Saying goodbye to a beloved pet is hard enough for adults. For kids, it is even harder. As a silver lining girl, I’m always looking for the positive in any situation. The positive with saying goodbye to a beloved pet is the opportunity to be involved in the decision, to draw the conclusion that as pet owners, we are responsible for making sure they are happy and comfortable. At least that is what I kept telling myself when I was putting my child through it.
Vale Mr Bunsy. That most scruffy of special needs rabbits, has joined his Bunny Bro, Bolt, in the Garden of Perpetual Baby Gardenia Leaves. We are so very sad to have had to say goodbye to him, whilst at the same time being glad that he is not in pain.
Boyo and I went shopping in the weekend – we were looking for something special for the garden both bunnies loved to remember them. Boyo found some metal garden signs – a clearance bargain at 10c each – and they make the most beautiful memorial plaques. Carrots for Mr Bunsy, who would refuse to eat them unless they were grated by hand. Basil for Bolt, for whom fresh herbs were like catnip.
Mr Bunsy came to our family as a rescue rabbit, aged about 4 and a half, a couple of years ago. He was fed by his previous owners with much love, but not as much knowledge, which probably contributed to his medical conditions.
Rabbit teeth continually grow, which is why they need to gnaw to keep them trimmed. Unfortunately, Mr Bunsy’s teeth grew upwards into his tear ducts. His X-ray revealed teeth so twisted and wonky, they resembled spaghetti.
He had his front teeth removed, requiring his food to be finely chopped. He had weepy eyes, requiring daily cleaning and application of topical creams. Eventually, he needed to have regular injections of antibiotics. As he aged, he also developed arthritis, for which he was medicated with anti inflammatories. Unfortunately, he also developed a wee issue. Yes, he became incontinent. Charming.
We happily whizzed up and hand chopped his food, to make his daily Bunsy Salad. He even developed a technique where he managed to gum the tender tips of new grass, and by turning his head on the side, he was the absolute master at stripping fresh growth on our gardenia plants. He would chomp his back teeth along the twigs, with a look of contented bliss on his face.
After Bolt, our inaugural bunny passed away from a stroke about a year ago, we were oh so devastated. He was the baby I had when we weren’t having any more babies. Bolt was a real character, who would chase birds at a command, and just gorgeous with his lop ears, blue eyes and fluffiest of fluffy black fur coats.
We were equally devastated when Mr Bunsy passed away, but as we are not consoling a mourning rabbit, the loss of Bolt has hit hard again too.
Mr Bunsy and Bolt took a while to be able to hang out together without the risk of fur flying – literally. They lived in separate hutches and I slowly introduced them to each other. With the use of the mist setting on our garden hose, I trained them not to scrap with each other.
Eventually, we realised that they wanted to live in the same hutch. They would spend all day following each other around the garden, curled up around each other, and Bolt even helped with Mr Bunsy’s weepy eyes by grooming him. At night time when they were supposed to scamper back into their hutches, they would completely forget their training and refuse to go into any hutch at all.
It is extremely rare for two male rabbits who are not litter mates to bond. Especially when they are adults. Taking Mr Bunsy to be neutered definitely helped with his ‘tude, just quietly.
When Bolt passed away, we were not the only ones who were devastated. Mr Bunsy was distraught. He would complete a circuit around the garden, looking for his BFF. He would settle dejectedly in his favourite spot, before perking up temporarily, scampering away to check a forgotten spot, and then slowly hopping back to his spot, still not having discovered his BFF.
Eventually, he decided to sit in Bolt’s favourite spot – a big no no – and looked around expectantly, waiting for the big fluffy bruiser to barge him out of the way. Oh, he just absolutely broke our heart. After he snuggled up to one of Boyo’s fluffy toys that was on the sofa one day, we gave him his very own teddy bear, whom he carried around his hutch.
As Mr Bunsy aged, he developed arthritis and could no longer cope with the two storey hutch – bedroom and dining room upstairs, lounge and ensuite downstairs. The ramps inside the hutch and to gain entry proved too much for him. So we moved him back into the little triangular hutch he arrived with, and located it closer to the ground. A bunny retirement home, if you will.
His wee issue got steadily worse, and keeping him clean and infection free involved an intensive daily routine of changing his newspaper layers two or three times daily, plus regular changes of his microfibre cloths that he would sit on, plus an intensive daily grooming and bed bath routine. Organic baby wipes proved to be the easiest way to take care of him.
We noticed that he appeared to be losing some sight towards the end, and also developed a tic. As the tic Bolt developed was probably the precursor to the stroke which claimed him, we were very concerned.
Over the next few days, we noticed that he was not leaving his hutch terribly often. When he did, he would wait at the back door, waiting for some petting. I spent the last few days of his life cuddling him, and gently grooming him, swaddled in blankets as he couldn’t control his bladder. The day before we lost him, he was definitely losing his appetite – never a good sign for a bunny – and lost a significant amount of weight in a day.
The following day was the first day of Term 3, and after I had delivered Boyo to school, I rang the vet to schedule an appointment. Boyo was aware that Mr Bunsy was ill, and we spent some special time cuddling and hand feeding him grated carrots before our appointment.
It absolutely broke my heart to see how devastated my darling son was about the loss of his bunny rabbit, but taking them both to the appointment was showing respect and care. For both Mr Bunsy and Boyo. It was important for Boyo to say goodbye to a beloved pet, and to reach the conclusion that he was doing the right thing for his little fluffball. I was so very proud of him.
Time passes, and the constant ache of Bolt’s loss eased for both Mr Bunsy and us. It still hits me every now and then, like the moment I realised that our cordyline fronds were touching the grass. Bolt was no longer keeping them perfectly symmetrically trimmed by standing on his hind legs and nibbling as high as he could.
Losing Bolt was just awful – particularly as it was so sudden with so little warning. He had recovered from a previous illness – although not as well as we had all previously thought. Losing Mr Bunsy, despite our forewarning, was equally awful. Especially as we feel as though we are mourning Bolt all over again. The opportunity to say goodbye to a beloved pet cannot be underestimated.
We so loved having both these little bunny bros in our lives. They were the yin and yang – the black fluffy show quality Bolt and the white scruffy pink eyed Mr Bunsy with his special needs and ironic hipster moustache.
We will welcome some more bunnies into our lives one day … but not just yet. Just for now, we need to take the time to mourn and remember and commemorate.
Oh, I do miss them so. Thank you so much for all the beautiful messages I’ve received. X