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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.

Continue reading “Nature Is Brutal”

Picking Up A Sick Rat

Yesterday I found a rat on a suburban road. I was driving home, taking a blind turn. The rat was just before the bend, left side of the street. He sat a quarter of the way into the road, not in the middle but close enough that he would be crunched against the pavement if he didn’t move soon. And he showed no signs of moving.

I pulled over in front of someone’s driveway, got out with my keys in hand, and jogged to the rat. He was large enough that I briefly wondered if he was a baby possum. Red-brown fur. The rat was breathing hard, heaving air out of his little body. But he didn’t run away when I got close, which I knew was very strange. I cooed to him, typical baby talk for cute animals.

I guessed he was sick. I remembered that it’s stupid to touch a sick rat, but I felt like I couldn’t abandon him to be smushed. So I ran back to my car for a fabric tote bag and turned it inside out to pick him up, the way you pick up dog poop. Before I returned to the rat, another car drove around the blind turn. Their tires rolled very close to him, and I was anxious.

Eating brown rat

Photo by Tambako The Jaguar.

I brought the rat home and put him in a small cage that I found in the backyard, along with a dish of water, some rabbit pellets (we have pet bunnies), and a paper towel for bedding. I left the cage next to the woodpile by the barn. I checked on him a couple of times that evening. At roughly 10:30pm, he was dead. I looked at him again in the morning. Yup, dead.

In the afternoon I cleaned up. The weather was gorgeous, fresh yellow sunshine heating my back. I carried the small corpse down the hill and laid him next to a patch of wild calla lilies. (We live right on the edge of a regional park.) Goodbye, little rat. I tossed the leftover rabbit food over the edge of the hill, because I didn’t want to risk contaminating the other critters. I put the water dish next to the kitchen sink. Threw the paper towel in the trash. Washed my hands thoroughly (which I did after every interaction with the rat).

Now I feel sore and sad. Not sore like being miffed, but sore like a bruise. I know it’s trivial, one little rat who was probably poisoned for being a nuisance. I realize that I was an idiot to handle a sick animal from a species notorious for communicating diseases to humans. It just didn’t feel right to leave him.

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