Buddy was a cute, fluffy little grey rabbit,
Buddy lived with Maria and her housemates until summer vacation, then Maria brought Buddy home for us to take care of while she spent the summer doing a botany internship at Harvard.
Figuring that rabbits were supposed to live outdoors,
...we built Buddy a nice big pen around our old swing set, though I can't remember why - I think we figured the swing structure would give him a bit of variety in his environment, or something. In any case, I do remember that the neighbor children liked to come over and swing in the bunny pen and play with Buddy.
But one day Buddy wouldn't eat. He was weak and sick and when we brought him to the veterinarian she informed us that Buddy was suffering from fly strike. Apparently there had been too many flies in his environment, subsequently the flies laid eggs in his fur and ears, the eggs had embedded into his skin and hatched and now our poor bunny was being eaten inside by fly larvae.
I felt so terrible, recalling the pieces of fruit and rind I'd left sitting in Buddy's pen and how lackadaisical we'd been about keeping his area clean. Buddy had been silently helpless to protect himself from the flies while I, who could have protected him, didn't.
I left Buddy at the animal hospital, but the next morning I received the call that he didn't make it through the night. The vet explained to me that, while dogs and cats generally have a fighting chance of recovering from an illness or injury, rabbits are such fragile little creatures that they rarely do. Furthermore, the vet explained, rabbits have no natural defenses; they are so defenseless that when approached by a predator they often drop dead before they are attacked, nature's meager blessing to keep them from suffering.
When I arrived at the animal hospital the sympathetic veterinarian handed me a small bundle wrapped in a white cloth and tied with a ribbon strewn around a pretty wildflower.
I truly don't know why I cried so hard that day over that bunny; I think it was in part the thought of how defenseless he was and the sight of the white cloth so loving tied with the ribbon and the little flower and the words of a Stephen Foster song that kept playing in my head:
Long may the daisies dance the field, frolicking far and near,
Why should the innocent hide their heads? Why should the innocent fear?
I cried and cried.