I had been looking forward to going to Dourakis all week. Dourakis has become my favorite local winery, with their beautiful property, kind owners, and variety of exceptional wines. On a recent highly anticipated trip, I was planning on stocking up on Rosé for the warm summer evenings, especially since my family would soon be arriving for a visit.
The morning started out with a trip to the outdoor market. This was to be a quick stop prior to the main event of visiting the winery. However, something caught my eye that changed the course of my day…
Normally I am cautious of muddling with nature, compromising the food chain, or trying to domesticate animals that have no business being domesticated. My mom definitely pushed my limits with this type of shenanigans while I was growing up, so my brothers and I tend to favor the other extreme. Am I personally going to mount Bambie’s antlers on my wall, or make a Yogi Bear skinned rug?? – um, NO!! On the other hand, I won’t interfere with someone else’s right to do so. Nor will I be that crazy person who refuses to poison rats or squash a spider. Nature has a rhythm and a pattern- and I say, let it be. Well, at least most of the time. There are the exceptions to every rule, right? This day, my quick stroll through the market turned into a fine example of when an exception must be made.
I had reviewed my shopping list, I needed fruit, vegetables, cheese, olives, honey, and a plant for my balcony… something that flowers, and will also withstand severe neglect. I pause to contemplate why I am so abusive to plants? But no reasonable answer comes to mind. I make my way through the crowded street and check things off my list one by one. Then, there it is… the one area that troubles me each time I visit… the meat section. The meat section here is not like the meat sections in Costco or other U.S. stores. The meat section here contains “live” animals as well as freshly slain goats, sheep, rabbits, chickens, fish and various other species that were most likely alive while you were making coffee that morning. I’m no vegetarian… I thoroughly enjoy my meat! But c’mon, I don’t want to have physical contact with my dinner moments before its death. I’m sure the argument could be made that this is a far healthier way to process meat than the god-awful slaughter houses in the U.S., but I still can’t bear the sight. I can’t even handle witnessing a lion taking down a wildebeest on Animal Planet.
On this particular morning, it is the cages containing rabbits that alarm me. Some small, some large, but all so innocently lying in their cages, working on their tans and no doubt trying to soak in extra “luck” into their feet. I am moved with compassion. Something in me says not to interfere with the local customs, but I can’t help myself. The thought of little Thumper being marinated in wine and served as a bunny stew entrée tears me up inside. I decide I want to, no- I need to, buy these cute little furballs and take them home with me. My cranky neighbor has a beautiful garden I know these bunnies would love to destroy (evil smirk crosses my face). I find myself fumbling through my purse; oh crap, I don’t have many euros left. In fact, all I can find is the exact amount of money I set aside for buying wine (my all important next stop). What a predicament! There is no way I can buy all the rabbits here, I feel so helpless.
I turn to leave, but only briefly. A new thought hits me. I suddenly realize, I can’t buy them all… but I can buy one. It would mean forgoing the wine stop, but I am intrigued by this possibility. Yes, I have been so looking forward to purchasing a case of Dourakis Rosé for the entire past week, but deep down I know my conscious won’t let me off that easily. I picture my Riley boy, caged, being sold as a Tallensi delicacy in a Ghana market, and I know what I must do…
And who knows, maybe this is my Angelina Jolie moment?? But instead of collecting children, I will rescue future-meals from around the world and set them free?? Hmmm, I better work on getting lip injections and a boob job before the story breaks and the paparazzi comes looking for me… As these thoughts gain steam and begin to take hold, I find myself uneasy with this comparison… I am still pretty mad about her slutty behavior with Brad while he was still married to Jen (gosh, I miss Friends). I shake my head, back to saving my bunny.
I tell the man that I want to buy a rabbit; I pick the most active one because I feel he will have the best chance of surviving in the wild (think Hunger Games). The man looks at me puzzled and then asks in broken English if I want to take my picture with the bunny. Because clearly why else would this crazy American be gushing over this entrée? His buddy is already looking at me like I’m peculiar because of my enthusiastic obsession with prickly pear fruit. But who cares what these bunny killers think. I explain that I don’t want a picture, just the bunny. I give him my euros, he shakes his head, grabs the bunny, oddly shows me the rabbit's “maleness”, puts him in a box and hands the box over. And just like that, a life is spared.
I decide my bunny shall be named Vino, after all, I purchased him with my wine… well, my wine money anyway.
Vino was tossed into a box tied closed with twine and handed to be like he was a parcel to be mailed. Thinking this treatment seemed too callous, I forced the box-top open a bit, and let in some natural light. Vino stayed pretty still on the way home, scratching around here and there. Once home, I removed the box lid and put a carrot, lettuce (fresh from the market) and some water in his box. Then I left him alone on the balcony for a few minutes in hopes his heart rate would calm. Riley is completely curious about this strange visitor, and terrifies Vino with his gigantic head. Riley should be the least of Vino’s worries, but I try not to dwell on this… Vino has a big adventure in front of him, rife with danger, and he will have a lot to adjust to. But I know this must be done and comfort myself with the thought that his odds of survival are much higher than they were only a few hours ago. I take Vino to a lush area with a river, at the entrance to an olive grove, and triumphantly set him free.
Vino doesn’t scurry off… he just sits there, twitching his nose in the air. After several heart-felt moments I decided I should probably leave and let the little guy adapt to his natural surroundings. As I walk away I look over my shoulder wondering if he is going to follow me like a puppy and want to come home with me. He doesn’t. I see the hawks flying above and mentally tell Vino to get into the nearby sticker bushes to protect himself. I fear he may end up being an entrée for someone after all… Ugh. All the emotional anguish has me looking forward to nice crisp glass of Rosé.
Too bad my wine… is hopping away from me.