Monday, May 9, 2011
monday 9 may 2011
This particular Peter was one I got for my daughter when she was three. He came from a farm near a friend of ours, and there were lots of young bunnies, so we wandered among the cages until kid decided which one. The bunny was still pretty small, so child got to think of it as a baby, which, of course, children like. He was short-haired, colored in grey patches and white patches.
Myself was 29 at the time, and had previously had three different rabbits, but had had them when I was quite young. I didn't KNOW much about rabbits. We went to a farmy sort of store that my dad knew about to buy a cage for the rabbit, who was going to live in the screened-in patio attached to our breezeway. The man who owned the store told us we had to watch the teeth, that rabbits' teeth keep growing and if they get too long they need to be cut. I'd never heard of this looming menace before. My first two rabbits had been killed in their hutch by weasels, both at once. And my third rabbit had lived to be seven, in a hutch beside the garage. Now I had something new to get anxiety over.
Little Peter was often brought into my daughter's room to hop around and interact with us, and for a while things went fine. Even the farm store guy had thought there would be no real trouble, since Peter had a wooden cage that he could chew on any time his teeth needed it.
His appetite dropped, his spirit dropped, and then I remembered the tooth thing. Dad and I looked at the teeth, and they did seem long, so he cut them. But Peter died anyway, on mother's day 1983, when he was less than a year old. Daughter didn't seem much bothered by the death, but I, naturally, was brought very low. When we went back to the farm store, the man said the teeth were probably cut too late, and that in the meantime Peter, in his compromised state, had contracted some rabbit bacterium or something. Even then, in 1983, you did not take rabbits to the vet in the area where I lived. There were no vets who treated them. Vets who treated guinea pigs were still fairly new. When you had a bird or a rabbit who was ailing, the places you went to for advice were farmers and breeders. And considering the experience I've had with vets vis a vis rabbits SINCE then, the farmers and breeders didn't do badly at all.
Twenty-eight years it's been, and I can still see Peter lying on a red and pink towel at the base of the willow, just shortly before he died. I wanted him to die outside, breathing the outside air and hearing the breeze and the birds around him. I was there too, sitting on the ground beside him, petting him and talking to him until there was no more Peter. And I still, twenty-eight years later, get the lump in the throat and the little sting in the chest because I didn't remember the tooth thing sooner. That whip comes out, the whip of remorse that I blew it. I'm not complaining. I believe that people should feel remorse. This is, like many of my other convictions, absolutely passe and despised in the hollow human ambience we dwell in in 2011.
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