The rain was coming down with no end.
“Maybe we should start growing rice,” a fellow Zen teacher said this morning.
“Or else learn how to blow those storm clouds out West,” someone else said, thinking no doubt of the droughts, record-breaking temperatures, and fires.
By late morning the rain diminished enough for the dogs to go out. I came back from the kitchen and saw something dark on Aussie’s rug, bent down, squinted (it was dark inside the house), and something fluttered.
“Aussie, what did you do? You brought in a chipmunk!”
She slapped her tail happily against the rug.
I got a paper towel and picked it up. It’s almost dead, I thought. I took it outside and put it among the wet shrubs in back. “Don’t go out to get it,” I told Aussie. “Let it die in peace.”
An hour later I mentioned it to Lori, my housemate and a far wiser woman than me. “Let me see it,” she said.
We walked out back. It was still there and it was still alive, though it barely moved. And it was no chipmunk. “It’s a baby bunny,” she said. “I think it’s in shock. We need to get it warm and dry.”
With that, she picked it up, covering it up with her hands in the rain, and tried to find its burrow. But it was almost impossible, she explained, because mother rabbits dig their burrow inside the soil and cover it up with moss and grass. “Or else the den may have gotten flooded by all the water that’s come down.”
We went back in. “I need a box, a towel, and a heating pad,” the good doctor said.
We put out a small cardboard box on the kitchen table and covered it with a towel, and Dr. Lori put the tiny bunny inside. We then both scurried around looking for a heating pad. She set everything up in her office by her desk, keeping Henry far away.
When I went out with the dogs she gave me precise instructions about getting non-cow milk, dry baby cereal, and an eye dropper. We came back drenched through the skin.
“It’s really perked up while you were gone,” Lori announced, opening up the towel. The almost dead chipmunk was now clearly a baby bunny, squatting warily on its back legs, eyes open. “I looked it over thoroughly and Aussie didn’t put a scratch on it. She probably found it and brought it in gently in her mouth.”
“You mean, I didn’t kill it?” says Aussie.
“Afraid not,” says Lori. “If Henry’d gotten it, the bunny would be a mess by now, but you, Aussie, are a real softie.”
“Am not!” says Aussie, raising her tail high, deeply insulted, and rushes through the dog door to kill as many living beings as she can. But it’s raining again and she comes back quickly.
“You know how many birds I’ve killed?” she demands.
“One bird this season, Auss. Last year there were two or three.”
“You know how many mice I’ve killed?”
“And chipmunks! Don’t forget the chipmunks.”
“So far, Aussie, I’ve seen zero dead chipmunks.”
“What about squirrels?”
“One dead squirrel. ”
“Don’t tell anybody,” she begs. “When we go out with Leeann and ten other dogs, I’m the one who rushes out after prey, big and small, and they follow. If they knew that after all those runs I scored just one dead bird, a few mice, and one squirrel, I’d never be able to hold up my head. And now I really messed up. I could have killed a baby bunny, a new specie in my collection. Instead, Lori is busy bringing it back to life. I’ll never forgive myself.”
“Aussie, why do you like killing so much?”
“It’s my nature. I’m a world-class hunter.”
“But what I’ve seen is that you like to chase and run; I’m not sure about the killing part. You don’t shake them to death when you catch them, they die because you grabbed them too hard. The bunny doesn’t show a scratch.”
“I am not a softie, I’m a killer!”
“What’s wrong with being a softie, Aussie?”
“Soft is for wimps. Killing’s for heroes.”
“Aussie, you could have killed that baby bunny with one bite. Instead, you carried it gently in your mouth across the yard, through the dog door and kitchen, to your rug and left it there for me to find. There are four Buddha images alongside the walls surrounding your rug, maybe they had something to do with it.”
“Don’t make me throw up.”
“Could it be that they’re having an effect on you, Aussie? Making you sweeter, for instance, more compassionate?”
“You used to be a lot tougher, Aussie. You were once a real killer.”
“Get those Buddhas out of my room. Quick!”
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