Of Love and a Bunny

Changes come. Keep your dignity. Take the high road. Take it like a man.

—Momma Sed, Puscifer

Change is coming. As previously mentioned, I will soon be moving to a new house. Having lived here in this one the past five years, I have grown kind of attached to my little home in the suburbs, and also the things that dwell within. I thought I was ready to move on, but recent events have hinted that maybe I am not.

Not just yet.

I had big plans for the weekend past. Had it all lined up. A relaxed drawing session on Friday evening and an early night to be bright and fresh for a cluster of recording and editing sessions scattered over Saturday, followed by a relaxed Sunday to pick up on some long-needed writing. I am incredibly close to completing this current project and I needed a weekend like this to get it across the finish line. It was to be a fruitful effort. It slips by me sometimes, the fact that I have absolutely no control over life. I will sure as hell fight for that control, but there will be battles that I can never win.

Friday morning, I awoke to the sounds of my housemate Tess talking to Dante the rabbit. This is by no means unusual. On weekdays I leave my bedroom door ajar so that I might be woken by her gentle coos and giggles before my alarm has the chance to go off. Dante’s daily routine is a reliable catalyst for these affections and are usually prompted by his dashing underfoot. This is an effort on his part to ensure his presence is known before standing to attention by the fridge with his whiskers twitching in the morning sunbeam. This irresistible move has both humans well-trained and will always result in either a pat on his face and head or a strawberry-top from the fridge.

Tess rescued Dante through adoption about a year before we moved in together—back when we were together in 2015—and before we found this flat. Dante had barely survived his previous life. Those first few months, and regrettably his previous owners too, had been most unkind. I do not know the full circumstances of that life, but when Tess brought him home, his grayish-brown fur was bleached orange, and he had lost the use of his right eye. He was skittish, timid, and small.

We had attempted to pair him with Archie, a much older, black-faced Angora whose moods ranged from slightly irritable to downright aggressive. After one or two failed attempts that resulted in fur flying in all directions, Archie finally accepted little Dante only after a common enemy was introduced to the family—a common housecat. Of course, we never left the rabbits and cat in a room unattended, but Archie did not know that and while it lasted, even if it was only begrudgingly, Dante had a companion.

When the cat moved on, however, so too did Archie’s tolerance for others. His dominant nature kicked in and the tooth-and-claw fur hurricanes returned. Archie was out for blood. The final straw for us was when he got what he wanted and tore Dante a new hole, which left a trail of red across the floorboards. We had to separate them and so Archie was passed on. Dante was safe again, but it still took many months before he would truly accept us as his humans.

Before Archie left, my relationship with Tess was going south, but we remained together in the same house and made the painful transition to becoming housemates. I would not recommend this. It was not a swift or easy process—it took years for a sense of equilibrium to return. But here we are, still housemates (at the time of writing) and more importantly, still friends. Dante has been in our lives for the last five-or-so years and in a way, he has kept us tethered—and perhaps even anchored through the darkest of storms.

During his life with us, Dante has suffered the occasional indignity of a trip to the vet for check-ups, shots and otherwise. He is a true survivor, still kicking and thumping at the respectable age of seven years old. It has only been the last two years that I have grown accustomed to waking to Tess talking to Dante—it is a truly warm and life-affirming start to the day. The Friday morning past, however, her tone was off. Full of concern, she asked him if he was okay. A moment later, she was at my bedroom door.

                ‘What’s wrong?’ I said.

                ‘He’s being very still and doesn’t want his food.’

I rose to investigate. As a free-range rabbit, Dante has full command of the living room and has a variety of favourite places to rest. Under the couch next to his food, under the dining room table—ready to ambush us for snacks, under the coffee table by our feet in the colder months. He was not in any one of these places. Instead, he sat hunched uncomfortably in a corner—his back compressed in the way rabbits do when their insides are acting up. It could be indigestion. Perhaps he had eaten something too rich, but then, perhaps it was something worse. Either way, it was a matter of concern and we took stock of when we last saw him eat, what currently remained in his food bowl, and how many greens laid for him the night before that he had not touched at all.

The day was cancelled. We took him to ER.

With news of my housemate moving out, I knew I would have to let Dante go—she owns him after all. Late last year we almost lost him to a common—but no less horrible for its commonness—condition called gut stasis. That happened at around midnight and we were lucky to get him to ER in time, where they hooked him up to an IV and monitored him closely in the hope that it would jumpstart his insides once more.

There was apprehension, many tears, and no sleep.

I cannot begin to describe the relief we both felt when the vet called and told us he was eating again—a skill he used to nibble his way through the IV line too! Having him home again was like a weight being lifted and even he seemed as if his youth had been restored—he was like a new bunny apart from his blind eye that had changed to a ghoulish white like Marilyn Manson. Aside from that, his zest for life (and strawberry tops) had been restored.

Since then, it has felt like we have been living on borrowed time. I saw it as a wake-up call in many ways. Dante is an older rabbit now and has certainly reached his life expectancy. So, when I saw the early warning signals of illness that we had missed last year, we took him straight to hospital.

They kept him in for two nights this time. After the first night he had shown signs of improvement, but they wanted to do more tests, and I assume, for him to stabilise somewhat.

The wait was agonising.

I spend a lot of time in this house by myself. Tess has her own life, which gives me plenty of space to work on my projects. Well, I say alone, I have Dante to keep me company. When I break for a coffee or snack, without fail, he’s there at the fridge with his ears to attention in the hope that I’ll provide the service of retrieving something for him. When I’m sitting to read or watching a movie, I hear the soothing sound of him grazing away or digging at the hay in his litter tray. When the world is silent and still, he makes tiny grunt squeaks as he struggles to clean himself in those hard-to-reach places.

The second night, Tess left me at home by myself. I could not work; I could not sleep. The house was silent. I saw furry grey-brown ghosts at the corner of my vision as conditioned impulses in my brain told me that there should be a little furry thing under the stair or by the kitchen table. On more than one occasion, I caught myself starting to talk to him before remembering he was not here with me.

. . .

We got him home on Sunday, along with a medicine regimen for the following two days, and he was highly stressed. When I got him out of his box, he just sat and shivered so we let him rest. He had never been away from home for that long. When he had rested, however, the first thing he did was eat.

He ate and he ate.

The next two days were a routine of administering medicine, ensuring he was continuing to eat, and checking that he was getting enough liquids. We got through the regimen, and I’m pleased to tell you that he’s back to health once more. He eats, poops, and does all the things a functioning bunny should do, but we’re not in the clear just yet. Tests for kidney issues were inconclusive. Another visit in two weeks for more tests to confirm.

Dante is home now, and it is good, but we cannot continue to jumpstart the little guy every time his battery gets low. There comes a point where the law of diminishing returns kicks in—and if your loved one spends more time on pain medication than not, I am sorry to say that it is better for them to just let them go.

I will be okay. I’ve done this before. It’s going to suck when it happens—whether he’s here with me or at Tess’s new home–and it will hurt. I will cry and question why, cursing the gods with all my fury.

He’s had a good life. He is having a good life. When his time comes, it will be the right time.

Momma said like the rain (This, too, shall pass). Like a kidney stone (This, too, shall pass). It’s just a broken heart, son. This pain will pass away.

—Momma Sed, Puscifer

2 Comments

  1. Beautifully written and my heart goes out to you. I know when Bart passed on I was completely inconsolable. I do still talk to him – just to seek his advise,

    1. Thanks Dad. I remember that and I remember Bart. He was one of a kind. I have tried asking Dante for advice, but all he ever comes up with is “more strawberry tops”.

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