Ode to a dead rabbit
I used to be a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Sometimes I’d repair broken bats and squirrels and turtles. But mostly I’d feed orphaned babies—Eastern cottontails, usually.
I have no idea how many animals I saved. But I know for a fact that I killed one last night, and I’m heartbroken.
I had dinner with my dear friend Pam last night. Her home is always welcoming—especially on a stormy evening. I would have stayed later, if not for the encroaching darkness. (I don’t see well after dark, especially when it’s raining.)
On Glenwood Avenue I saw the speed-limit sign: 35 miles per hour—my speed exactly. As if by instinct, I let up on the gas to slow down just a hair. The visibility was awful.
At almost the same moment, a shape in the periphery of my headlights became a white dash, and then I heard a soft “whump, whump, whump” under my car. “Oh, my God! I just hit something!” I thought.
I’ve always promised myself that if ever I hit an animal, I would not leave it to suffer. So I turned my car around and returned to the spot where I’d heard the “whump.”
In the headlights of the oncoming cars, I could see an Eastern cottontail lying motionless in the rain. It was a matted mess of gray fur and flayed flesh. There was no doubt it was dead; a deep sadness overtook me.
Steve comforted me when I got home. “It was likely dead within seconds, so it probably didn’t suffer,” he said. “Besides … there isn’t much natural predation anymore. Something’s got to keep the population in check.”
He had a point. We’re being overrun by rabbits. One day last summer I counted 7 of them in our neighbor’s yard.
Still, it was of small comfort knowing that my Volkswagen and I were helping nature maintain her balance. I hated the idea of having killed something needlessly.
And this morning, I even more hate the idea of having driven away. I thought of Barry Lopez’ agonizingly beautiful book, Apologia, and wished I’d pulled the tiny carcass off the road.
A few miles east of home in the Cascades I slow down and pull over for two raccoons, sprawled still as stones in the road. I carry them to the side and lay them in the sun-shot, windblown grass in the barrow pit. … Who are these animals, their lights gone out? What journeys have fallen apart here? … Once a man asked, Why do you bother? You never know, I said. The ones you give some semblance of burial, to whom you offer an apology, may have been like seers in a parallel universe. It is an act of respect, a technique of awareness.
Then I remembered an article my friend Tom (aka., “The Blogfodder”) sent me last year about roadkill. Among those profiled was Arthur Boyt, of West Cornwall, who hasn’t paid for meat since about 1976. I found myself wondering whether I should have made the best of the misfortune by eating the rabbit.
Alas, it’s too late for the rabbit—and it’s too late for regrets. Life goes on … with one less rabbit. I’m so sorry, little guy.
Read more …
Filed under: Ethics, Friends and family, Minnesota, Psychology, Writing | 13 Comments
Tags: accident, Apologia, Barry Lopez, bunnypalooza, postaday2011, rabbit, roadkill