by Kate Dugger
Gug didn’t know any tricks. He didn’t sit or stay. He didn’t speak or roll over. Gug was a cinnamon-colored rabbit I found hopping through my backyard one night. At first, I thought he was a discarded brown paper bag. I caught him and took him in the house.
As rabbits go, he was smallish and appeared unremarkable. He was never conventionally cute. He had no lop ears, and he was never cuddly enough to fit being a “bunny.” For a stray rabbit, he had a dignified air about him. Some might have even said old Gug was aloof, even the way he hopped was reserved.
That was my fault. If I had treated him like a fat, friendly rabbit, he might have acted like one. From the night I caught him to the day he passed, we had an arrangement like two
people sharing a living space. The idea of petting or hugging Gug was as strange to me as trying to embrace or scratch my roommate behind the ears in my first apartment. It would have been odd, and a bit unnerving. Gug was so unlike a pet that he didn’t even have a cage. He hopped around my room all day. He used a litter pan and never made a mess.
For the first few months, my Lagomorpha roommate and I had a lukewarm relationship. It was cordial, but he couldn’t be bothered with sitting in my lap or doing other pet-like things. Our time together was spent with the radio on, me staring at him and him twitching his nose and hopping around my bedroom with no particular mission.
Like a typical teenager, I would snack in my room. A personal favorite was Cool Ranch Doritos®. One evening I was munching away on those crunchy gems and reading, while Gug hopped along the periphery. He seemed happy to ignore me. My mother called me. I wouldn’t be gone long so I left the bag of chips next to my book on the floor. A few minutes later I came back. The bag of chips was forgotten – until it moved!
Crunch, crunch, crunch.
I could see Gug’s furry bum sticking out of the bag. The idea of this rabbit eating Doritos was hilarious and absurd to me. Doritos seemed so undignified, with the filmy residue they leave on your fingers, and the way everyone can smell that you have been eating them. It was too much; I barked out a laugh. Startled, Gug hopped away – still in the chip bag. I laughed even louder, tears in my eyes. Doritos scattered everywhere. I grabbed Gug and brushed the smelly crumbs off of his fur. I handed him one last chip for the night.
After that incident, it was as if the terms of our arrangement had been rewritten. I snacked, and Gug helped. I would read a book, with snacks never far out of reach. Always, right there was Gug, waiting with quiet dignity for his share of the junk food. If I dug in the chip bag, I would grab two, one for me and one for him. If I grabbed a handful of popcorn, I placed a little pile in front of him. I would eat one half of a gummy worm, and he got the other half. He even stole a chicken nugget from me a time or two.
We bonded, Gug and I, over a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos. He even let me scratch his ears now and then. He bore it in his stoic manner, nose twitching. These days, I don’t eat those delightful little corn chips. It just doesn’t seem right without him.