The other day I took Aussie and Henry for our daily walk in a nearby park. It was a hot morning, mosquitoes and gnats feasting on the three of us, and as we walked back we saw a man in the distance with two small dogs. Though he took a path that ran parallel to ours but was further up, I attached the leashes around Aussie and Henry, who’d begun to bark. Henry barks from sheer excitement, Aussie stays quiet and watchful.
“My dogs are friendly,” I shouted out to the man, as I do whenever I see dogs in the neighborhood. We could see each other clearly, Henry barking away.
“That’s all right, I don’t got no problem with dogs,” the man shouted back. “Now people, that’s another thing.”
“Maybe we should leash the people rather than the dogs,” I shouted back good-naturedly.
“Good idea,” he shouted back, “especially y’all Democrats!”
He added a few other adjectives and some mumblings, and then was out of earshot.
“Wow,” I said aloud as I released both dogs. “Wow.”
You think you’re having a friendly chat, brought together by canines. But he’s having a whole other conversation, not with you but with some new genus called Democrats, a new breed of mammals in the family Americanus of which you didn’t know you were a member. I’m a registered Democrat, true enough, but to him I was a whole other specie which he’d like to see put on the Endangered list.
I like to laugh at silly things, but I didn’t laugh much driving home.
When I returned home Lori had a sweet, grave expression on her face. “I let Brutus go,” she told me.
“Brutus the Bunny?”
I checked the room that used to be her office in which she’d housed Brutus in Henry’s small crate. I could still smell the grass and hay she’d stacked on the floor once he got less interested in formula and more interested in greens. The smell was all that was left, she’d cleaned up quick, and the room is back to being her office again.
“I was waiting for some good dry weather to release him, and the weather forecast for the next several days is warm and sunny, no sign of rain till Thursday, so I let him go.”
“Out front, away from the dogs. He went under a bush and sat there, munching on grass.”
She looked sad. “Do you feel empty nest syndrome, like he went away to college?“ I teased her. “Lori, you saved that bunny’s life. He was cold and wet and still when you picked him up in your hand.”
“He was in shock from the cold and rain,” she said. “And don’t thank me, thank Aussie who brought him into the house gently in her mouth and put him down on the rug.”
“Fuckin’ ambulance service is what I am,” Aussie mutters. “Have mouth will travel.”
“I’m proud of you, Auss.”
“And did you give me something for all that work? Like a bone maybe? Or, even better, roast lapin?”
Yesterday Lori came back from the outside, eyes sparkling. “We just saw Brutus. Aussie tracked him down. I could see her sniffing in the bushes behind the laundry lines, so I looked closely and there he was, sitting in the underbrush, watching her carefully. As soon as he saw me he ran, crossed over my feet, and rushed out the fence.”
Lori doesn’t romanticize or anthropomorphize animals. Brutus (my name for that teeny creature that was almost dead covering barely half the palm of her hand) is a bunny, still small but growing. She wasn’t keeping him as a pet, she was clear he would return to the wild. But she loved the idea that maybe, just maybe he’d stick around the house, away from the dogs, and she’d glimpse him every once in a while. Check in on him, see how he’s doing.
She’d planned for warm weather, but by 5 pm yesterday the sky darkened, then turned black, the trees blew wildly and rain gushed down everywhere, even leaking into the basement.
This morning we looked around for him; so far, no Brutus.
You bring something from death to life, and let it go. There are no guarantees. What you have is gratitude for a nurturing friendship of several weeks, when you saw him graduate from formula to hay, grass and greens. What you have is moments of connecting with another specie, when you sit on the floor in your office as she did, door closed against the dogs, and Brutus comes out from under the desk and nibbles at the plate of greens you’ve brought in, and at times curls up on the palm of your hand. You both look at each other, he up at you, you down at him, contemplating otherness with curiosity and kindness.
You can also send a check to: Eve Marko, POB 174, Montague, MA 01351. Please write on the memo line whether this is in support or immigrant families or of my blog. Thank you.