As we pass the front of the church courtyard, Lola stops to watch a pair of bunnies on the far side of a wrought iron fence. They must have come out after the rain. Lola’s every muscle is tensed, head erect, like she never is at home. I take a few steps farther down the street.
“Lola, come on.”
Her leash is in my jacket pocket.
Head dropping to the pavement, she follows. She stops again at the corner. There’s a bar missing from the fence, and she pokes her head and shoulders through the hole. A few yards away, one of the bunnies freezes on a mouthful of grass. Its fleshy nose twitches. I wonder if Lola knows she could squeeze through the fence if she wanted. She sits. Good girl. Her head follows a car as it comes to a stop at the intersection.
This is mean. For the bunny, sure, but also for Lola, who has never caught anything. Is this what she dreams about when she whines in her sleep? I crouch down, digging a hand into the thick fur of her back, and take out my phone. Snap two pictures of the family pet, cuddler of our baby, in her primal element.
The bunny goes back to chewing.
I stand and continue around the side of the church. Behind it is a small park, our goal, sloping up to a bushy knoll. In the mornings I bounce tennis balls off the grass for Lola to catch. Tonight, with the rain, everything is still. You could hear a door close a block away.
The park is bounded on one side by a basketball court and on the other by a brick wall. It’s a safe enough place for a well-trained dog. I whistle, and Lola follows.
I am the eyes and Lola is the nose and ears. We share a trust of complementary parts. At the center of the park is a concrete amphitheater. I walk along a paved path arcing the amphitheater’s edge while Lola noses around the bottom. Every so often she looks up to make sure I’m still there.
The path leads to an alley at the top of the knoll. The flowerbeds here are waiting to bud. Lola takes her time, nose to the ground, following a course from object to object: wall to tree to bush to flowerbed. She stops and looks at me again. I shrug.
A mound of gray bleeds across the ground and takes shape as a third bunny bounding through the grass. Lola flies off in pursuit.
“Lola, leave it!”
I run back across the park, yelling. They disappear around the corner of the church. A shriek of brakes and wet tires.
When I reach the corner, the car is already gone. In front of a building across the street, Lola is baying, nose skyward. At her feet, the bunny.
I cross the street.
She is beside herself, stepping back from her kill and shaking her head. I get her to sit and clip the leash onto her collar.
The bunny is lying on its side, part of its belly torn out. Lola must have chased it to the building wall and caught it as it ran back the other way. Just like we’d practiced. It’s still breathing, ears whipping back and forth, one eye sweeping the sidewalk.
When our baby cries, Lola gets agitated. All mammals share the language of distress.
The street, cleared by the rain, is empty. I set the heel of my shoe against the base of the bunny’s ear.
Lola whines as I pull her back towards our apartment. She squats and wets a sapling’s roots, looking up at me, and tells me I’ve betrayed a set of rules I was never told we played by.
Jeff Bakkensen lives in Boston. Recent work has appeared in A-Minor Magazine, Oblong Magazine, Smokelong Quarterly, and The Antigonish Review.