Thursday, October 13, 2011
I’m sad today. Not so much because I just lost my sunglasses, or because I lost the nerve to try something new and exciting…no, I’m sad because my rabbit died yesterday. Riley was about one year and three months old.
I wouldn’t ordinarily get so emotional about a little white rabbit with small brown spots. But, as I get older, I value the magic of life more than I used to. I take serious responsibility for animals that are in my care. When I am the lifeline between survival and death, a special bond forms – at least that’s how it feels in my own personal experience.
Riley was a casualty of extreme heat, in the unlikely month October. His cage, in a mostly shaded area, must have caught the strong rays of the sun as it passed slowly overhead in the 100 degree outside temperature.
Riley was a little puff of a bunny when we got him. My youngest daughter relentlessly begged us for a bunny. She swore that she would love it and take care of it. Our well honed parental instincts told us that the feeding/cleaning responsibilities would soon fall on us, but we finally gave in and said “yes.” We bought him at an outdoor flea market in Corona on July 4th 2010. He was so tiny, that the vendor gave us a little bird cage for transport.
The ‘honeymoon’ phase with new bunnies is a little shorter than that of a puppy. After the Riley scratched my daughter, she never wanted to hold it again. She still claimed ownership, but became more of a silent partner when it came to feeding, cleaning and entertainment.
I bought a larger cage, and built a wood stand to keep it elevated. I would get little rabbit treats at the pet store, and experiment with different types of bedding material. I even changed rabbit food a few times and found that he had a favorite blend.
As he grew, I began to let him out of the cage more often. In the early days, he nearly escaped once. We had to plug up the corner of our fence to keep him from leaving the safety of our yard. It was very important to me that he had ample time to be free in the back yard. I’m a strong proponent of free range animals, and believe that living animals (especially pets) have the right to experience freedom. This was no different for Riley. I would let him out on weekends and after work. At the end of the day, he would come back to his cage, after I called him over.
Riley didn’t particularly like to be held. In fact, after some failed attempts, I stopped trying. I could pet him in his cage though, where he seemed to go into a happy relaxing trance. He would nuzzle my hand when I put in fresh food or water, and stand up by his door when he knew I would be letting him out. On some truly happy days in our backyard, he would run circles around my feet as I stood, watched and laughed.
I know from previous experience that rabbits are sensitive to extreme heat. Still, as the owner, I have to take responsibility for this tragic accident. I will miss his company and his hopping around in the backyard. During his short life I was constantly reminded of life’s fragility and freedoms, between which there is a very fine line.