Now that we've celebrated world Bunny Day and Easter, it's only fitting to note that the bunny era has ended at our house. Flopsy, the last of our five rabbits, passed away yesterday. She was my youngest daughter's first pet.
We can't be sad--ten years is a ridiculously long life for a Mini-Rex rabbit (average lifespan about six years), but it closes a chapter in my daughter's childhood.
Flopsy didn't do any fancy tricks or have any particularly fascinating personality traits--she was just an ordinary rabbit with incredibly soft fur and an overly round tummy. Though recently thinned by age and illness, in her prime she looked more like a fuzzy basketball. Eating seemed to be her primary purpose in life, and even in her old age she could make short work of a large carrot.
I was my daughter's age (16) when I lost my first pet, a basset hound named Herbie. He'd been with us since I was five, and I grieved for a long time. Nearly forty years later I still dream about him--sometimes in my dreams he can talk, and he tells me how much he misses me. And though his passing marked the end of my childhood, he was my inspiration, years later, for my Lunchbox books. A part of me will always be eleven years old, tromping through the neighborhood with Herbie in search of adventure. He was just an ordinary basset hound, but to me he was Rin-tin-tin. He was my sentry dog when I played army; he was my rescue dog when I stepped through a snowdrift and got stuck in a muddy ditch (actually, he just kept walking and left me there to unstick myself), and he was always there to talk to. And I wrote stories--dozens of short stories--about Herbie, in which he was a world traveler, a war hero, or a goofy foil for my brother's pet mouse, who was always the "straight man" in my stories. In essence, Herbie helped me to become a writer--because as writers we have to apply our imaginations to ordinary things and make them extraordinary.