‘You need to be careful of calicivirus,’ said Steph, who loves all animals, hates animal ownership and tends to be more alarmist than anyone I knew. You see, I bought a rabbit. A wee baby dwarf bunny, the colour of charcoal. She’s the sweetest thing you ever saw.
‘Seriously? Steph, I’ve lived here my whole life and never heard of calicivirus hitting Bayside. Animal Hospital sites all over Australia will have information on it, so if I have to worry about it, I’ll know where to look first.’
‘Look, I’m not trying to scare you,’ he widens his eyes, “You really do need to know who to call if things go wrong! You can’t be a dopey companion to your animal. Listen. Write this down: Emergency vet care, in the Bayside area. You got a pen?’
I write down the number as Steph reads it out twice to me.
‘Look at her little bell collar!’ I jingle the bright red leather strip in front of the computer screen.
Steph pauses, and frowns.
‘That’s too small! She’ll feel claustrophobic! And why do you have to call her Pepper? What’s wrong with real actual name?’
‘Like what? Diana? Or Beverley?’
‘Beverley is a great name for a rabbit. As a child my parents had a large greyhound named rocket. Pet names are a very personal thing, don’t worry about what other are going to think. I’m not saying anything except…just try and think of something respectful please?’
‘Steph, some human kids are called Apple. That’s a thing that some parents have done. That kid has to live that name down for the the rest of their life! No one is called Beverley any more, not even animals. Stop trying to give my rabbit an ironic label, it’s upsetting.’
The phone call between us finishes on a friendly loving note, with Steph saying he can’t wait to meet Beverley in person and hanging up before I can correct him.