Sometime in the spring I looked out of my kitchen window and saw a rabbit. Rabbits are an unusual sight in my area. I just don’t see them that often and having one grazing in the middle of my lawn in the middle of the morning, is just plain odd. I stealthily moved from my window view to the front door, opened it quietly and slowly snuck out into the herb garden. From there I could see it was a small rabbit, greyish, with tiny ears. It took a look at me and went back to eating. I moved closer. It stayed where it was and continued with its breakfast. This rabbit was used to human company.
After an entertaining hour where my son and I tried to capture the rabbit (I do have a garden and rabbits are voracious vegetarians) where we tried to corner it in the woodshed, capture it with a rake, and toss a tarp over the elusive thing, I gave up and decided that I could use the company in the garden more than the occasional leaf of kale that he ate.
One day during the summer, my sister and I caught him. We snuck up on him while he hid under the tomato plants. She distracted him from one side of the bed and I grabbed him from the other. As I held him, I felt his heart pounding wildly while he snuggled into my chest. It felt like he wanted to be close to me while trying to overcome his fear. His fur was rough and hard as though he had had it spiked with gel. Along his backbone the stiff hair was beginning to fall out, leaving soft black fur that was pleasant to stroke. I held him for a short time and let him go near the broccoli where he nibbled on the leaves.
I was worried that he would destroy my garden. I expressed my fear to my son who replied that it was time to either “shoot him, or name him”. We started to call him “RB” for Runaway Bunny.
All summer as I weeded and harvested, RB kept me company. He stayed at a cordial distance, always close enough so that we could share each other’s presence and far enough to be sure never to be caught again. I talked to him in the morning as I visited my plants and I looked for him in the evening when it was his habit to nap under the peach tree.
My son left for college and I continued to check in with RB every day.
Last week there was a chill in the air as I sat in the yard enjoying an apple with my sister and a friend. The leaves were in full autumn color and it was a glorious sunny day. Jack, my black and white yearling cat was crouched, tail twitching. He was obviously on the hunt. He darted across the yard and from a cloud of dust and leaves, emerged with RB in his teeth. Jack had him by the throat and was carrying him like a lioness carries an impala, furry bunny body between Jack’s front legs. I tried to catch Jack, to rescue RB, but he was determined that RB was to be his prize of the day.
Jack finally let go and RB ran under a tarp in the yard where I was allowed to pick him up. His fur was thick and black, the spikiness had been shed over the summer. He lay limp and resigned in my arms.
I put RB in a small cage, fed him some of my kale and started to look for a home for him. RB died the next day. I don’t know if it was a physical injury that I couldn’t see, if his heart gave out from the trauma of the attack, or if he just lost all hope in the tiny cage after a summer of freedom in my garden.
I wrote to my son to let him know that RB had died and that I was feeling sadder than I had imagined I would. He wrote back “That’s too bad about bunny but he was kind of a miracle anyways. Just think of it as a good story”.
Yes, he was kind of a miracle. My first summer as a single parent, my son involved in his own life, planning for college, and this little furry being appeared out of nowhere to keep me company. He kept his distance, allowing me to feel the quiet of my new life but he was always there to remind me that I wasn’t alone. He visited with me in the garden because it was what he wanted. He chose my yard, my garden, my company. He was a reminder to me that a life lived in freedom is a life worth living even if it is dangerous and perhaps short. I’m glad I let him go that day earlier in the summer. I’m glad that he got to live like a wild bunny for the months that we shared.
I am sad that he is gone and I will miss him. He and I shared a slice of our lives this summer. And of course, he gave me this story.