Dinah Departed: Remembering A Flop-eared Bunny

On Losing A Pet

Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal.  – C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Who knew that the sight of purple clover could, reflexively, cause my knees to bend so my fingers can pluck? That three years would be enough to create in me a clover-picking reflex? Or that, these last three years, for a walk to be good it must be capped by gathering fresh greens for Dinah?

Who knew, in bed at night, we’d find ourselves listening for her leggy, lagomorphic thump from an empty crate in the basement? Or wishing I could watch her kick up those big heels again and leap- I always thought- like a calf released from a stall. Seeing her hop like that when I came down to exercise in the morning always made me happy.

Losing a pet means we can’t push death out to the margins. We can’t ignore the fact that all flesh is like grass, and our lives our like a mist. Pets shorter lives force us to measure  our short lives. Losing a pet forces us to think about these things.

Who knew that a glance at a purple clover would make me think on heaven?

Remembering Dinah

Men spend their time in following a ball or a hare; it is the pleasure even of kings. -Blaise Pascal, Pensées

Somehow a lumpy little flop-eared bunny named Dinah did all that. The boys followed her for three years and now she helps our family measure our own days. Five years ago, losing a pet named Zippy, did the same. In fact, remembering our good dog Zippy sort of kicked off this blog. 

But this week, we remember Dinah. 

We’d just moved to our new dwelling place, after 17 years in the old schoolhouse on the corner, when our friend Rosie mentioned her nephew might have a bunny for sale. 

We remember how Dinah made us laugh. Like when she pounced on a friend’s yippy little puppy. We remember how our timid cousin Anna finally worked up the courage to feed Dinah a carrot. Then Dinah crunched, and Anna laughed. We laughed as she hopped figure eight’s around our feet and under our knees. She enjoyed those routes.

We laugh about how she swallowed that balloon and hopped right along. We smile now wondering if she may possibly have enjoyed being hopped along by Gabe with his much-desired, 9th birthday, rabbit-hopping leash. But we know for certain how Dinah enjoyed all the loving rubs she got from the guys. Those rubs are when we learned that cats aren’t the only critters that purr.

Our three years and a month with Dinah ended Tuesday.

A Yardstick for our Days

Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days;  let me know how fleeting I am! …For I am a sojourner with you, a guest, like all my fathers.Psalm 39:4, 12b

Easter Morning with Dinah, 2015

Granted- Rabbits aren’t man’s best friend, and cats might have more personality. But Dinah had a place in our hearts. She was a measure for our days.

Dinah munched less and nested more the last few weeks. We saw this coming. So when Tuesday came, I filled her box with Dad’s fresh, alfalfa hay;  her bowl with sweet orange Gator-Aide. Then I carried Dinah from crate and place her gently down on a towel beside my desk.

Hey guys, Dinah doesn’t have long to live. You might want to say good-bye now, I told them when they marched in after school. And Sam said his in his matter-of-fact way. And Gabe said in his emotive way. Then hope broke through and Gabe announced, “Look Mom, she’s grooming. You said that means she must feel good.” 

But a few minutes later Dinah lay down. Soon her breathing changed. Then Dinah thumped one last time and lay still on her side. Death is not right, Gabe. It hurts. It’s not how God made it to be. That’s why we need a Savior. 

Tears flowed as we stroked a velveteen ear. But if we know Jesus, Gabe, death will be swallowed up in victory. 

That was last week. Since then, I’ve heard a few phantom thumps in the night and bent down once or twice to pick a purple clover.

And I’ve thought a lot about how living with a pet anchors our memories and gears up our hope for Resurrection Morn. How losing a pet, oddly enough, can even help us.  Dinah’s departure reminds me how short this life is, and makes me want to number these fleeting days right. 

So  if you need any help measuring your days, you might get a pet.

Even a lumpy little flop-eared bunny will do.

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. 
Relent, LORD! How long will it be? Have compassion on your servants. 
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. 
Psalm 90:12-14




April 1, 2000- August 23, 2012

There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal. 
Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.
C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Just a pet, I know.  And an “outside” pet, at that.  Still, like our friend John sympathizd, “There’s no good way to lose long-time pet.” And I am not a dog lover.  I didn’t think.

Zip followed her nose out of the safety of “the fenced in yard.”
As hours, then a day passed,
Hope mingled with impending sense of doom.
But maybe…like in Homeward Bound…?

A day and half later…
A knock on the door,
Neighbor reports Zip, alive but “not able to move” in the ditch.
Frantic calls to Jim at work.
Apple pie still in the oven, very al dente tortellini on the stove.
Boys hurried into van -confused, sad.
Thirty second drive to the neighbor’s ditch.
Assessment- alert,stable, but badly injured in the hindquarters.

Reaching down, stroking, calming sweet Zip…

Our first dog.
Traded her blue and brown eyed sister pup for her.
A very good trade, 12 years ago.
At the end of my first year of work.
Before kids.
The first one I told when, home alone,  I “got the call.”
That our first son, Sam was born in Korea.
Enthusiastic running companion all these- gulp- 5000 miles!
(Checked math, yes: 10 miles x 50 weeks x 10 years=5000.)

Now, gingerly hoisting her 55 pounds into the van.
Countless adjustments as she’d yelp when I moved her.
Still, trusting eyes.
Gentle Zip.
Grateful she’d eat a slice of bacon and sharp cheddar.
En route to vet.

Shots.  X-rays. Bones badly out of joint.
Tender goodbyes.
Final strokes of silky black muzzle.
You’re a good girl, Zip.

Now home without Zip.

I can’t eat because I’m just too sad, says Gabe, when Sam offers snacks.  What about her dog treats?  Her bowls?  (Between 5 year old sobs) I want a new dog, Mom.  When can we get a new dog?

No, Gabe, now is the time to think about Zippy and how much we loved her and how good she was.  It’s not the time to think about getting another dog.

Or is it?

Maybe Gabe’s response, self-centered as it is, really is the better, or at least equally good Christian response to loss. To jump right in and love again, to give the heart away, again.

The past two days I tear up at the strangest times.  I feel lonely.  When I head out for a walk, and see the open gate.  Or stranger still, when I’m clearing plates after dinner or draining the grease off the ground beef.  You see, Zippy was a dog blessed by frequent and many table scraps and I was blessed by a dog who cleared plates beautifully, allowing me to rest my mind that “nothing was wasted.”

Today I read, “Loneliness is the illusion we are tricked into feeling when we stop thinking of others and think only of ourselves . . . it’s a disease and we can fight it the moment we chose to put others before us.”  Hear, hear!

Or like my mom always said, when in the throes of pre-teen, cliquey girl angst (and periodically in the midst of sinful adult friendship envy), “If you want a friend, be one.”   Or, “remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35)

So, what better way to heal the hurt, to fight the disease, than to share a meal?  Remember the apple pie and pasta?  Our pastor’s wife had her first baby a week earlier, and I had offered deliver a meal the evening we said good-bye to Zip.  By God’s empowering grace, I managed to choke back tears long enough to get out a call from the vet’s. 

Could I come an hour late with dinner, I asked, due to a pet emergency?

An hour later, pasta, peas and pie delivered. 
Smiles, congratulations and cuddles with a sweet new baby, Hans Noah.

Teary and blessed, to give and to have received.