I was drawing at the dining room table and Quinn was in the backyard playing in his sandbox. He pushed the backdoor open and said, “Um, Mommy? Greta is biting a bird.”
I went out to see the destruction Greta-the-dog created and thought about how ironic it was that Quinn and I had just been watching a show about predators (cheetahs vs gazelles). I could see from the deck that if G had caught a bird, it was a big one, but when I got closer I could see that it was this very sweet, dear baby bunny, old enough to leave the nest, but not old enough to escape the jaws of a German Shorthaired Pointer.
He was breathing and I could not see an injury. I knew that he probably wouldn’t make it and I knew that he was scared and struggling and that the humane thing to do would probably just be to put him out of his misery. I went to the garage to get a shovel and on my way I grabbed a giant patio rock. I stood above the dying bunny and he stared back at giant me. His eyes were gentle and teary and Quinn asked what we should do. Birds were chirping loudly above me, circling, as if they were scolding me for losing control of my dog.
The eyes were exactly the same. Maybe that rabbit’s brain was the size of a pebble, but his soul was bigger than the Pacific. I just could not bonk him. I could not take that rock and smash his skull or chop it off with the shovel. It just was not the same thing as squashing a spider that lurks in the basement.
I put the weapons of mass destruction down and went up to my closet, Quinn at my heels, full of a million questions (“Why did Greta DO THAT? What will happen NOW? Where is that bunny’s momma?”) and grabbed a heavy box with a lid, a good one that I had been saving to wrap a future gift. I jabbed holes in the top with a pencil and lined it with paper towels. The bunny continued to breathe, to suffer, to shake.
I used the shovel to lift the baby into the box and I kept apologizing to him and wishing that Greta had just finished him off. I noticed blood on the paper towel, evidence that he was not just in shock, but definitely hurt. Quinn commented that it was nice, how gently I set him down and he told me, “Good job, Momma. That was so nice of you.”
We drove, not in silence, but to the sound of Quinn’s non-stop line of questioning, five minutes to the humane society, which must have been having some sort of pitbull party because the parking lot was littered with them. Quinn and I wove our way through the terriers, though the glass doors to the wildlife rescue section and Quinn told the woman behind the counter the entire story. He was breathless when he finished with a loud, “AND THAT IS THE STORY OF THE BUNNY.” The worker thanked us for bringing him in and asked us if we wanted the box back (Really? Whose Christmas gift goes in there now?).
I imagine some nice doctor with a silky voice, scooping the bunny up and giving it an iv full of sweet poison and that it was all painless. Quinn just said, “Those doctors are going to take care of him and I think he will be just fine. Just fine,” he kept repeating. In reality, they probably just chucked him in the trash or something … I am glad I don’t know. It’s kind of like pretending beef at the supermarket just “comes like that.”
When we got home, Quinn looked at me and then looked away. He sighed and said, “I can’t even THINK OF PLAYING NOW. I can only think about the bunny Greta bited.” I know bud, I know.
When Quinn stayed behind in the hospital, all 104 days of it, he looked at me with those bunny eyes, and he was all I could think about … that fragile beauty when life walks the line between survival and death. It’s haunting, magical, and infinitely beautiful. Maybe that bunny showed up to remind me that we are always, always choosing, and maybe it always does boil down to choosing between a rock, a shovel, or a box.