death of a rabbit
On Easter Monday my older house rabbit died. Buzz was my companion in the house for 8 years. She used a litter box and didn't chew wires, though she did eat the tassels off the rugs. She was an excellent companion and each time I looked at her a hundred times a day I'd get a surge of pleasure. I miss her gentle spirit around the house and her enthusiasm for treats. She loved to shred phone books and devour boxes. Buzz is survived by fellow rabbit, Beasty Wieners, who is seven.
I used to have a mattress on the floor where I slept and both rabbits slept with me. Waking up to bunnies in the bed is funny. I'd scrunch over to the one side so they could use the bed as a runway and they charged full speed up and down, leaping and twisting in the air like little lambs. It's a fun way to wake up - if it weren't 4:00 in the morning.
Buzz was a lionhead rabbit, a smallish breed with short body hair and a mane of longer fur around the head. Her mane wasn't pronounced because Beasty ate it. She also ate all her whiskers. Beast always kept Buzz well groomed and trimmed. Even on Buzz's last day Beasty Wieners spent much of the day grooming her. I knew she was in good hands.
Buzz had a fairly peaceful death. She seemed to want my attention and I'm glad she didn't hide. She ate dandelion greens right up to the last day when hand fed and was even dragooned into a short game of chase by the Beast on her second last day. When the time came she scurried into her tunnel and died there. This breed lives 7 to 10 years so she was in her golden years. Because of this and because of the stress of the noisy ferry ride which would terrify her with all the dogs and strangers and commotion I felt it would be kindest not to subject her to any heroics at the vet when likely nothing could be done anyway.
Buzz and Beasty Wieners were spayed which makes it easier to litter train, and makes them less likely to fight with each other. Introducing rabbits is tricky, you could have a bonded pair or a fight to the death. You need neutral territory so when I introduced Beast to Buzz 7 years ago I used my neighbour's entryway and sat wearing oven mitts and gumboots and holding a broom for over an hour, prepared to intercept if the fur should fly. Buzz was aggressive at first but was asserting her dominance. Beasty just wanted to eat the broom. Eventually they turned their backs on each other and groomed and I knew it was a match. I took them home where they were inseparable and over the next 7 years their bodies were almost always touching. They especially enjoyed sprawling by the fire in winter, and lying in sunbeams in the summer awaiting raisin deliveries.
Lionhead rabbits shed like huskies and I save up the fur every winter. In spring I put it on a rocky outcropping in front of my window. Soon chickadees and yellow-rumped warblers come for the fur to line their nests. It's the only time I see these birds up here but they come for this bit of fur every spring. This year after Buzz died I put out the fur I'd collected over the winter and the birds came and gathered great wads of it in their beaks. I like to think of those cozy chickadees in their fur lined nests. Buzz was a bright and gentle spirit and it seems fitting she should live on in this way.
Here is a picture of Buzz snoozing in her litter box.
Jay Rainey is an artist living on an island in British Columbia, Canada.