No Name

Deborah Krulwich

Copyright 2024 by Deborah Krulwich

Photo courtesy of the author.
Photo courtesy of the author.

"That's my guy!" I say, pointing to the brown and white wild rabbit that romps with his colony just beneath the grassy knoll near my apartment building. The open area is wedged between the busier road above and my quieter street below and extends from our street entrance to the backs of several apartment buildings. It consists of a grassy hill with small gray boulders strewn up against it and the wild herbage beneath the rabbits' feet. It is littered with cauliflower stems and cabbage, now half-rotted, that the neighborhood folk occasionally throw at them.

"My guy" is surrounded by his albino friends, their red eyes widening as they freeze in place upon hearing my voice. 

I shake the paper cup filled with commercial rabbit food and they all come running. They dart in circles around my feet and I try not to trip over them as I move into the bare dirt spot where I dump it. They nudge each other with their heads, each one securing his place before chowing down. None of them will let me touch them, which annoys me to no end, and they stare at me side-eyed while eating. 

What attracted me to the brown and white guy (or girl as he/she may be for all I know) is a mystery. Perhaps it was the mischievous look in his eye, his coloring, or the graceful way he lay stretched out on his belly, enjoying being alive. 

One thing I do know for sure, he's not really "my guy" at all. 

This wild rabbit lives free... satisfying his instinct to dig, to chew on wood stumps, and to live underground in burrows with his posse. People? He can take us or leave us; nature provides all the food he needs in an unending supply... whether green and fresh or brown and dry. But what the heck, right? Why not dig your burrow where the pickings are aplenty?

The warren underneath has laid claim to the area and periodically reproduces small bunnies who poke their heads cautiously out of rabbit holes and dive back in when you approach. They will join their elders once they are confident enough.

These beautiful wild rabbits outrun the feral cats that live across the street near the large plastic garbage bins. They also have so far outsmarted the packs of jackals that hunt through the midnight streets several times a week. 

My neighbors and I see these rabbits in the small parking area, underneath the cars that pull up to the convenience store. It makes me crazy and I tell them, "Move away, you're going to get run over," but they no more listen to me than a teenage stranger would.

When I see them with wet fur after it rains, I want to catch them and dry them with a towel. I want to care for them and keep them safe but that means captivity.

These wild rabbits have helped me rein in the temptation to grab... to capture... and to own. 

This is why I resist naming this special, brown and white rabbit and call him "my guy" only as a term of endearment to distinguish him from the rest of the pack.

Their crepuscular ways overlap with mine only at dusk as I'm never awake and outside at dawn.

But being a night owl, I can see them from my laundry room window and watch them through the early nights- chasing each other around, perching themselves on the boulders, and munching on the wild vegetation between them. I watch them living free and natural and it fills me with joy.

Many years ago, I had domestic rabbits whom I would let out of their cages during the day to let them have the run of my living room, much to my husband's dismay. One thing my domesticated rabbits did-- which I've never seen the wild rabbits do-- is jump excitedly into the air, spinning around like mad hares so much so that you can practically hear them laugh. I suppose the wild rabbits don't do that because they've never had the experience of being locked up and then sprung free. Or perhaps they do that at dawn when I cannot witness it. They are not pets, under my ever-watchful eye, but rather creatures living on their terms.

How beautiful is the natural world and the way it functions! Even with all of the inherent risks and cycles of life and death. To allow animals to be natural and live amongst you and not as an extension of you, has given me something way more valuable than owning them. It has given me true respect for all creatures to live as nature intended them to do and that means being able to fulfill all of their instincts, without hindrance from humans.

I pass our town's pet store and see the rabbits bred in captivity lying in cages, lethargic and trapped. I have the urge to buy them just to set them free amongst the wild ones. But I know that will cause more trouble... introducing a "foreign" rabbit onto the turf of other males. So I choke back the sadness and keep walking past. The poor things are destined to live "safe" in gilded cages with an unnatural water bottle and salt lick. They will never know the freedom to move where and when they want or live underground in a burrow where they belong. Nor will they ever know the terror of smelling a pack of jackals sprinting closer or dodging an approaching car.

It was 18 months ago when I last saw a large, dead, white rabbit lying on the sidewalk outside of my building. Unsure of what killed it, I looked down at it not with pity but with contentment. This rabbit's wild, natural life of freedom was worth it. A mammalian Braveheart, dying on just as it lived: free. When it's "my guy's" time to go, I will probably cry. But that's natural, too.

I am a lover of animals and nature. I have taken up writing as my mid-life passion. I enjoy gardening and scrapbooking.

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