. Some parents give in, but others say “no way.” A fairly common response, when kids make this request of parents who are not dog lovers, is “When you grow up and live in your own house, then you can get a dog.”

That generally ends the discussion. It is what my parents told me when I asked for a dog, and that’s what I told my children when they asked me for one. The plea I received was for a puppy. Children think a puppy will always be cute and small. It does not always occur to them that little puppies, depending on the breed, often grow into large dogs. Either it does not occur to the children or maybe they think their parents are unaware of that fact. But it is hard to fool an adult on this topic, so the answer is often a resounding no. Along the way to adulthood, many of those kids who love dogs become adults who do not want to be bothered to have one.

My own words as a child still ring in my ears. “Can we get a dog? Please? Pretty please?” And then came the inevitable spiel about getting one when I have my own place.

A dog probably remains the number-one pet request, but lately there have been some subtle shifts, as rabbits have become increasingly popular. For a variety of reasons–good, sound reasons–moms and dads will more readily say yes to that request. Rabbits do not have to be walked on cold winter nights. Rabbits do grow, of course, but they do not get terribly large. Rabbits will complacently remain in a cage for the better part of their lives, and, best of all, no pooper-scoopers are necessary.

A rabbit is not just a rabbit. There are five different types of rabbits, and a good many variations within each type. Additionally, rabbits have ears that take different forms. Some have long floppy ones that hang down, others have ears that stand straight up, and still others possess ears that look like they are pinned back. Until recently, rabbit facts have never been of interest to me. But no longer! I have been indoctrinated, thanks to the youngest member of my daughter’s family, Chester.

Chester is a rabbit. Not everyone in the family is a fan of Chester. And there is one family member who positively dislikes him. That would be the maternal grandmother (the author of this piece). Two members of the nuclear family never bother to cast even a brief glance in his direction. These are the ones who never asked for a rabbit in the first place and are not terribly enamored of him. Then we have the disinterested family members who neither like nor dislike the little fellow. They may occasionally glance toward him, but they admit to having no sincere interest.

One might wonder, therefore, why the family has a rabbit. It is because the tally is not complete, and not every family member falls into the above categories. There are two family members who positively adore this rabbit. They tend to his every need. They give him food, buy him toys, clean his cage, and are the first to insist upon letting him out of his cage so that he may have the freedom to run around for a bit. When I visit, I make it clear that, while I am there, I want that rabbit to remain in his cage. I say this each time I visit, despite my suspicion that Chester’s biggest fans are not happy with me and are probably rolling their eyes at each other behind my back. Nevertheless, I stand my ground. The thought of a rabbit scurrying around underfoot unnerves me.

Not being totally heartless, in spite of disliking him, I am sad to report that last week I learned that all was not well in Chester’s life. Somehow, his two front teeth, those long and very sharp upper teeth that all rabbits have, broke off. When Chester gets the run of the house he often heads for the basement, and, not being the most agile rabbit Hashem ever created, he has been known to fall down the stairs. This is very likely how the biggest part of those teeth got broken. Chester’s immediate family, which consists of my children and grandchildren, explained to me that the two upper teeth are vitally important because they are the ones that file down the lower teeth and, without them, the lower teeth are growing out of control.

But this sad state of affairs does not end there. Chester has even bigger problems. Not only is he having difficulty eating, but, even worse, he is in pain because those uppers are broken close to the nerve. This caused my son-in-law to think that Chester might possibly need a root canal. The good news is that my son-in-law is a dentist. The bad news is that he is not a veterinarian and would not work on a rabbit; his specialty is caring for humans. He assumed that a veterinarian might know about animal dentistry. (At this point it must be reasonably clear that my son-in-law is a number-one Chester fan. He is one of the two who adore the animal.) So, the hunt was on as he tried to find someone to do a root canal on a rabbit. While I have little knowledge of rabbits or their teeth, common sense told me that, while the procedure would eliminate Chester’s pain, it would probably not help with his ability to eat. So I questioned my daughter about the situation and learned that the Chester devotees in the family would chop or mash his food from this day forward. That is devotion!

But all is well that ends well. My son-in-law thought to bring Chester back to the pet shop where he had bought the rabbit. And what he learned was encouraging in every conceivable way. Apparently, new teeth will descend and replace the broken ones. In the meantime, the man cut down the rabbit’s lower teeth. Rabbits, it seems, have several sets of those upper teeth. Happily, Chester is no longer in pain and a root canal is not necessary. Additionally, chopping and mashing his food will be only a temporary chore for those who volunteered to do so. That’s the way it is.

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and gives private small-group lessons in mah-jongg and canasta. She can be reached at or 516-902-3733.

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