I saw the little brown rabbit today. Returning from the mailbox—nothing: a no-mail day is a good day—heading back to refill the bird feeder. Up a slight rise, over a little knoll, and there he was, by the deck. Rabbits usually like hovering about the edges of things—the perimeter of a room, the fringe of a carpet, doorjambs. Outside, you’ll see them among the taller grasses and weeds that mark the boundary between yard and field or woods.

But this rabbit hangs out at the edge of my back deck, sometimes even on it. In summer, he flops—a rabbit flopping is a supremely comfortable and secure rabbit—right out in the open, nibbling green grass, exactly in my line of sight from my desk.

He does this because he is Palmer, and Palmer likes to visit.

Palmer was the first bunny I adopted from T.H.E. Rabbit Resource and he was my soul mate. All bunnies are my familiars, and all of my rabbits have been—and are—deeply loved. But Palmer was different. Perhaps he was especially evolved because he hadn’t suffered abuse in his former home: the guy just got caught selling controlled substances in quantities large enough to send him to jail and Palmer was collateral damage.

And he was clearly loved in that home—drug dealers can be nice to animals too: he was well-adjusted enough to immediately take to, and bond with, a very damaged little Petal (a twelve-year-old, a shotgun, some hunting dogs, you get the picture) when she joined us. Palmer litterbox-trained her, not me—she wanted nothing to do with humans for a good long while .

One July night a little more than two years ago, we were descending the stairs, Palmer in my arms and Petal ahead of us. Palmer, as rabbits do sometimes, decided he could fly. He was a big guy, and if he wanted down, down he went.

This time he landed on his hip.

The vet said they could operate, he was in excellent health otherwise, and would Petal mind standing by as a possible blood donor. After the final call to set everything up—surgery was the following morning—Petal and I went out to water the flowers in the patio (Petal perhaps to eat them). When my phone rang and I saw the vet’s number, my heart took a dive.

Palmer had gone into cardiac arrest—a blood clot resulting from the injury—and they were trying to resuscitate. She’d call me as soon as she had news. Such moments present two alternatives: dissolve into tears and weep and wail right there on the patio, or transition to auto-pilot, keep watering, everything will be okay. I chose the latter.

As I watered the flowers on the back deck, I sensed a presence. I turned. Within inches of my feet was a little brown rabbit, standing on his hind legs. Maybe waiting for me. Definitely not afraid of me. When he saw that I’d seen him, he gave a playful flip to his head and scampered off into the woods.

As I rounded the house and opened the patio gate, my phone was ringing. I was not surprised to see the vet’s number, or by either of the things she told me: Palmer had just died, and no, wild rabbits never do what the little brown rabbit had just done.

He’s been visiting us ever since. He waits for me while I water, and I talk to him. When it’s cold he watches me feed the birds. Some days he shows up, others he doesn’t. He’s welcome anytime.