It was hot. Hot didn’t really cover it; it was sweltering, roasting, miserable. I had a love/hate relationship with summer. I loved the freedom, I hated the heat. Jason and I were taking a walk around the property with the dog, a big golden retriever. Jason seemed to be enjoying himself, but I was melting. Soon I would be a puddle of sweat soaking into the dry earth.
We walked in silence as talking only seemed to make it hotter. Suddenly the dog took off. He was across the wide yard in seconds. Ugh, how did he have the energy? I didn’t even have the energy to call after him. He stopped as suddenly as he had started, intensely interested in something on the ground.
Jason ran over to the dog. I couldn’t bring myself to run, I just walked slowly. By the time I reached them the dog had run off again, and only Jason remained, his hands cupped around something small and frail.
“What is it?” I asked, peering into his hands. “Wow!” I exclaimed. It was a baby bunny, all curled up and trembling in fear.
“What should we do?” Jason’s face was torn with guilt and worry, “I think it’s hurt. I couldn’t get the dog to drop it soon enough.”
“Let’s take it in to Mom; she’ll know what to do.” We were already hurrying towards the house, the dog and the heat forgotten.
Inside, Mom looked at the tiny creature. Its eyes were still closed, so young. The dog had apparently gotten it in his mouth, and a sharp tooth had punctured the bunny’s tender side flank. Jason was reluctant to let it go, but finally surrendered the creature. Mom cleaned the wound with warm soapy water. It was just a minuscule hole, and it didn’t appear to be hurt anywhere else.
“What should we do?” Jason repeated again, this time with a quaver in his voice. I had never seen him so emotional before. He took the bunny back into his hands with the gentlest of touches. Here was my big tough friend cradling this innocent life like it was the most treasured thing in the world. The combination of brute and babe was almost comical in its absurdity.
“Well, I don’t think we should put it back outside. It will never survive on its own now that it’s hurt.” Mom said thoughtfully. “We will have to take care of it for a while – at least until its eyes are open.”
Jason’s eyes got big, “Do you think it will live?”
“Maybe, it’s hard to tell. Usually when they get wounded so young they don’t live long.” Her voice trailed off as she saw Jason’s face fall. “But, we should try anyway.” She finished saying, trying to put a positive ring in her voice.
I was silent during this whole scene. My mind wandered back to another time I had attempted to save a small animal. A newborn mouse was found in the lawn mower, its eyes still closed. My sister had brought it inside, and I had inadvertently killed it while trying to keep it warm. Guilt swelled over me now. There was no way I would be able to take care of this bunny just to see it die.
“Mom, why don’t we let Jason take the bunny home?” I hoped my eyes didn’t give away the fact that I was more upset than this moment warranted. I knew I would not be able to forgive myself if I couldn’t keep the bunny alive and Mom didn’t seem confident that it would live.
“Sure, good idea,” she agreed, giving me a curious sideways glance.
Her apprehension dissolved immediately when she saw how elated Jason became. He beamed. I could only imagine how he felt. For probably the first time in his life someone was giving him responsibility for another life, trusting him. He took on this responsibility with a glow that radiated warmly from his smiling face.