I've never really had a pet before (unless you count sourdough starters or worms). I'm a practical person, the kind who has to have a use for most everything—not the kind of person you would expect to have bunnies (unless for breeding), and honestly, the only reason I really wanted some was for their manure. So last Easter I finally decided to take the plunge, little as I really knew about the gentle creatures. I'm a learner on the go. Plus, my compost needed those droppings!
I did not expect to attach to the bunnies.
But it happened almost immediately. I felt a strong stewardship over these bunny brothers, newly weaned from their mama. I wanted to take care of them just right. I gave them good quality food (including greens from my garden) and let them share my Berkey water. I let them out of their cage to play nearly every day. I talked to them and stroked them. I made them a good-sized run in the backyard so they could enjoy the grass and the outdoors. I made strict rules about the allowed interactions my little boys could have with them. I even took them to Utah on a three-week trip and let them run jubilantly around my mom's chicken coop with her hens.
We all loved them. They felt like part of the family.
This morning as I was doing some routine yard work, I went to refill their water. The bunnies were in their little cardboard house I made for them, but Zephyr wasn't moving, and I knew instantly why. His brother was snuggled up next to him, like always. I was stunned. I cried and cried. For the longest time, I sat there under the avocado tree, not knowing what to do next. I finally decided to pull out the dead tree and bushes in their fenced run, and bury him there with a new tree planted above. So I spent hours digging. Which helped me feel a little better.
The worst is, I don't know why it happened.
My first impulse was the heat, but the last couple days were only in the low to mid 80s, and the bunnies had water and shade. Then I wondered if it was a poisonous plant they'd been nibbling on in the yard. Today I found a huge long list of plants that can be poisonous to bunnies, and one of the plants in their run had just grown some tiny berries he may have tried. Maybe that. And when I pulled up the plants around the dead tree, I disrupted a cozy nest of black widow spiders. So then I thought maybe he got a fatal bite, since he liked to play in that area. But that's least likely of all. Widows are not aggressive. Maybe it's something else still. Maybe I should have waited to get rabbits until I knew more about them. As things are, I must figure out what next, especially for the truly forlorn brother rabbit left behind.
As I cuddled my youngest boy in my arms tonight before bed, I couldn't help but think how fragile and precious life is (and the tears threatened to come again). These little children, whom I love infinitely more than the bunnies, mean more to me tonight because of our loss earlier today. How important it is to be vigilant for the well-being of those we love. But how much more important it is just to love! Reminders like losing Zephyr, though dreadful and heartbreaking, serve to keep things in perspective.
Tonight I am grateful for life.
Zephyr, 3 1/2 weeks old
One week ago
Today I know, for the first time in my life, what it's like to mourn for a cherished animal. I never understood it before. Have you ever lost a pet? Tell me about your experience.