I intended to include an ode to another memorable childhood pet in my post about Billy. Given the two animals’ disparate qualities, however, it seemed unjust to lump them together. Though Googie touched my life in a less profound way than Billy did, his years on this earth—and especially, as I will explain, his death—left a lasting mark on my psyche.
I have a vague memory of visiting the breeder with whom Googie spent his first weeks. After sifting through the fluffy heaps of bunnies, my younger brother chose a black and white one, declaring that his name would be Googie. Why? Because he looked like “a Goog.” OK, five-year-old boy wearing a velour sweat suit and sporting a long blond rattail. Googie it is.
The rabbit we carted home with us proved, as far as I remember, rather unexceptional. He did, on the other hand, facilitate several episodes highlighting my family’s eccentricities. Generous clumps of hay from his hutch were used to craft a trail for the Easter Bunny to follow from the back door, through the hall, and up the carpeted stairs to the kitchen; we extracted prickly bits of straw from the carpet for weeks, well after the last of the chocolate eggs (or maybe carob, knowing my parents) had been devoured. I dressed him up in doll clothes and pretended he was a magical lady unicorn, attempting to strap my Barbies to his back so that they could enjoy a ride in the rabbit hutch.
But Googie’s true brush with glory came at the moment of his demise. One Christmas Eve, my older brother went to the backyard to feed him. He came inside a few moments later.
“I think Googie’s dead,” he stated in an even tone.
And dead Googie was. As my dad prepared our stiffened pet for burial, my mom went to rent a VHS that might soothe my siblings and me, all of us shocked and upset by Googie’s sudden passing. Since we didn’t have cable and seldom watched TV, we were understandably cheered by the prospect.
She came home with The Cure, a film about a boy with AIDS whose quest for a cure is tragically cut short. By one of the final scenes, in which the kid’s best friend places a sneaker in the little guy’s coffin, our emotions had got the best of us. It was the first—and likely only—Christmas Eve we went to bed without complaint, exhausted by our tears and now processing two deaths: that of Googie and that of the fictional character in the video my Mom had chosen “to cheer us all up.”
To this day I wonder if she deliberately chose The Cure knowing full well that we’d cry ourselves to sleep, leaving her and Dad to play Santa in peace. Either way, the loss of Googie will be perpetually and inextricably linked to a melodramatic movie chronically a child’s battle with an illness that ultimately kills him. And, of course, to my mother’s questionable judgment in selecting family-friendly entertainment.