I used to have a lot of animals, here at the rabbitpatch. I had a miniature horse, miniature goats, chickens, doves, that came and went as they pleased and a lot of rabbits. Many of the critters came here, because they needed a home. Children had outgrown them, mostly. Those were happy years. It seemed perfect for my future grandchildren, but this was not so. You can not leave a farm full of animals, at the drop of a hat. Every time I ever did, the goats got out and my neighbors were left to herd them back and fix their escape route. I found good homes for them all and took to running the roads to Elizabeth City to see Lyla every chance I got. I have never been sorry for that.
There was one last litter of rabbits born one fall. They were of course, a miniature breed, which were known for their friendliness. I had often found this to be true and how adorable the bunnies were, too. I gave one to Dana, my niece for Christmas that year. My sister, Delores was all for it and had prepared for Danas’ first pet, for save a neighborhood cat, and goldfish, Dana had never had her own pet.
I found the perfect little Christmas gift box- and at the last minute, placed the bunny inside. When Dana opened the box, she was thrilled and so surprised. It was a sweet moment and I remember it well.
Ever since, there have been stories about that rabbit! They named her Oreo, and Oreo lived in the fanciest rabbit house, that you can imagine. She ate the best food and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. She had toys too-still she was a bossy rabbit and snatched carrots rudely. If her pin was laden with apples or strawberries, she would toss the fruit hither and yonder and you best not disturb her housekeeping, for she would likely, nip the hand that fed her, shamelessly.
Over the years, Oreo got upgraded houses and an outside “play pen” . No matter, how spoiled this rabbit was, she remained mostly ill mannered. No matter what, she was loved anyway. We heard stories about this rabbit at every gathering. We saw photos and Dana, being quite an artist, filled her sketchbook with drawings of this adorable little tyrant. Wild rabbits took to visiting, probably out of curiosity and to snack on her scraps. At this last gathering, that I missed, Jenny said Oreo had acted a bit sick and so had an appointment on Monday with a veterinarian.
Before school was out, I got a long sad message . . .that Oreo had died at the appointment.
Tears stung my eyes. I had not expected Oreo to die . . and I certainly did not expect to cry. That picture of Dana opening the small Christmas box, was flashing before me. Dana was a little girl then and suddenly, it seemed a long time ago. Oreo was also the last rabbit I knew of, born at the rabbitpatch.
I knew that Delores and Dana were so hurt-and so once, I was out of sight, I cried, outright. I knew, should anyone see me in such distress, they would think, I was a daft old woman, crying over a rabbit, . . . that wasn’t even mine. I would call Delores tomorrow, I thought, when I was composed. And then, I thought about sparrows.
No one would chide anyone, for mourning a dog-or a cat, I thought on the drive home. Oreo was just a rabbit, and she sure never made it her business to please anybody. . . but she was beloved just the same. She was never meant to guard or protect the house nor to rescue folks from calamity. Did this make her less? What about sparrows, those common little birds-is it foolish to mourn them when they have fallen? Since they are a dime a dozen and unnamed, does that make them less worthy of sorrow? I decided I could cry about Oreo without a bit of shame. . .and I might just cry about a sparrow too.
This morning, I called Delores. She was still upset . . .so was Dana. Dana would not even look out the window, into the back yard, where she spent time with her rabbit, Delores said. She went on to say that the veterinarian, knew at once that Oreo was very sick. Apparently, rabbits are masters at disguising symptoms, for they are so vulnerable to predators. . .a sad but amazing fact. An examination revealed a growth in the rabbits’ abdomen, but Oreo died within minutes, before a proper discussion about it. Delores was told, that she probably had a heart attack, due to extreme fear. Now this distressed Delores more to think that Oreo died scared. We both cried again, and in that moment, I loved my sister even more for her tenderness.
Plans are being made, to plant a little memorial plot where Oreo met her wild friends. Flowers will grow there and things like apples will be there for the taking. It will not surprise me a bit if there is not some sort of marker there bearing the name “Oreo”, a beloved, bossy rabbit, whose life mattered.”