Trust me, I didn’t want to tell her. I mean, where do you even start?
So far all I had was “Hey, uh, good morning. You see, uh, what happened is…” My voice was shaky as I fumble over my words, but the new neighbor had to understand. Come on, who has a “free range” pet rabbit anyway?
Frankly, it’s bullshit I got roped into this on a Sunday morning in the first place.
Slowly opening my eyes as the sliver of 7 a.m. sun slips between the curtains, Jessica pops her head in the room and snaps, “Hey, I need your help!”
Alert, I sit up. “What’s going on?”
“The neighbor’s bunny is loose in the backyard! Help me catch it before Butch does!”
The first part of her statement was funny, until I heard the last part. Although Butch was a nine-year-old limping Labrador, most of the energy he expended these days was attempting to dig under the fence to “meet” the neighbors uncaged rabbit.
Rushing outside barefoot and topless to wrangle a bunny in the crisp morning air, my feet move between piles of dog shit like a Private in basic training negotiating the tire section of his obstacle course.
The rabbit rushes to the fence.
Now into the bushes.
Out of bushes.
Then right between Jessica’s feet and into the fenced-off dog run of the side yard!
Just four hops in and the screaming begins. Not my screaming, but the bunny’s. It sounds like a high-pitched relative of a rubber chicken...but not for long.
After two shakes of Butch’s head, the silent rabbit hangs from the side of his mouth. Butch trots gingerly to me and lays the bunny down at my feet, aggressively wagging his tail in anticipation of praise for being an adept hunting companion.
I exhaled and turned to my wife. “Well Jess, I guess I should go introduce myself to the new neighbors. And you know, tell them our dog killed their pet. See what they want me to do with it.”
Choosing to leave the carcass home, I try to figure out what to say during the 30-foot walk to their front door.
“Hey, uh, good morning. You see, uh, what happened is…my dog just killed your rabbit. Sorry about that.”
I followed with a play-by-play. The fence, bushes, and evasive between-the-legs move were all mentioned, with the particularly exciting moments reenacted. I finished with a final question: “What do you want me to do with the body?”
Looking me in the eyes, she smiles and says, “The garbage can is fine. You can put it in ours if you’d prefer.”
And that is how you make friends.
Over the next 10 years we experienced young adulthood together. We put a gate between our backyards when the fence needed replacement. She got married. My wife and I had kids, then the neighbors had kids. Our children play together and share snacks when the sun is up, and we sit around the backyard firepit and share wine when the sun is down.
And now, she doesn't know what to say.
Her voice is shaky as she fumbles over her words, but we had to understand. “Hey, uh, good evening. You see, uh, what’s happening is…”
It’s a good thing for them. The dream property where their kids can ride dirt bikes and experience the country-style upbringing they both loved.
Although I’m happy for them, I have one regret. I didn’t take enough time to appreciate what I had while they were here. I knew how good I had it, but too often I let the day-to-day of life swirl around me and I took having best friends as neighbors for granted.
What I learned was this: When you realize how great something is, stop for a minute and appreciate how awesome it is. Let the smile come across your face, and take a few deep breaths.
Your homework this week: What is going really well for you? Stop, take a few deep breaths and really let it sink in. Truly experience gratitude.
I know that sounds super hippy-dippy but whatever. Do it. Because you never know when you’ll lose one of the best things in your life.
The new neighbors move in next week, and I hope to greet them without first deciding if I should leave a dead body at home.