12 months ago we bought a Jack Russell pup…..despite the fact that we are a rabbit family. You see, the two don’t mix. Predator and prey as it were. So when we brought little Frankie home we made a point of keeping Red, our rabbit and Frankie, our pup, separated at all times and under all circumstances. This is Red…..
But Frankie was always fascinated by Red and as a tiny pup, she would tear around the run barking at him to get a rise out of him. The rabbit, didn’t give a fig. Red was completely unfazed by Frankie’s antics and just went about his business, occasionally turning on Frankie when the barking got too much. And Frankie was terrified. She would run for her stinker. You see, Red was much bigger. Red had the power and Frankie hero worshipped him.
As the months went by, Frankie stopped barking at Red and began spending many a quiet morning stretched out in the sun alongside the run, sleeping as close to Red as the barricade between them would permit. Nothing Frankie could do would cause Red to flinch. Red developed a tolerance for Frankie and they grew to enjoy each other’s company.
Eventually, Red burrowed out of the run and spent most of his days buzzing around the yard. The game of ‘chasings’ between the two continued but without the barricade between them. It was never clear who was chasing who. They would run together for hours and when Red got sick of the game, he’d slink back into the run. Frankie couldn’t get him there.
Often of a morning we’d find Red at the front door of the house, as if to ask after Frankie. Frankie would run out the front door to greet him and off they’d go. One morning I caught Red swallowing the last of my convolvulus flowers, with Frankie standing by watching, as if on guard. Frankie loved Red so much she even emulated the rabbit….and one night when she brought an old carrot into the house, we thought she’d turned vegetarian!
Unlikely bedfellows but great friends.
And then, something awful happened.
We had just arrived at our destination only to receive a distress call from the girls. Something about Frankie and Red. We couldn’t make it out but knew it was bad because one daughter was too distressed to talk and the other was on the phone to the vet. We went straight home to find Red barely alive, stuck, half in and half out of the run and Frankie banished to the laundry, yelping inconsolably.
What we gleaned from the girls was that Frankie had got too rough with Red during their game and caught the rabbit as he tried to escape back into the safety of the run. They could only surmise that the Jack Russell instinct had cut in and Frankie had attacked Red. So while one daughter ran to save Red, the other grabbed Frankie, assuming the worst of her and threw her into the laundry, screaming that she was a ‘bad dog’ and slamming the door behind her.
Red was in a bad way. Limp and contorted, covered in dirt and barely breathing. We suspected multiple fractures but had to move the run before we could free him and put him in a washing basket to take him to the vet. We left Frankie isolated in the laundry, reinforcing to her, the gravity of her violent crime. It was irresponsible of us to subject these animals to this predicament.
But to our shock and surprise, the vet painted a different picture. On examination, Red had not one mark on him. He wasn’t bleeding, had no contusions, no pain and certainly no broken bones. The diagnosis was shock from heat exhaustion and dehydration, caused by the game of chasings! You see it was a stinking hot day and they had been running for ages! Poor Frankie, still locked in the laundry had not laid a paw on her best friend. Red’s condition had had nothing to do with Frankie.
Having given him fluids and reducing his temperature, the vet sent us home with Red, promising he would get better if we kept him cool, and away from Frankie, so he could rest.
We put him on the bed under the fan giving him sips of water (and yes, I am still talking about a rabbit but remember, this is a child’s pet) and plenty of TLC.
Racked with guilt we turned to Frankie to make amends for the cruel treatment she’d been subjected to by her family. But it was too late. Her spirit was broken. She knew something was very wrong, she knew it was about Red and she behaved as though she was ashamed. She came when called but she moved slowly, with her head hung low and her tail between her legs. She otherwise endured her self inflicted punishment of lying quietly alone and away from the family. Uncharacteristically she assumed a low profile, flying under the radar and not eating her dinner. She left her ball, her bottles and her Bratz doll, untouched in the toy box.
But she looked everywhere for Red.
From the balcony she could see his run and quietly, she retraced her steps, over and over throughout the day, to peer through the railing to see if he was back. Then she’d go down the steps for a closer look. She was disturbed.
But Red’s not coming back.
Poor Red didn’t make it. The big soft bundle of fur took his last breath in my daughter’s arms and she broke her heart. She sobbed all night with Frankie in her arms. Frankie…..my poor little lonely and maligned Jack Russell who didn’t even get that she was supposed to hunt rabbits. Red was her friend and she wouldn’t have hurt him for the world.
My point? I don’t know that I have one. It just made me really sad….for my fragile teenager, for Frankie, for Red and ……….for some much bigger reason. I’m just not quite sure what that reason is. I will have to sit with this for a while.