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Nature Is Brutal

Content warning for pet death and light descriptions of gore.

Death is on my mind. Not in a morbid way. I’m thinking about death because it happens all the time. Everything I can say about this sounds trite; we’ve been grappling with it for millennia. Even just that sentence sounds like a rehash of previous rehashings.

“In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” — Genesis 3:19, King James Version

Three of my rabbits have died during the past few months. To be more accurate: two of my rabbits died and one was killed.

The first two deaths were sad, but they were okay. One bunny died while digging a hole in the garden, and one died while taking a nap, as far as we can tell. Both seemed peaceful, and rabbity — good ways to go. We can’t be sure without necropsies (animal autopsies), but our theory is that their deaths were due to old age. We didn’t know the precise age of either rabbit, since they were both adopted from Craigslist, from previous owners who also weren’t sure of the animals’ ages, but they weren’t visibly sick or behaving strangely. “Natural causes” is the best guess.

Of course, “natural causes” is a misnomer. We use that term to talk about expected deaths, ones caused by internal malfunctioning. But murder — to use a melodramatic term for predation — is natural.

The third rabbit, our favorite rabbit, the one we’ve had the longest, was killed. We think it was an owl. My mom heard the scream in the night — she went outside to see what was happening, saw that all the animals’ enclosures were shut, and went back to bed thinking that our pets were okay. As it turned out, Doof had pushed open the door to his enclosure, which bounced back behind him, and was freely enjoying the night, I presume. Until he was attacked.

I hope that his neck snapped quickly. I hope that it happened suddenly and his life was gone right away. Wild predators prefer to kill fast because it reduces the chance that they’ll be injured if the prey fights back, or that the food will be stolen. Knowing about the competitive pressures is somewhat comforting.

Doof was only in the rickety enclosure — which we thought was still strong enough to hold him, even though he was a robust rabbit — because we were in the process of bonding him with Lottie, our newest bunny. They needed to be kept separate unless supervised until we could trust them not to hurt each other. I wish that we had rushed the bonding. If we’d been less cautious in one way and more cautious in another, Doof would still be his hippity-hoppity self.

His body was a wreck. The predator stripped all the meat from Doof’s skull, which looked tiny and raw when bare. Mangled neck. The anklebone of his right hind leg was exposed — just the one. His greater bulk was intact, which seemed strange — why hadn’t the owl wanted its whole kill? I don’t know.

It hurts that my silly, sweet rabbit is dead. It hurts that I didn’t protect him; that conceivably he could have been safe under tweaked circumstances. I hate grief because it’s an emotion I can’t act on. It just sits there inside of me. What can I do besides wait for it to subside?

Last night I curled up in my boyfriend’s bed and cried. These rabbit deaths make me think of the other deaths that are inevitable. My dog is already old. My parents each have another quarter-century to live, probably, but contemplating their eventual demise is devastating.

When you see a body ruined like Doof’s was, you instantly realize why humans have done everything we can to escape nature. It’s brutal. Nature is not just hiking in Yosemite; it’s carnivores tearing off your cheeks, eating the jelly of your eyes, and leaving the rest for maggots.

2 thoughts on “Nature Is Brutal

  1. Sonya, I am very sorry about your rabbits. It’s much easier to accept natural sudden death in a sense, because there really was nothing that could have been done about it to your knowledge. When something like that third death occurs, it’s difficult not to think there is something you could have done because it’s circumstantial to a degree. Would haves, could haves, and should haves are all too easy to digest. I hope that you find some peace in these troubled times. It sounds like they were happy rabbits, and I hope you can find solace in that. You’ve also nailed the reality of nature quite well in that last paragraph. Death is a subject that I think about quite often, and is a large source of my own anxiety. I try not to think about it too much, because it’s important to live while you’re alive, but it’s part of the life cycle.

    A few weeks ago my sister’s husband passed away. He died suddenly while he was at work. We still don’t have an official word on what caused it, but due to his pre-existing medical conditions like Type 2 Diabetes and High blood pressure, along with his described symptoms right before he collapsed at work, it sounds like it was cardiac arrest. He was only 44. Definitely thought he would have lived much longer than that. It bothers me that when he woke up that morning, he literally had no idea. But would you want to know, really? I’m not sure. Weird questions for weird and sad times.

    I bring this up because I think my experience with recent death is relevant to yours. Whether it’s your bunny or it’s my brother-in-law, the same feelings arise, and the same reality of mortality sinks deeper inside of us because of it. I thought that maybe his death would inspire me to live my life in a way that is more stress-free, but it’s not been the case so far.

    I hope you feel better. <3

    1. Thank you for your compassion, Danielle. Your assessment of the emotions involved matches up closely with my own feelings. I really appreciate it — and I’m sorry to hear that our brother-in-law passed away. Rest in peace.

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