I am a reluctant “pet parent.” Not because I know of the dedicated care and commitment that pets require, but because I know that I will fall desperately in love with the animal and eventually, it will depart and break my heart. On rare occasions, a favorite departed pet from my past will pop into one of my dreams. It always catches me by surprise. I will marvel at its good health and question how it has been fed and cared for. Those questions remain unanswered.
Nevertheless, when our daughter, Katie, was in the third grade, we adopted a homeless mini-lop-eared rabbit we named “Puffy.” He was a stoic little man with baby-fine white fur and velvety soft ears. His ears and nose were gray and his somber dark eyes seemed to hold many secrets. We knew nothing about his past, only that he was a fully grown adult who had already been neutered and preferred not to be picked up. It wasn’t long before he taught us that he would not be dining on hay. Instead, he preferred fresh greens and broccoli along with basil and celery leaves. His favorite treat was a small serving of raisins at the end of each day. Over the years, he looked forward to taking them gently from my fingers. I think there may have even been a kiss or two from him between raisins.
Puffy delighted us with his antics over the years. His floppy ears bounced over his chubby cheeks when he hopped and his binkies were comical. When I massaged his cheeks, he would close his eyes and grind his teeth in bliss. He also had the ability to move entire, in-tact sheets of newspaper from beneath his cage to its interior without a single tear. We called this his “Houdini trick.” He never did reveal to us how he pulled this off. His Cotton Tail Cottage was his own personal play house and he spent long hours napping on the second floor.
Four years ago, after a great deal of thought, we added a puppy to our family. Katie had her heart set on a Husky, but out of concern for Puffy’s safety, we compromised on a petit Pomeranian. Puffy was a tough little soldier and largely ignored the pesky pup. When she crawled into his cage with him, he resigned himself to sharing his space. We fretted about his well-being when we moved to Florida and made the long car trip across several states. However, he was a trouper and delighted in exploring the hotel rooms along the way. It was our neurotic dog who had to be sedated for the car ride.
As the years went by, Puffy’s ears faded to pale silver and his world darkened from cataracts. On his last night with us, he turned down his beloved raisins. I rose before dawn the following morning to a brilliant yellow moon in the western sky. Puffy’s time was short. My daughter, now a senior in high school, said her goodbyes and I gently stroked his soft ears. He slipped away quickly and quietly. Afterward, I looked outside. The moon was gone and the sun was just beginning to rise. On this last day of summer, Puffy had stolen my heart and followed the harvest moon over the Rainbow Bridge.
Perhaps someday Puffy will visit me in my dreams. I hope he does. I will be ready with raisins.