At first there were only four of them, little things that crept out of the shrubs onto the lawn on the far side of the parking lot in full view of Duncan, who lays on the balcony and waits for them. We have watched them grow from small kittens into fair-sized rabbits over the past two months. Dunc could hardly wait to drag me to their warren under the bushes, slowing as we approached, his eyes scanning the long grass for sight of them. Often the only thing we could see was the sunlight shining through their paper-thin ears, painted gold by the afternoon rays. They'd allow us to come remarkably close before darting for cover. They were the only four we saw, but over the last few weeks, as the scent of the Russian Olives has been replaced by the overwhelming perfume of the Lindens and their yellow flowers, that number has increased dramatically. The four became eight and now there is hardly a place we can walk without stumbling upon one, crouched low, impersonating a flat stone in the grass, their ears held low along their backs, their eyes wide but unmoving as they wait for us to pass.
There is a place in The Glen that Duncan has returned to again and again as the summer has progressed and the grass has grown long, a shady spot along the edge of the fence between our earthen bowl and the golf course which runs behind the property. It is a lovely spot, nestled under a tall, wide cottonwood and a young Russian Olive where the loud blades of the mowers cannot reach. A sprig of wild daisies has sprung up and the sun dapples the grass in the afternoon like gold reflecting off water. Each time I throw his ball he carries it down there and pokes about, sometimes lingering for long minutes, sniffing here and there, laying down, one paw held over his ball, the other reaching under the fence.
This afternoon, too hot to play much, I sat on the hillside above him while he ambled to and fro, sniffing here and there, checking his marked territory. His bright green tennis ball lay forgotten in the long grass at the edge of the fence while he dallied, but suddenly he lunged forward at the dark earth, pulled back momentarily and lunged again. I sat up and called to him. He turned, his tail wagging ferociously and started a slow and careful jog toward me, something small and brown held safely in his mouth.
I knew immediately what he had done and leapt up, hurrying barefoot down the hill toward him where he stopped and waited, the baby rabbit hanging limp by the scruff of its neck in his mouth. He smiled in that bashful way of his and laid down, setting the thing before him between his paws as I neared. He licked it once and looked up at me expectantly.
It was small, probably no more than a few weeks old, hardly bigger than one of his long, narrow paws. It hunkered down, ears low and waited. I leashed Roo, patted him on the head and told him what a good job he had done. He licked it again and let me lean in close to inspect it. It waited, breathing heavily. I laid a hand on its warm, moist back and felt its tiny heart racing against my open palm. Dunc watched, his own ears high, his eyes wide, tail still wagging. The thing startled and as I pulled Duncan away, it jerked once then scampered back toward the fence-line, zig-zagging as it went, kicking its hind feet behind it once or twice before vanishing into the shadows. Duncan sat beside me and made no move to follow, obviously pleased with himself and his find.
"Good boy," I told him and slipped him one of the papaya-mango coconut cookies I keep in my pocket."You're a very good boy."
I always insisted he would be kind to a bunny should he ever be lucky enough to catch one. Tonight I was proven correct. He is truly the gentlest of souls.