Relax, everyone—it’s not quite as cryptic a situation as the title would suggest. The above-named beloved is my dog, Mona, and the creature she killed was a rabbit. Still, it was a brutal scene and one that has haunted my dreams the last few nights.
On Tuesday, I took Mona to Discovery Park to enjoy the sunshine and get some exercise. We walked the trails, I listened to my morning NPR programming, and Mona did some happy rolling in the tall grasses. I led her down a steep, eroding mush of sand dunes that spit themselves out onto the beach, though she couldn’t really swim or play much because the tide was pushing in, making us creep higher and higher on the embankment; Mona doesn’t much care for the waves, and I prefer to keep my feet dry before climbing back up the sand. We hiked back up the cliffs, both of us huffing and puffing. The path was incredibly steep and the sand made my legs feel as if they each weighed one hundred pounds, but we made it to the top. I had to stop and catch my breath many times, and though Mona had more energy than I did, she seemed happy for the frequent breaks, too. We got all the way to the paved road before I realized that I’d dropped my phone somewhere, and would need to retrace my steps to find it. And of course, my life being what it is, I had to do the whole thing all over again to find my cell phone, nestled in some sand almost all the way down to the water.
This second hike up the sand took a great deal longer. I watched Mona struggle to get her footing, while I did the same, both of us backsliding on top of the heavy sand, only gaining a few inches of elevation and distance with each exhausting step. I kept falling forward and down, eating sand and feeling it scrape against my cheek. Each time I stopped and stood to empty my clothing of the abrasive little pebbles, Mona would dig a shallow pit in the sand, and lie down with her belly cooling in the chilled underlayers of the eroding path. We finally reached the top of the cliffs, clung to some grass, and then walked on.
Almost to the parking lot, I saw Mona slip into what I refer to as her “blood-lust” mode: her pace quickened, her nose hovered low to the ground, and she dove into some bushes against a building, striking hard and fast like a cobra. I couldn’t see what she had in her mouth but I did see her shake her head from side to side a few times, before trotting out of the bushes filled with pride. I clipped her leash to her collar, and wrapped her leash around a nearby tree. I slowly walked toward the bushes, not sure if I really wanted to see what she’d killed, saying the mantra I always use at these moments over and over as I walked closer, Please let it not be a rat, please let it not be a rat.
Indeed it was no rat—instead, it was a teeny tiny baby bunny. And, oh god, it was still kicking. I watched in absolute horror as it writhed and jerked, knowing that the right thing to do would be to put it out of its misery, but also knowing that there is just no way I’d be able to pull it together and do something like that. What could I do—throw a rock onto it, step on it with my boot? None of these options seemed like something I could actually do. I looked over at Mona, sitting next to her tree looking as innocent and pure as ever. There was no blood, no fur, no evidence on her or the bunny that a violent attack had just taken place. And there didn’t need to be any such evidence in sight in order to begin the brewing process for my nightmares—the wriggling movements of the still-living rabbit were enough.
I should mention here that Discovery Park is one of several well-known locations in Seattle with a rabbit problem. Like Greenlake Park, among other places, Discovery Park is now home to an uncontrolled population of rabbits who do terrible damage to the native plants and animals at the park, not being a native species to the area themselves. This population of rabbits began when irresponsible people dropped their pet rabbits there, rather than deal with their problems the right way. As bunnies are apt to do, they multiplied like crazy, and now wreak havoc on the park. So, as I walked away with Mona, looking back at the now motionless black heap of fur in the grass, I tried to tell myself that Mona had at least helped out the park in her own way.
And besides, it could have been worse—she could have pranced around with the bunny in her mouth, or worse still, she could have eaten it. Maybe she wouldn’t have caught and killed the poor rabbit had I not dropped my cell phone, or had I left it in the car. And maybe if I’d brought small animals home as part of her training when Mona was a puppy, she wouldn’t have developed the blood-lust. Life is full of such what-ifs, but the truth is that Mona is an animal. She goes by instinct, desire, and just a little bit by training. She is what she is, like we all are.
And after I cranked her jaw open and hosed it out, she morphed back into being my sweet little muffin. We all do terrible things sometimes, whether they be malicious, accidental, or well-intended in nature. I think the trick is to hose ourselves down (figuratively, of course) and start again the next day.