God’s Creatures, One and All

We have known for a while that a warren of cottontail rabbits live on our little piece of earth. Whenever we come home after dark, there always seems to be at least one in the lane or in the front yard. It is an amazing feat that they keep from getting caught by one of the six dogs that share the same nine acres.

One spring-like afternoon my six-year-old son and I were cleaning out the workshop. As we were going in and out I noticed that one of the backyard dogs was attempting to dig under the chain link fence. Since this was an unusual exercise for him I knew he must think he had something cornered so I went to check it out. It could have been anything from a snake to a skunk. Peering over the fence, it took me a few minutes to see what he was obsessing over.

A few feet away from the fence, I saw a nest of old hay, bits of newspaper and what appeared to be clumps of white hair probably shed from the very same curious dog. Immediately I thought it must be a ratís nest. Yuck! Having once stared eye to eye with a rat, I did not look upon the nest with anything but trepidation and aversion. So, I took a long stick and reached over the fence and poked the nest.

Immediately there was a high-pitched squeal and a little body arched itself up out of the nest. All I could see was a fuzzy soft white and gray belly and I knew immediately that it was not a rat. Withdrawing the stick quickly, I hoped that I had not hurt the baby rabbit. Too late.

As soon as the little rabbit recovered to the point it could get off its back, it ran straight at the fence. Knowing that was not a good choice, I began yelling at the two backyard dogs that were, of course, right behind me to “Get! Get!” True to their very natures, they did not mind me.

So there I was, jumping around and screaming like a mad woman, one tiny rabbit running straight at two big salivating dogs when here come all its littermates ≠ two, three, four and I think five. The jumping and screaming frenzy increased. With me yelling “No! No! No!” The dogs were chasing six-inch rabbits while my son stood watching it all as if it were some crazy cartoon he could hardly believe was happening right in front of him!

Trying to chase after little-bitty scared rabbits whose littermates are in the jaws of giant canines is a lost cause. The ones that escaped had scattered to corners unknown after they ran between my feet. Both dogs had one rabbit each. I saw the direction another had run but could not find it. I just stood there and cried. What else could I do? I could not beat the dogs ≠ they were only doing what they were genetically inclined to do. I could not even take the rabbits away from them ≠ what was the point? They were already dead and after all, canines are carnivores.

Seeing my tears, my son stormed through the gate with a stick in his hand and a determined look on his face. I saw immediately that he was about to punish some dogs. Quickly jumping to the dogs’ defense I tried to explain the hierarchy of the animal world. I struggled to explain that it was the natural order of things ≠ the way that God made it.

A couple of things bothered me about the whole thing. When a dog kills a rabbit it is a natural event and I could handle that but the whole thing was provoked because I interfered. How often do we unknowingly meddle with nature and create havoc?

But then, what if the nest had been full of baby rats? Would it have bothered me that the dogs ate two of them? No, but it might have bothered me that the others escaped!

When taking a Christian Ethics class for my masterís program, one of the subjects we studied was the sanctity of life. If we say we believe that all life is sacred do we believe thatall life is sacred? Or do we have a level at which we determine that a particular form of life is not sacred?

Some people believe that life is sacred as long as blood flows. Others believe that there is a right to choose regarding abortion or suicide. Some believe those who take a life should have their own taken away. And then it gets messy ≠ some people believe abortion is wrong but the death penalty is right ≠ or vice versa.

My own views are very conflicting ≠ I am a vegetarian who believes in another womanís right to choose yet I am personally against the death penalty and war. It is a very convoluted subject. I do know one thing ≠ I do not like to be a part of the reason that a death occurs ≠ no matter what natural order it follows.