On a very special day in second grade, an unexpected visitor came to our classroom and told us about his farm and the undoubtedly adorable little white rabbits he had for sale. I had to have one. After a serious discussion, which I barely comprehended, about the responsibility of owning a pet, my dad drove me to the farm that weekend. The rabbits were darling. I selected the whitest of white rabbits with the pinkest of pink noses and named him Snowball. It seemed the best possible name for such a rabbit.
Working side-by-side, my dad and I built a little hutch for Snowball that leaned up against the east side of the garage, protected from the wind and other horrors of the Buffalo, New York climate. The thought of my little rabbit living outside all alone saddened me. We also bought a harness and leash for him so he and I could hop and frolic together all over our lawn. Having a little creature all my own thrilled me. We also, foolishly, built a play area for Snowball out of chicken wire so he would have more room to kick out his bunny legs untethered to my overexcited eight-year-old self. I thought my bunny must be so excited about his new life.
The first time Snowball got a sense of freedom, he dug out from beneath the chicken wire and ran for his life. I was terrified when I found the pen empty. Snowball continued his quest for liberation whenever given the slightest opportunity. I quickly tired of chasing him through the farmer’s field behind our house.
As rabbits do, he pooped a lot, and it was my job to hoe the poop out of the hutch onto an old newspaper, throw it away, and lay down fresh hay. I hated doing this. I procrastinated at this chore for such excessive amounts of time that the feces piled up, and Snowball had to sleep and eat in filthy, inhumane conditions. I didn’t care.
At the times of winter when ice was piled up on the road several inches thick and school was cancelled, which, if you are from the northeast know rarely happens, we turned a heat lamp on in the hutch to keep Snowball warm, but he expressed his displeasure at the glowing orb in his den by chewing through the cord several times, so we gave up. I thought he was stupid. At the times of winter when the snow was coming down in blankets and I had to spend ten minutes layering on clothes before I could go outside, I procrastinated feeding the rabbit until my parents yelled at me, and I certainly didn’t play with him. I felt no guilt.
After 11 years of a largely solitary and neglected existence, my rabbit died while I was partying at my first semester of college. I didn’t care. After 11 more years, I bought a new rabbit both to have something cuddly in my life and to make amends in some way for my poor treatment of the first. I thought I was maturing emotionally. After six months, I gave the rabbit away to some random girl I met through Craigslist and have no idea what fate befell it. I will never stop feeling guilty.