Dear Mom & Dad,
It meant so much to me that both of you were with me at Dr. Wilson’s office as I crossed Rainbow Bridge. I know how difficult those moments were for you. As you wrote the “Ten Commandments for Bunny Parents,” I’ll bet you never thought that the one about being with me at the end would apply so soon. I’ll be writing more about that later. I was part of our family for two years, and had the most wonderful life any bunny could imagine. This happened because of the strong bond that can form between humans and bunny rabbits, and was the case with us. I’m writing this for us to reflect upon our life together, and to also describe this bond for others, so that they might understand.
As you may remember, we first met about two and half years ago, when your neighbors adopted me from another family. I was a little over two years old. They gave me my third home, after the children in two other homes eventually tired of me. That is a sad part of the life of many bunnies. Your neighbors had been told I liked to sit on laps. Well, perhaps I did when I was a baby, but I spent so much time alone in a hutch that I really didn’t care for that anymore. Plus, they had two active children and I didn’t like the attention young children wanted to give to me. I alternately lived in a wire cage in their garage, or outside in a nice wooden hutch. Once in a while, you would stop and say hi to me, and although I could tell that you loved rabbits, I also could tell that you really didn’t know much about us.
Then one day in September, the strangest event occurred. I found that my hutch was being carried across the street and placed in your back yard! I heard that my family was going away for ten days on vacation, and that you had volunteered to bunny sit. I thought to myself that this would certainly prove interesting.
As you began to get acquainted with me, I found that I liked both of you very much. You saw that cleaning my hutch only once a week wasn’t enough. I just couldn’t keep myself clean. After a few days of your thorough daily hutch cleaning, I figured out how to keep myself and my sleeping space cleaner. But, that wasn’t the best part!
In order to clean my hutch, you had to put me somewhere. You had done some research and learned that a bunny’s hutch should not be cleaned while the bunny was in it. You brought me into your house and let me run freely about. I was a good bunny but had a few accidents. When I did, you understood and took care of it with a smile. When it came time to return me to my hutch each night, I didn’t want to go. You certainly had to work to catch a fast little Holland Lop! Our bonding process was beginning.
All good things seem to end and my owners returned. I was a bit surprised when you asked them if I could stay on with you for a couple more days, as you had become quite attached to me, and it would give them time to settle in. They agreed. So, we spent a little more time together before I had to go back across the street.
Your neighbors were taking another trip in two weeks and asked if you could bunny sit again. Unfortunately, you couldn’t, since you would be gone as well. I remember that you seemed to be sad, because you thought it would have been great to spend more time with me. As it turned out, some other neighbors looked after me. Well, they had some young children who insisted on poking their hands into my hutch to pet me. I wanted no part of that! A couple aggressive bunny lunges took care of their behavior. When my owners arrived home and learned that I had not been too friendly, they decided that perhaps they should find another home for me. Just great, I thought, time to be shuffled off again. I wondered where I would end up this time.
Dad, when I heard that when my owner mentioned this to you, and you replied instantly “We’ll take Penny,” I could have binkied for hours! Mom agreed right away too! A bunny’s dream come true; it looked like I was finally going to have a forever home. So, my hutch and I came back to your yard. I was still in an outside hutch, but came in every evening for play. And, there were no children to poke at me and try to pet me! This hutch was borrowed until you could purchase a new one.
One evening I was brought inside for my usual great play time. I immediately saw something new as I did my routine “house check.” It was a two story townhouse hutch, brand new and just for me! It had a neat wooden ramp that led upstairs to a walled-in private area where I could rest. You saw I had a little trouble gaining a foothold on the wooden ramp, so you glued some sandpaper-like material to it so my feet wouldn’t slip. And even better, you talked with me and told me I would now be a house rabbit, never to spend another night outside. I would have my townhouse in an extra room and come out for exercise every day. I thought to myself that life just couldn’t get any better.
A couple weeks later, you put me in some type of carrier and took me to a place called Beaverton Pet Clinic. I didn’t know quite what to think about it. There were all sorts of strange smells, and they seem to be mostly of dogs and cats. I met a man named Dr. Chris Wilson. He seemed nice enough, but poked and prodded and even put some type of device in my mouth, to check my teeth! He explained that my molars needed filing, because if that were not done they would continue to grow and become painful. He also recommended I be spayed, which would improve my chances to keep healthy. Arrangements were made to have all that done shortly. He also explained the proper diet for rabbits, including limited pellets, unlimited hay, and selected green vegetables. After we returned home, off you went to the store, returning with romaine lettuce, kale, cilantro, and parsley. Once in a while you would bring in something different. Remember those mustard greens? They were so bitter! I didn’t care for those at all! You never offered those again!
Life was now very, very good. I had a nice new townhouse, great health care, and a wonderful daily diet. But, best of all, I was now a house rabbit in a forever home with two loving bunny parents!
We settled into a fairly regular routine. Both of you were working day shift jobs, so I didn’t have play time in the morning on your work days. One of you would make sure to feed me my greens before you left for work. In the afternoon, Dad would usually arrive home first and open my hutch. Hooray! Play time! Lots of running and binking, followed by my delicious dinner composed of pellets and greens. Remember the time when I showed you that I could climb the stairs to your bedroom? Dad didn’t think I could do it, but Mom wasn’t surprised. After the first climb, I sprawled out on the floor for a rest, but after a few nights of running up and down, I took it all in stride. On the way down, I could jump from the 3rd stair to the bottom in one leap. That was sure fun. Our daily routine served us well for about a year. There were some times when both of you had to go away. You made sure to arrange for my care.
In late summer of 2007, I noticed something different in my routine. Dad, you were there every morning to let me out for fun and feed me. I heard you and mom talking about vacations and retirement, and that you would rather be home to care for me than go to work! I didn’t really understand what all that was about, but, as long as you were with me, it didn’t matter. Then, in October, you had something called “foot surgery.” Whatever it was, you wound up hopping around on some curious wooden sticks. I thought you were trying to be some type of a bunny! We had a lot of Bunny Dad/Daughter time together while you recovered. You would spend a lot of time lying on the floor and talking with me. I was glad I could now be there for you in your healing period. Anyway, the “wooden sticks” didn’t last too long, and you were able to care for me as usual.
About that time, both of you became involved with a group called “Rabbit Advocates.” From your conversations, it sounded like you were learning a lot more about rabbits and doing some things to promote their welfare. I like to think that I had a part in bringing this about. There are so many needy bunnies out there who are not so fortunate as I was.
We all enjoyed our time together. I even figured out that my lettuce, cilantro, and parsley came from a big box in the kitchen. I figured out that if I just sat by the big box, you would notice me, and bring me my food from the big box. Who says bunny parents can’t be trained? Occasionally, I would have some medical problem, like losing a nail, or ear infections. You were very observant, and would take me to Dr. Wilson for these emergencies. He and his staff took great care of me, and came to know me as a unique rabbit. Don’t get me wrong, I never liked going to the doctor. However, they treated me very well and solved whatever problem I had. The medicine that you gave me wasn’t too bad as long as the syringe was covered with banana.
In April of 2008, I was at Dr. Wilson’s for my routine molar filing. Kristy, one of the technicians, noticed a lump on my lower breast. You were called and said to go ahead and do whatever surgery was needed. A malignant breast cancer tumor was removed. Dr. Wilson said that the margins were clear, but he couldn’t tell if the cancer would spread. We would just have to wait and see. I returned home and, after a recovery process, again began doing the “Bunny 500” around the house, and enjoying being a house rabbit. You began preparing me for a move that would take place once the house was sold. You even bought a neat exercise pen that could be set up in the back yard, plus a very deluxe pet carrier. As long as we would stay together, all that was just fine with me!
We had a great summer, and September came about. You noticed that I wasn’t as active as usual. It was very hot and, despite my room air conditioner, you thought that might be the reason for my reduced activity. The truth was that I was not feeling too well. My appetite was good; I just felt a little out of sorts. I spent Labor Day weekend in the care of my bunny sitters, and all seemed fine. But, you noticed on your return that I still just wasn’t active, and became concerned. You both noticed that I seemed to want to be petted and groomed much more. Mom spent a whole half hour brushing me. This was very unusual for I usually wanted to get moving, but at this time your touch made me feel so much better.
We went to see Dr. Wilson and he checked me physically. He asked if you noticed me having difficulty breathing. I told him that it did appear so. He noticed that the color around my mouth and nose was a bit pale, not the healthy pink it should be. Dr. Wilson suggested that x-rays might tell us something. As usual, you asked him to please do these. As we sat waiting for the results, I was so proud to have a bunny dad that considered my life and well being so important.
The x-ray results were not encouraging. A large fluid buildup, between my lungs and skin, was shown. The fluid made it impossible to see what was else might be present. Dr. Wilson removed as much of the fluid as he could, and prescribed twice daily doses of Furosemide, a diuretic, to try to reduce this fluid buildup. It was this fluid that made it hard for my lungs to expand and take in the oxygen I needed. Dr. Wilson was very worried that, whatever was causing the fluid buildup was not good. Dad, I was scared, and hoped that this treatment would work. We made a follow up appointment for two days later.
That night and the next day, both of you monitored my activity, food and water intake, and elimination. I ate hardly any “crunchies,” (food pellets) and drank hardly any water. Since I was taking a diuretic, there should have been more urine output. I did have some kale, (one of my favorites) and cilantro. You knew I wasn’t feeling good. My breathing was still labored. You made a 10:30 a.m. appointment with Dr. Wilson.
Dad, Thursday morning you got up and came right down to my hutch. You brought my morning treat to me, rather than waiting for me to come out for it. I then found the energy to hop out of my hutch, and into the dining room. I took up a safe place, in the corner under the antique radio. That was always one of my favorite places to rest. You looked very sad after examining my hutch, and finding little fluid output, and elimination pellets smaller than usual. You brought me kale and cilantro, which I ate as best I could. For a little while, I just looked into the corner. Whatever was wrong, it was starting to hurt more. You petted me and talked with me, and told me that we would soon be going to the Doctor’s office. You had opened the blinds and the sunshine was streaming in. Somehow I gathered the energy and hopped out from under the radio to that nice patch of sunshine on the rug. I really enjoyed the warmth.
Then, it was time to go. You gently picked me up and put me in my carrier. You picked Mom up from work. I think you had bad feelings about all of this, and you both wanted to be with me. I knew I was so loved!
We arrived at Dr. Wilson’s and went into an examining room. Both of you petted and kissed me. I knew that I was a lucky bunny to have such parents. Dr. Wilson told us that the laboratory report was “inconclusive” as to the tests of the fluid that had been withdrawn from me. He took another set of X-rays, and found that there was no change in the amount of fluids. With the diuretics, there should have been much less.
He said that, whatever was causing the fluid buildup could probably be determined by an ultrasound test. However, anything it would reveal would no doubt be inoperable. A bunny’s system could not tolerate that degree of invasive surgery. He said that that the diuretic could be doubled, but it was already at the maximum safe level. The third choice, euthanasia was of course dreaded, but one that we needed to consider. He left us alone for a time to think about these options.
Dad, I knew you had some bad feelings about my illness. You brought along a banana and fed me little bits from your hand. This was my favorite treat, which you only gave me previously by putting banana on a syringe so I would take my medicine. Both you and Mom caressed me, kissed me, and told me how much you loved me. You discussed how you would do anything possible to save me, but that there seemed to be no way to do that. You said that you could not let me linger on and suffocate. I appreciated that. If it was my time, we all had to accept that. I told you that, if I was to die, you need to offer a home and your love to another homeless bunny. Just as there will never be another you, there will never be another me. Please, in my memory, allow some bunny into your home and into your hearts. Both of you made the very difficult decision out of love for me. Tears flowed freely from both of your eyes. Those last minutes were so hard for all of us.
Dr. Wilson came back into the room and we again reviewed the options. You knew I would not get better tomorrow. I would probably become worse and slowly suffocate. You told Dr. Wilson that you both wanted to be with me at the end. It would be easier for all three of us that way. Dr. Wilson took me away for a minute and then returned with me. Amidst kisses and caresses, I crossed the Rainbow Bridge at 11:10 a.m., September 11, 2008.
Both of you then left town for the weekend. This was good, because I know what a hard time you both were having. You were staying at a place up in the mountains. Late Saturday afternoon, you looked out the window. There was a cloud, and it was my shape, viewed from the side. I was lying with my head down, waiting to be groomed. That was my image, Dad. It was a reminder from me of our “forever bond.” By the time you could compose yourself to tell Mom and have her come look, my image had disappeared.
I know that you made cremation arrangements with Oregon Humane Society. This was so that my remains could go with you when you move in the near future. You both talked about it and plans are made to create “Penny’s Garden,” which will be a beautiful place for my ashes to be buried. It will be a peaceful place where both of you can come and remember our lives together. You can share our memories with anyone who might wonder what the garden is about. Dad and Mom, the tears will lessen with time, but still be there. Our love and bond is forever. Good bye for now. I’ll meet you later at Rainbow Bridge. Love and Bunny Kisses, Penny
P.S. Dad, I know that, when you went to Dr. Wilson’s to pick up my remains, you and he talked. With your approval, he did a post-mortem examination. He found that the breast cancer had spread through my system and attacked my diaphragm. It was a particularly aggressive cancer, and there were numerous tumors. I could never have survived. You spared me a great deal of pain on my way to Rainbow Bridge. Thank you for making that tough decision.