The woman is helpful by nature, and when her neighbors asked her to watch their house for a few days while they were out of town, she was glad to do it.
“They wanted her to water the plants, pick up the newspapers, you know, the kind of things neighbors do for each other,” said the man who told me this story. “They also had a pool, and they told her she was welcome to use it whenever she wanted.”
So the woman watched the house. She is a nurse at a hospital in the city, and after work, in the worst heat of the afternoon, she walked over to see that the place was all right.
She brought her bathing suit and her dog, and after she’d checked the plants and the windows, she got into the swimming pool to cool off. She closed her eyes, floating. The dog sat at the edge of the pool, watching her.
She had been in the water perhaps a quarter of an hour when she realized the animal was gone. She called him from the pool, but he didn’t come. She got out and called again, and heard the reassuring sound of his collar jingling as he came around the corner.
As the dog cleared the corner, however, some of the woman’s reassurance disappeared. The dog was, first of all, covered with dirt, nose to tail. He was, second of all, carrying a wet, dead rabbit in his teeth, changing his hold on it ever few seconds, tossing it around in his mouth so you couldn’t miss the fact that he had something dead.
His head at this point, I am guessing, would have been high and proud. A dog never looks better in his own eyes than when he’s carrying a dead rabbit.
Anyway, the woman was a first repulsed, and then, remembering that the family kept a pet rabbit in a cage on the other side of the house, she was horrified. And she ran to that side of the house, and saw the empty cage overturned on the lawn. She pictured herself trying to explain to her neighbors what had happened to their rabbit, murdered while she floated a few yards away in the swimming pool. Every way she thought to say it was worse than the last. And so she did what many people do when their dog kills their neighbors’ pet rabbit. She panicked.
From what I have been able to put together about this, she turned to the dog, who had followed her over, scolded him, and instructed him to drop the rabbit immediately.
You might as well tell a dog to hold its breath.
She pried open his teeth and removed the rabbit, wet and dead. She laid the animal on her towel, rolled it up like a wet bathing suit, and started home. The dog walked alongside, worrying over the bundle in her hands, stepping into her path. I am guessing that more than once the words “Bad dog” came into the course of the conversation.
At home, she took the rabbit to the bathroom sink and washed off the worst of the dirt. She drained the water, and shampooed the rabbit, which was getting heavier all the time. She rinsed off the shampoo.
She put the rabbit on a fresh towel and began to blow-dry its coat. Ears, tail, feet, everything. One side at a time. I have no idea at all how long it takes to blow-dry a rabbit, but I am sure it seemed longer than it was.
When she’d finished with the dryer, she carried the rabbit back to the house she had been asked to watch – I assume she again hid the rabbit in the towel, as there isn’t really much difference, for purposes of evidence, between carrying a clean dead rabbit and a dirty one.
I am also assuming she did not bring the dog. Bad dog.
And so she took the rabbit back to his cage, laid him peacefully inside, and went home.
“Natural causes”…she didn’t know a thing about it.
Shortly after they pulled into their driveway, the woman’s phone began to ring. She stared at it, knowing who was calling. She picked up the phone, and yes, it was her neighbor; who was hysterical.
The woman steeled herself for the lies she was prepared to tell, but never got the chance.
It was something the neighbor was screaming that stopped her, that a maniac was loose. That some pervert had dug up the neighbors’ pet rabbit – who’d died the day before they’d left, but the way – removed the animal from its grave, and stuck it back in its cage.
How sick can you get, right?
I am only guessing here, but somehow I think the dog got in trouble all over again.
What was the woman’s moral dilemma?
How did it involve choosing between things she valued? Between undesirable alternatives?
To what extent do you think the woman’s fears and feelings influenced her decision? Do you think her fears and feelings were reasonable under the circumstances, or somewhat exaggerated?
What mistakes and judgment errors are evidenced in this account? How could these have been avoided? How would avoiding them have changed what happened?
To what lengths did the woman go to complete her cover-up?
How did her initial decision to lie lead to other decisions?
How was the cover-up’s result worse than the consequences would have been if the woman had assumed responsibility from the beginning for what she believed had happened?
Why, when confronted with unpleasant alternatives in everyday moral dilemmas, do people often fail to exercise the moral courage needed to do the right thing?
What could she learn about making better moral decisions?