Tuesday, December 16, 2008

In memoriam, again

If it seems just a short time ago that I wrote here in memory of our cat, Calvin, that's because it was--less than three weeks ago. And here I am, writing a tribute to another family pet: this time our rabbit, Gandy. More formally known as Gandalf, and more fully as Gandalf the White. I remember when Gandy was a wee bunny, just over five years ago, when I took him to our vet for a first (and until this weekend, only) check up. From the exam room, I could hear the vet tech tell the vet herself what this bunny's name was when he had been carried back to be weighed. 

"Gandalf," the vet tech said. 

"Ohhh, Gandalf the White," the vet had said. And I smiled in approval that our vet (who has kids the age of ours) knew her Tolkien well enough to know the difference.

Gandy's first day at our house was in the midst of an early December blizzard. His last was the day after a mid-December ice storm. When we tucked that small bunny into his outdoor hutch for his first night alone, assured that outdoor living is what most rabbits are built for, we were nervous. He seemed so small and vulnerable. Bekah, not one to mince words, said: "That rabbit will be a block of ice by morning." He was fine.

This time we were not so fortunate. Rabbits are impervious to most pests and diseases, but they are, we now know, highly vulnerable to respiratory infection. We didn't catch the first signs of Gandy's infection until he was a rather limp and listless guy. And the Saturday night trip to the emergency vet wasn't enough to save him. He died some time in the night at our house. I had been pretty sure he wasn't going to make it when Anna and I put him in a specially prepared place for the night. The nearness of Calvin's death and my post-ice storm fatigue washed over me; "I just can't handle another animal death," I sobbed. Anna gave me a quiet hug to comfort me. (David was away; we were on our own.)

But this entry is intended to be a tribute to Gandy, handsome guy that he was, with long, silky, soft as you can imagine white hair. Rabbits are pretty quiet creatures. They don't vocalize much. No regular bark or meow or purr. Some rabbits speak with their percussive back feet, but Gandy wasn't much of a thumper. I've heard that if you cut too far when trimming a rabbit's claws or when cutting a mat of hair, they will scream an unforgettably horrible scream. I never heard Gandy scream.

I often worried that he was lonely or bored, since he spent a lot of time in his outdoor hutch, with occasional sojourns into the house, where he was generally quite well behaved (toilet training-wise). His only vice was an occasional chewed lamp cord, thankfully with no resulting electrocution. Only some ruined old lamps, lined up somewhere in our house waiting for repair. I hope he enjoyed the breezes and the birds, the seasons and the sunlight.

One of my favorite memories of Gandy happened one summer not long after the movie "Because of Winn Dixie" had come out. Bekah had two friends over, and a whopping summer thunderstorm came through. One of us brought Gandy in from his hutch, and he was hopping around the living room, along with dog Digory, cats Calvin and Lily, and maybe Anna's two guinea pigs, Chuckles and Eddie. It was just like the scene in "Winn Dixie" in the pet store (in the movie, the pet store clerk was played by Dave Matthews) with all the animals out of their cages, mixing and mingling and making their own kind of music. 

So, with two animal losses in less than three weeks, I feel a bit scoured out. As if forces are in motion telling us to simplify and let go. A Zen haiku comes to mind: 
Barn's burned down--
now I can see the moon. 

Farewell, Gandy. Maybe we'll plant parsley over your burial place.

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