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Riding the emotional roller coaster of family life

November 14, 2008|By LISA TEDRICK PREJEAN

Our family had a melancholy start to this week. In the predawn hours of Monday morning, my daughter's rabbit succumbed to a respiratory infection that he acquired last week while I was at a teachers' convention. Mother guilt hit me in waves. The rabbit was fine before I left. Perhaps I couldn't have done anything to save him, but I could have been there to comfort my daughter. It was especially rough when I called home Saturday afternoon and she cried over the phone to me. "Mommy, I don't know what's wrong with Snowball. He's sick. I can't do anything for him. (Sniff, sniff) I miss you, Mommy." I assured her I would be home later that day. Then I gave her some advice. She sounded tired. Why not rest awhile? Do something that will take your mind off Snowball. Visit Grandma. Read a book. Pray. When I got home Saturday night, things did not look good for Snowball. A typically bouncy little critter, he was listless and lethargic. He had stopped eating and drinking. My husband was feeding him with an eyedropper. This continued throughout the day on Sunday. When I checked on the rabbit early Monday morning, he was already gone. My husband wrapped him in a towel and arranged him in a shoebox. He then broke the news to our daughter because I had left before she was awake. Her brother and other students from our school were in a spelling bee competition near Bowie, Md. Once again, I wasn't there to comfort my daughter in person. When I talked to her over the phone, she admitted that she was sad but that she was OK. She had learned how much work it is to care for a bunny. And, she knew she would be needed to help when our dog had her puppies. Little did we know that help would be needed in the same 24-hour period. After spending the day with my son as he tackled words such as schismatic, grandiloquence, virulence, bireme, malaise and heteronym, my brain had just enough energy for the return trip up Interstates 495 and 270. When we arrived home, my husband was digging a grave for the rabbit. We were carrying in our belongings when my husband broke the news to our son. His very pregnant dog, Sparkles, had crawled under the deck and would not come out. Three generations of our family - my son, his dad and his grandpa - proceeded to try various methods to coax the dog. It soon became evident that the dog was nesting. She had dug a hole for herself and was preparing to have the puppies in a private place. Considering that the temperature was dipping into the 30s, the men knew they had no time to lose. As I watched in amazed shock, they began to pull up the deck, board by board, to get to Sparkles. A friend called and I described the scene to her. "Can you believe they're doing that?" I asked. She laughed. "Well, that's one way for you to get a new deck." With some treats and near acrobatic moves, grandpa worked his charm and was able to free Sparkles. The men got her settled in the basement on a soft rug next to a heater. Within an hour, the first puppy was born. By 5:30 the next morning, five puppies had arrived. Two of them didn't make it, but the other three were very vocal about how healthy - and hungry - they were. My daughter was once again in her care-giver mode, tickled pink at the sight of these new arrivals. It was as if the day had come full circle for her, and she adapted well. Her father were exhausted. That was a lot of highs and lows to pack into 24 hours. Thank goodness those kinds of days don't happen very often. Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at lisap@herald-mail.com.

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