Preposterously ludicrous indeed, but a useful handle for today's slightly surreal story - and the serious point which emerges from it.
Out walking, I came across this domestic white rabbit at the edge of a field. It was listless and clearly had diseased eyes. In all likelihood, it was suffering from myxomatosis; in all likelihood, it had been shamefully abandoned to die.
What to do? Ring the RSPCA for advice. But there was no phone reception. Walk to the nearest village, then, and ring from there.
So that's what I did. Wait at the stile leading from the nearest lane to where the rabbit was, I was told; but if possible, put a box over the rabbit to contain it. I duly acquired a not-very-substantial cardboard box from the village shop, and made my way back along the chilly lanes of no mobile signal.
It would take time for the RSPCA to arrive - time in which I could contain the rabbit in the box. Or so I thought.
I put the box over the rabbit. The rabbit, still strong, and suddenly alarmed, broke out of its listless stupor and made a bid for freedom. It burst through the box and ran across the field. I set out in pursuit, wondering whether the Cheshire Cat would also appear.
Cheshire Cat: Oh, by the way, if you'd really like to know, he went that way.
Alice: Who did?
Cheshire Cat: The White Rabbit.
Alice: He did?
Cheshire Cat: He did what?
Alice: Went that way.
Cheshire Cat: Who did?
Alice: The White Rabbit.
Cheshire Cat: What rabbit?
Alice: But didn't you just say - I mean - Oh, dear.
Cheshire Cat: Can you stand on your head?
To cut a long story short, I had some unexpected additional exercise. The rabbit remained unboxed despite several efforts on my part. Eventually it took refuge under some brambles. I waited an hour for the RSPCA, until, very cold and running out of daylight, I set out on the hour's walk back to my car.
And on to the serious questions. What are the limits to our care for animals? Was I right to have been concerned? Was I foolish to have got involved? Should I have waited longer for assistance to arrive?
It seems to me that when we domesticate animals in order to use them for our benefit - as pets, for farming, or in a zoo - then we also take responsibility for their welfare. It's morally repugnant to use them for our own ends and then abandon them to die of exposure, disease or as prey when they become ill or otherwise inconvenient (the likely fate of this rabbit). We're right to be compassionate in our dealings with animals both domestic and wild, and there are glimpses of this in both the Old Testament and the New Testament: 'You shall not muzzle the ox when it treads out the grain' (Deuteronomy 25.4); 'Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father's care' (Matthew 10.29). Compassion isn't the same as sentimentality - I don't have qualms about using a mousetrap, for example,although I know others who do - but the recognition that life is a sacred gift to be respected and valued requires of us that we do everything appropriate to avoid or minimise suffering.
And of course, what applies to animals applies even more to our fellow human beings. 2013 saw a string of appalling reports about poor care, neglect and abuse in a small minority of residential homes, and opened up more widely the question of how we pay for the care of older members of our society - especially those who are ill or perceived as in some way inconvenient. But at a deeper level, our attitude towards others is what's critical. My hope and prayer for 2014 is that we can find greater compassion, respect and care for others - and especially for the unwanted and forgotten.
A very happy New Year to you.