Part One was about a dog and a cat who taught me a great deal about being human. There’s one more little animal teacher I’d like to tell you about:
Flopsy-Jean Teemley was a chocolate brown Holland lop, and the first child my wife Trudy and I raised together. We’d only been married a few months when we spotted her in the bunny bin at a local pet shop. She was ridiculously cute. But she was also wild and afraid. Rabbits survive by running away, so she spent the first week in her new home cowering in corners. I complained to Trudy that I’d wanted a real pet, not a wild, untamable creature that couldn’t love me back.
It wasn’t until our friend Mary ruffled Flopsy’s fur backwards that we discovered the key to her heart: she may have been of Dutch heritage, but she was clearly a rabid fan of Swedish massage. Somehow, wildly aggressive rubbing demonstrated trust and affection to her in a way that nothing else could. When we did this she’d turn into a happily mesmerized bunny rug. Soon she was waiting at the door when we came home, racing excitedly around our feet, and performing “crazed bunny” leaps for our delight.
By the time our first human child was born, Flopsy was middle-aged. She was wary of this teetering toddler, and soon resigned herself to letting it be the new household entertainer. But she was always near, always ready for a nose rub, a permanent member of the family no matter who else was added.
Flopsy-Jean was seven when she began to die. She’d remained in her hutch for the last two weeks, refusing to eat or even sip from her water bottle. I went to check on her, fearing to find her dead. I put a few rolled oats in front of her (her favorite treat). Nothing. So I stood up and started to walk away.
Suddenly there was movement in the corner of my eye. Somehow, after remaining motionless for a week, Flopsy had managed to climb out of her hutch and drag herself over to me. I bent down and stroked her nose. She nudged my hand. So I got down on my belly, face to face with her.
And then, in as clear a “goodbye” as I’ve ever received, she pressed her cheek against mine and just held it there. I wept as I told this formerly wild animal I loved her, and then gently cradling her in my arms, carried her back to her hutch.
By the next morning she was gone. But not from my heart.
It was the most profound moment of communion I’ve ever experienced with an animal. I knew—knew—that God was speaking to me through her. What He was saying I’m still unraveling. That He means for us to love and learn from animals, certainly. But more, I suspect.