A couple years back we acquired a lovebird, courtesy of my youngest daughter. Noisy, obnoxious, pushy and bites. And the lovebird is worse. Okay, bad joke. Anyway, every morning she or I would empty his food dish and throw the leftover debris outside for the wild birds to pick over.
One morning I noticed a wild rabbit -- a cottontail -- coming to the door as we tossed stuff, and we began to give her some food on a regular basis. I say her because she was obviously nursing. We named her "Lady." I soon bought some rabbit treat and put it out every morning in which she showed up. Soon a second, smaller, rabbit showed up, too. He was more willing to trust us, but he had to be very careful because if he intruded on her space, she would snap at him and run him off. Daughter named him Juniper for some reason I never really understood.
It got to be a daily routine, kind of like Mutt and Jeff, those squabbles. Some days I would be sitting in the screened back porch when one would wander by. I'd say something, and the rabbit would stand on his or her hind legs, seeking the voice. A fascinating intersection of domestic and wild.
As summer ended, so did the visits. Mostly. Once in awhile he comes by -- I can tell it's Junie because he comes right up -- Lady would always circle cautiously. He's gotten big. I know that the life of a cottontail is "short, brutish, and nasty" because they are prey food, fair game for almost anything from a cat to a coyote. I like to think our backyard is a sanctuary of sorts, fenced, with some rabbit-sized patches of ground cover,. Some days the two of them showed up and just hung about. One day I saw Lady sprawled out in the summer sun. If you read up on rabbits, you'd see that they only sprawl like that when they feel secure. I took that as an honor. But the fact is that hawks can and have swooped down or settled in one of the trees, watching. I understand that the average lifespan of a cottontail is 18 months. No doubt Lady has already succumbed. I wonder how long Junie will survive.
But I've learned to take that as a fact of life, his tenuous grip on life, and also a reminder that we are all this far from extinction. That's why I found it so rewarding to see him show up today, perched at the rim of the porch light beam. I rattled the food jar and he came running, his fur matted from the cold November rain. Bigger than ever, and so damned uncomplaining. I wish I could face life like that.
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