The names of the animals have been changed to protect the innocent. *This is a repost, originally featured on The (Western) Canadian.
The Story of Zipper and Cuddles, our two family bunnies, is not a very exciting one.
Sure it has violence which seems to be all the rage these days (Pun Alert), but beyond that it’s pretty mundane.
Cuddles was, as you would expect, a very cuddly rabbit. She was all soft white fur and floppy ears, even tempered and the perfect pet for a young girl.
Zipper was sharp and jagged, perpetually cross and furthering the stereotypes that brunettes are mean and vindictive. There was also something in her eyes, a look that I didn’t recognize as disdain until many years later.
Zipper hated everyone and everyone hated Zipper. In fact, I would go so far as to say that Zipper even hated herself and that self-loathing was her everyday companion causing the fits of temper and the lashing out. I’m not 100% certain that bunnies can have self-esteem, but if they can I am sure Zippper’s was in short supply.
Still, the only creature on this planet Zipper did not hate was Cuddles.
They were inseparable, mostly because they shared a hutch, but also because they shared a deep bond that was evident even to my young eyes. The bond of sisters.
Cuddles and Zipper loved each other and though that love in Zipper never carried over to her owners, it was enough for me to see that Zipper was capable of love at all. At five I was quite the optimist, believing that one day Zipper could come to love me as Cuddles did. (Cuddles loved everyone.)
And then it all went to shit.
Cuddles had her pelvis broken in an accident that should have been avoided (my cousin was far too rough when putting Cuddles back in her hutch). She had to be taken inside where she was lovingly nursed back to health by my sister, hand fed and nurtured, cared for with every breath in my darling sister’s being.
It took weeks before Cuddles was ready to go back outside and I could tell that those weeks wore on poor Zipper. Zipper was lonely, fervently plotting her escape every chance she got (she often tried to dig under the fence and escape underground, perhaps imagining a bunny sanctuary just over the horizon). It never mattered how much chickweed I piled in her home (her favourite), she was growing angrier by the second.
Finally when Cuddles returned it seemed to calm Zipper, her nose twitched warmly when we brought Cuddles closer and for the first time since we had brought her home Zipper even took a few tentative hops towards us. This was the only time during our acquaintance that Zipper did not try and disembowel me and I cherished it.
I still cherish it.
Alas Cuddles died that night, her first night out. My sister and I were devastated (my sister because she had lost her loving pet, and myself as I mourned the only creature that made Zipper less of a monster). We buried her in a simple ceremony, my sister standing over the fresh grave in our backyard as I tried to hold Zipper in my arms while she scratched until I bled, bolting for the fence as soon as my abused arms let her go. It was beautiful (the ceremony, not the attack).
Weeks went by and turned to months and Zipper appeared to waste from sadness, the loss of her sister and only friend becoming too hard to handle.
And then things got worse.
Our new dog, a feisty poodle named Frenchie, found Cuddles’ final resting spot either through the power of smell or some odd and unfortunate intuition. Frenchie dug poor Cuddles up, excited at her buried treasure.
My sister had the misfortune of finding the remains of poor dearly departed Cuddles, stumbling upon Frenchie sprawled across our family room couch and chewing on the half rotted skull of her darling bunny, traumatizing her for life. My sister still has nightmares of this moment, the empty sockets starring imploringly at her, the indignity of it all.
(Perhaps I myself have a bit of Zipper’s vindictiveness in me after all as to this day I still laugh at my sister’s disturbed screams. Perhaps this is something I should keep to myself?)
With this last insult Zipper seemed to shatter, watching forlornly as her sister was reburied. But over time Zipper became less despondent. Sure, she was still the devil incarnate but the fight seemed to be drained from her and replaced instead by a desperate fear of our dog.
Zipper’s terror of our young pup only seemed to encourage the poodle. Frenchie wanted more than anything to be friends with the vicious rabbit, playfully bounding across the yard whenever Zipper came outside. Our poor poodle did not understand that eating the rotted flesh of one’s sister does not encourage friendship.
Or perhaps she had just developed a taste for hasenpfeffer?
Time sped by and it was not long before another tragedy befell us. While most of the family was on a long weekend getaway Zipper, already on edge for the last several months, was terrorized under the cover of darkness, scared so deeply that part of her exploded and she was left paralyzed in fear after screaming deeply into the night. My father grudgingly rushed the hated animal to the vet only to find there was nothing to be done. She too passed on, joining Cuddles finally in death.
We placed a marker in the grass by the fence, symbolic of Zipper’s time with us and her successful escape from life. At least dear Zipper would not be dug up by Frenchie, her final resting place an incinerator at a vet’s office far away from Frenchie’s curious nose.
Despite the obvious hatred that Zipper felt towards me I mourned her passing and for many years I despised raccoons, believing the adorable bandits of the mammal world to be the culprit of the murder of my beloved yet terrifying bunny. It wasn’t until many years later that my father gleefully told me the true story.
Zipper had been frightened to death by Frenchie who, while outside on a late night pee, decided to check to see if Zipper was game for a midnight romp, barking playfully at the hutch and waking Zipper from her sleep in what I am sure was the equivalent of a human being waking up to find a strange masked man standing over their bed with a knife.
She had never stood a chance.
With both my sister and I traumatized for good and my father thrilled to be bunny free the story ends, Zipper and Cuddles gone from our lives in all but memory.