Sunday, September 14, 2008

Rural thinking, suburban Momma

Sad news at our house--

The rabbit that Jo and Atticus co-owned passed away yesterday afternoon.

Unfortunately, Jo was the one who discovered "Weed" (as he was named by the breeder they purchased him from). He was stretched out in a corner of his hutch and (gross out alert!) stiff as a board. Jo immediately began screaming as if ... well, as if she has just had her first encounter with the death of someone or something that she deeply loved.

Times like this are always where I seem to prove myself just a little out of step with suburban family life. Remember the kindling drama of last year, where I ended up playing midwife to a four pound mini-rex rabbit in the floor of my school room? The one where I found my Papaw's farm mentality completely overruling my own instincts as I pulled a stuck baby bunny from its mother's birth canal? Well, I've since had quite a few parents (fellow 4-H parents, even) ask me what in the world I was thinking, and why didn't I just call a vet?

Rural thinking, that's why. This is the phrase my dh has coined for my easily snapped off affection for animals that allows me to deal with emergency situations in a very practical way. It is this mindset that allowed my grandparents to raise and slaughter 50 or more head of cattle each season. It is this mentality that makes chickens scratching in the yard living foodstuffs instead of pets. It is survival mode.

This is what rural thinking says when faced with a clearly unconscious rabbit in the floor of a hutch:

I calmly instructed Jo and dh to do the only thing I know to do for a seemingly dead animal--submerge it in the coldest water you can find and massage it's chest. Dh reluctantly took on the task while I tried (unsuccessfully) to calm three howling children (Jo, Atticus and Oliver, who really, really wanted a cracker).

"Any luck?" I called out the slider.

"Ummm ... it's stiff. I can't get it in the bucket all the way." He was right. It looked like the rabbit was standing in the bucket with his front paws held by his face. This rabbit was not mostly dead ... it was dead dead.

Fresh howls from the older two children. I ushered them away from the door so that they took in as little of the view as possible.

"Well, you know what to do then," I said.

Dh eyed me quizzically. Clearly, he did not know what to do.

"Bury it, hun."

You can imagine the shrieks of horror that followed. What will probably surprise you is that my husband joined in the fray.

Apparently, this is not suburban thinking. I really don't know what a good suburban housewife is supposed to do with her children's dead bunny. Benny, when consulted, suggested a burial at sea. A neighbor said that they take their pets to be cremated and scatter the ashes. Another friend passed on the number for the cemetary where their pet terrier is buried. I guess these options are far more civilized than digging hole in the backyard and setting Weed to rest there, but that was the route we took. The three older kids gathered round and said goodbye, and we carefully covered him with earth. It was a very quiet, respectful, personal thing. It was free.

Readers, take note: this is what happens when you're basically a country girl forced to live in a townhouse in WA. But, hey ... at least I didn't suggest trying to eat it. I may think rural, but I'm not a barbarian.


~ Angi :) said...

Oh! {stifling a completely unwarranted snicker}

So, THAT is the term I'vew been looking for! Rural thinking . . .yup.

My hubby just doesn't understand how/why I could callously shrug my shoulders (outwardly, mind you) when faced with the death of a critter round our place. It's not that I don't care, I've told him . . .It's that, well, it's the cylce of life. It's the way things go. It's the food chain.

He says I'm an unfit animal owner.


While I am (really, honestly) sorry that Jo lost her beloved rabbit, I, too, would have overturned the soil on the back 40. Way to go, MG. Teach 'em all how.

Benny said...

So does the 'burial at sea' idea make me 'suburban?' I thought it was a pretty 'rural' thing to do myself.

When I lost my first small pet and I was 11 or so, we just put him into a shoe box and I cried as it floated down the creek, around the corner and out of sight.

In hindsight, I feel really bad for the kid who probably found the box thinking some mystical treasure was in there...


Ganeida said...

Um, we bury the dead round here too ~ & the kids help. That's life. Mind you I'm opting for cremation for me.

EllaJac said...

Wow, this rural thinker (and live-r) hadn't even heard of "pet cremation". Amazing. We grow some of our own food (and process it too), so when a friend we were camping with recently tried to tease my girls with the threat that he was going to try to capture one of the little ground squirrels for dinner - well, they didn't shriek... They started jumping up and down, clapping, and exclaiming things like, "I want the tail!"


Don't make promises you can't keep, I told his shocked person. Though I don't know where they got the idea that a squirrel tail would be substantial nourishment. Ew.

Truly, I hope their grief is waning, and that the (free) funeral arrangements were satisfactory. :(

Laurel said...

I lived my whole life as a "suburban girl" until 10 years ago. Then, we had just 2 years on a Blueberry Farm, before we headed back "into town". Now, however, we are OUT IN THE COUNTRY again, and we LOVE it!!!

As a "suburban girl", however, I definitely was a rural thinker. We would have definitely buried the bunny in the backyard. Definitely.

You said you're in WA. Where are you? We just moved to Lopez Island in the San Juans. It's BEAUTIFUL and very "rural" here.

mama of 13