Requiem for a rabbit

By Brian Knox | Published Wednesday, March 20, 2019

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“You need to come home for a bunny funeral,” my wife said in a solemn tone over the phone Monday afternoon.

I was working a little late, covering a wreck here in town, but I understood exactly what she meant.

Over the weekend, our family did a little yard work – mowing, edging, trimming bushes, the works. While cutting the grass, we noticed a baby cottontail rabbit scurry away from the approaching mower. My daughter gently picked up the small creature to try to safely move him, but he bounded away quickly on his own to the corner of our yard.

A little while later, we saw him hop into our neighbor’s yard.

I was skeptical of our new friend’s chances for survival. We have a cat who really likes to hunt small prey. Over the past four years, Colby Jack has brought us mice, rats, squirrels, snakes, birds and lizards, just to name a few. Most of the time the animals are dead, and he leaves them at our front door. Other times, he brings them into the house, sometimes while still alive.

But he had never brought a baby rabbit into the house.

Until Monday.

Just an hour earlier, as I was picking my 7-year-old son up from school, he was excitedly telling me about a plan he had been working on all day. It involved placing a trail of carrots around the backyard to capture any rabbits that might be calling our backyard home. He had already told his friends that once he captured the rabbits, he would give them to his friends.

“You didn’t promise them rabbits, did you?” I asked.

No, he said. He told them he’d try.

“When you are outside with Colby Jack, you need to watch him carefully. Because he’ll go after that rabbit right away,” I warned.

My wife would later recount the events that happened over the next hour. The kids did indeed take Colby Jack into the backyard, and they watched him, too.

But they apparently didn’t realize that Colby Jack was sticking his head into a small hole in the yard until he emerged with the baby rabbit clutched in his jaws. He then proceeded to bring the rabbit inside the house.

While we didn’t perform an autopsy, the baby rabbit that my kids apparently dubbed “Peter Cottontail” at some point during the proceedings did not appear to have any exterior wounds. My wife hypothesized that the tiny rabbit actually died of fright before finding himself in our cat’s mouth.

Since I was covering non-rabbit-related news, I missed the “bunny funeral,” but apparently it was a very respectful affair. My wife wrapped the tiny rabbit in a piece of fabric, fashioned a small box, dug a hole in the corner of our flower bed and laid him to rest.

A large stone was then placed over the grave, and then a smaller, smooth stone with “Peter Cottontail” written on it was placed on top of the larger stone. They guessed the rabbit’s age (maybe a week old?), and so the stone also read “3-11-19 – 3-18-19.”

Some yellow synthetic daffodils were then planted around the stone.

A prayer was prayed. A song was sung.

Just a few feet away, Colby Jack watched the service from behind our sliding glass door. He was not allowed to attend.

The kids were initially mad at our cat, but it gave us an opportunity to explain that he was simply doing what cats do. They are predators, and sometimes their prey are small, fluffy rabbits that we probably prematurely promise to give our friends as presents.

We live and learn.

After the tears were wiped away, we returned to our regular weeknight routine of dinner, homework, baths and tucking into bed.

Peter Cottontail, we didn’t know you very long, but we hope you enjoyed every minute of your short life in our backyard and are now hopping down a bunny trail free of lawnmowers, excited children and tabby cats where you can enjoy eternal peace.

Brian Knox is the Messenger’s special projects manager.

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