The Rabbit That Saved a Marriage

She and her husband had become strangers. Would God answer her prayers for a reconciliation?

By Sandi Olson, Santa Cruz, California

As appeared in

There was a time when I would greet my husband at the door when he got home from work. Today I just stayed at the kitchen table. I’d had a long day teaching, and Doug and I had less and less to say to each other.

“Gotta get my bike ride in before dark,” he announced by way of hello. In a flash he was gone again. Seemed like that’s all Doug cared about anymore: work and riding his bike.

It hadn’t always been this way. For 35 years Doug and I had shared everything. We’d raised two children together, went out on Friday nights. We skied, took long walks and played a mean game of doubles. But somehow, without us noticing, we’d grown apart.

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When our youngest daughter, Kris, left for college I felt like I was living with a stranger. We’d gone to counseling and tried to work out our differences, but the fun and friendship that had once joined us together was gone. Maybe forever.

With no one at home to talk to, I called Kris at school. Hearing her voice brought back memories of happier times. As a young girl, she bred rabbits. Doug and I had spent hours setting up hutches in the yard for all her rabbit families. I remembered one of them cuddling in her lap while she watched TV.

I could use a cuddly friend myself these days, I thought. “Kris,” I said, “what would you think of me getting a rabbit?”

“Rabbits are easy to care for,” Kris said. “It’s a great idea.”

That next day I told Doug about my plans. He looked at me like I was crazy. Guess this will be one more thing I’ll be doing alone, I thought. I went to get dressed for the 4-H show. When I was ready, Doug surprised me by offering to drive. “Won’t you miss your bike ride?” I snapped.

He shrugged. “I can help you carry the cage home.”

At the fair, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of rabbits on display. So many different breeds, each with its own personality. Doug favored the Checkered Giants. “Fifteen pounds?” I said. “Too big. What about one of the dwarves?”

“They look more like guinea pigs,” Doug said. We couldn’t even agree on a rabbit! I was ready to disregard his opinion completely when he pointed to a black-and-white fellow nearby.

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“It’s a Mini Rex,” I said. “It looks just like Cotton.”

Cotton was one of Kris’s childhood pets, one of our favorites. I stroked the Mini Rex through his wire cage. His fur was like velvet, soft as a cloud. We took him home.

I named my new pet Buck Bandito–Bucky for short, and set to work making space for him in the laundry room. Although Doug approved of Bucky, I had no illusions about him sharing the responsibility.

Bucky hopped around the laundry room, getting to know his new home, rubbing his chin on everything, marking the space as his own.

We worked on litter training for the first couple of weeks. Bucky learned fast. “You’re a smart rabbit,” Doug said on his way out for a bike ride. I was surprised he’d noticed.

The next day, shortly after I’d gotten home from school Doug called from work. “What’s wrong?” I said. Doug never called during the day unless it was an emergency.

“I was just calling to check up on our new addition,” he said.

“Bucky?” I said. “He’s fine. In fact, he’s on his second lap around the laundry room.” I told Doug about all the things Bucky had done since I got home. Just little things, like how cute he looked nibbling on my shoe, but Doug seemed happy to listen.

The following afternoon he called home again for an update. I got to expect his call at the same time each evening.

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“I was thinking of picking up some takeout on the way home,” Doug said during one of his check-ins. “Does Chinese sound good to you?”

“It’s been ages since we’ve had Chinese,” I said. “It’ll be good not to cook. I had a crazy day.”

“What happened?”

I told Doug about a problem at work, and the movie I wanted to be sure not to miss on TV that night. When I hung up I noticed Bucky nosing his way around the laundry door. That’s when I realized–Doug had forgotten to ask about him.

When Doug got home he changed into his bike clothes. But instead of running out the door, he stopped off by the laundry room to play with Bucky. “Do you think he’s getting fatter?” he said.

“Not with all the hopping he does,” I said. “He’s in training.”

It got to be a routine. Doug still rode his bike after work, but not before he’d played with Bucky and chatted with me about my day. One evening Doug forgot to shut the laundry room door behind him. Bucky shot out like a flash. “Get him!” Doug said.

I tried to head Bucky off. He dashed into the family room and raked his paws on the carpet.

I bent down to pick him up, but he dodged out of my hands and ran into the living room. Doug and I ran around like guards on a basketball court. Bucky zigzagged between us. Doug almost got him by the couch, but Bucky veered into the soot-filled fireplace.

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When he hopped off again across the living room he left little black footprints everywhere he went. Doug and I laughed so hard we couldn’t even get near him. Bucky seemed to know he was winning. He leapt up in the air, twisting like a corkscrew in sheer delight, which just made us laugh all the harder.

Finally we managed to corral the little devil back into the laundry room. He flopped over on his side, exhausted, happy and gray from the soot. Doug and I leaned against the door, breathing hard. “I can skip my bike ride tonight,” Doug said. “I’ve already had my workout.”

“You know what we have to do now,” I said. “Give him a bath.”

Bucky was a little confused at first, but soon figured out he enjoyed sitting in the sink while I poured warm water over his fur and Doug lathered him with soap. I felt a gentle touch on my arm. It was Doug with the soap.

“Bucky’s not the only one covered in soot,” he said, wiping a smudge away. The touch sent me back in time, to a perfect day at the beach, many years ago, Doug brushing sand off my back.

Did Doug miss how we used to be too? I wanted to ask, but we’d been estranged so long I didn’t know how. Sometimes it seemed like the only thing I knew how to do was fight.

A few nights later Doug came home with some new light for his bike. I didn’t think he needed it and started a silly argument. It wasn’t really about the bike. It was about months of frustration. “You never listen to me!” I said. “You don’t let me talk. You just don’t care anymore and neither do I!”

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I stormed off to bed in tears. God, my marriage really is slipping away. I don’t know what to do. Was there anything that could save us? I lay on the bed facing the wall.

The bedroom door opened and Doug came in. I felt his weight as he sat on the bed. When I turned to look at him I saw he had something in his arms. A little black-and-white bundle. Bucky. Doug stroked his fur and held him out to me like a peace offering.

My anger melted away. I put my hand in Doug’s. Somehow that little rabbit was the answer we needed. I knew what would save this marriage: forgiveness and love.

Bucky lived with us for eight more years–a good life for a rabbit. Doug and I buried him together, near a patch of Easter lilies in our yard. No one else could really understand what Buck Bandito meant to us.

I’d asked God what I could do to save my marriage. He sent me a black-and-white rabbit, a floppy-eared messenger of love.

 

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