Saturday, December 27, 2008
The Good Life of a Bunny Rabbit
It was a sunny October afternoon, the fifth, when I brought him home to my sophomore dorm at Middlebury. A friend with a car had agreed to help me with my contraband, a tiny silver rabbit accompanied by a huge cage, a bag of food, waterbottle, and book on house-training a rabbit.
I had gone to the pet store thinking I'd get, perhaps, a hampster or gerbil. I felt lonely in my dorm, not lonely for friends, of which I had many, but for someone to care for and dote on. I had decided that a pet, a tiny pet that could slip under the radar of the dorm-security, would be the perfect solution. However, the gerbil (which would have been useless) quickly morphed into a bunny when I set my eyes on the tiny, soft little creature in the corner of the Village Pet Store in Middlebury, Vermont. The sign stated that he was a dwarf rabbit, and the owner explained that the bunny would only double in size, staying quite small. I reserved him right away, went home and confirmed the "ok" with my roommate, and then got the friend to take me back.
When I first got my bunny home, at the tender age of 19, the store owner had told me that he was a female. I worked for hours to try to choose the perfect name for the first pet that would be truly mine; finally I chose "Abbie", for reasons I cannot remember. She was beautiful, my Abbie, with long, black whiskers, the most gorgeous eyelashes like a jersey cow, and the silkiest ears imaginable. She would leap around the room in circles, picking up objects in her path with her little teeth and tossing them into the air. She was delightful.
Two weeks after Abbie came home to the Pearsons dorm, his testicles descended. Whoops! Certainly this ultra-feminine name would no longer do. We would have to choose another (my roommate was in on this round of naming). "Abbie" had a bad habit of chewing on absolutely everything he could get his teeth on, and the most destroyed current victim of his teeth was my old Simon and Garfunkel record cover. So Simon it would be, Simon the rabbit, and my neighbor Tyler gave the rabbit the middle name "Alkinoos", which is Greek for something I no longer can remember. Simon Alkinoos the rabbit, the tiny little silver bunny who grew into a rather large form of a dwarf rabbit, who was naughty, who chewed on everything wooden, all electrical cords within his reach, but dutifully gave out lots of love and kisses and used his litter box like a kitty cat. We adored him.
Simon stayed with me that year in Pearsons, and then my roommate cared for him while I went abroad to New Zealand the next year, and then he moved back on campus. He lived with me in two more dorm rooms, then moved to a horse farm for a year, was cared for by my family while Greg and I traveled around Europe for six months, moved back to Vermont for a few years to live on an old dairy farm and help run a bed and breakfast, and then finally to the Pioneer Valley where he would live for nine years in three different houses.
Going back to that first year in Pearsons, that neighbor who had given Simon his exotic Greek middle name had a roommate, and the roommate's name was Greg. Now it just so happened that Greg was a real softie and loved animals just as I did, and he started to come over to my room almost every day to visit with the cute little baby bunny. He'd bring his books and read in our room, or come with late-night snacks and hold Simon while he fed him corn chips or nuts. My friendship with Greg grew and strengthened during this time. And over time one thing led to another and, you know the rest. Could we ever have imagined that this little silver bunny who helped to form our friendship would live with us through a six year courtship, our marriage, and the birth of three children? That he'd move with us thirteen times, turning from a naughty little bunny who had to be locked up when we weren't around to one so old and feeble that he lived in a corner of our living room on a folded-up towel?
Simon was a loyal pet, one who we loved so dearly despite all the challenges of rabbit-ownership (I don't recommend a rabbit as a pet, as much as I loved my dear Simon). Today his long, thirteen-and-a-half year life came to a close. He had developed a huge, fatty tumor on his neck several years ago, and at first it had not hindered him greatly. But lately, his kidneys seemed to be failing, he was consuming vast quantities of water, he was completely skin and bones, and yesterday he stopped being able to stand on his own. This morning I found him lying on his side, literally gasping for breath, clearly having been stranded in the same position all night long as I had slept. His eyes were glassy, he was making wheezing noises as he opened his little mouth, and gasped for the life that was escaping him. My heart went out to him, I felt so sad for him and wished I could help him.
I knew the time had come when I felt relieved that our vet was open on Saturday mornings, and so I called and I brought him in and held him in my arms as they injected his little leg with the serum that would end his life once and for all. Greg was able to come with me, as his parents are still staying at our house. We cried together in the vet's office after she left, with our once-again tiny little silver rabbit (tiny save the huge tumor on his neck) seeming hardly different now in death as he had in his aged life.
We had told the children that Simon was dying, and that the vet was going to give him a special shot so that he wouldn't be in pain anymore. They both cried and kissed him, and had said goodbye to him before we left for the vet. When we came home they both wanted to come out in the pouring rain to help us bury him. It was a movie-worthy burial, with cold, slushy snow on the ground, a muddy grave site, and the rain absolutely pouring down. Mist rose from the snow as it melted.
There was a brief moment of comic relief as Greg accidentally exhumed our frog (who died last April, aged 21 years) that was in the plot next to where Simon was to be buried, and then I wrapped him in the little pink towel that I had brought him to the vet in, and slid him into the little wooden house that had been in his cage for nearly 14 years and buried him in the ground.
He was a good pet, our Simon, and I will miss him. But his time had come.