Our first year of marriage was a bit…different than most. Instead of the typical learning how to live with another person and small arguments about toothpaste tubes and how to put up a new roll of toilet paper (over. the answer is always over), we had to deal with my having life changing back surgery 3 months into the marriage.
Andrea went through it all like a champ; she always has. As someone with multiple chronic health issues, It’s one of the many things I love about her. Rather than letting me just wallow in my pain and suffering, she helped me get through the healing process, taking care of me along the way and kicking my ass when I needed it.
Fast forward a few months, and we’re closing in on Valentine’s Day. I’m feeling better, but nowhere near great yet, and have stored up my energy to go with my lovely wife and a friend of ours to the mall. For weeks I’d been trying to figure out the perfect gift, not only because it was our first married Valentine’s Day, but also because I wanted to do something amazing for Andrea because she’d been so incredible.
The whole time we were walking around, I kept running through my options, and kept coming back to the thought that we both grew up with pets (Andrea, at various time, having dogs, goats, and rabbits, among others), and wanted an animal of our own.
That’s when it hit me (likely in at least small part thanks to some kick ass pain meds). A pet is the gift that keeps on giving right? We should TOTALLY get a rabbit.
I mentioned this to Andrea, and her face lit up in that beautiful way that is does, and an hour or so later, we were headed home with a little bunny pal of our own. (Before anyone yells at me, I know now that mall pet shops are far from ideal, and we probably should’ve gotten him from somewhere else, but as you’ll recall, KICK. ASS. PAIN. DRUGS. and the fact that we barely got out of the house at the time because of me.)
From the very beginning, even when we were deciding on which one to take home with us, Flip-Flop stood out as happy but stubborn. Even our trip home with this little bunny head poking out the top of the cardboard box he was in every few seconds is seared in my brain, in part because ADORABLE, RIGHT? and because we didn’t want him to hop out of the box and hurt himself.
Those early years with him were especially…, let’s just say challenging (but ultimately a blast). He was a little daredevil, and there were many times we’d be chilling in the living room and see a flying ball of fur come careening into the room. Or even have to rescue him from precarious situations (like the time he got to to the top of a pile of boxes close to the ceiling, and then couldn’t get down).
We also learned what foods we could, and could not, eat around him. I was unable to eat an apple in peace for those first few years, as even the scent of one being cut up meant you had a determined little bunny dude trying everything he could to get to a slice of apple before it made it to your mouth. Really, fruit of any kind would send him into a frenzy that made me glad rabbits are vegan.
When he was younger, he actually wasn’t much of a snuggler; he barely like being picked up. We both think it was just an excess of energy, as he would occasionally burst into laps around our coffee table, just because. Again, ALL OF THE ADORABLE.
Lest you think this is all about me, he was great for Andrea too. They shared many a long night in our office, her at the computer, him at her feet. When she was getting ready in the mornings, he was her constant companion, an onlooker as she got dressed, put makeup, did her hair, and whatever else. As much as I loved having him up on the bed, she did as well, and from time to time he would just sneak up on the bed, and stretch out contentedly between the two of us, awaiting all the scratches and snuggles he knew he’d get from us both.
As he got older though, he started chilling out a bit, and letting us pick him up and hold him. (ok, he still freaked out about picking him up, but once he was in my arms he’d calm down) Thanks to my back still being in rough shape, I still spend a fair amount of time laying down in bed, but I started to have company. I’d be laying there reading or watching something, and seemingly out of thin air poof a bunny would land on my chest. I’m sure at least part of it was he knew I’d break down and give him a treat or two, but I also think he genuinely enjoyed hanging out.
While being cute, this started to serve another purpose too. I’ve been pretty open about my mental health issues and the sort of break down I had a few years ago, and I discovered that “bunny time” could be pretty therapeutic. I could be in the middle of a serious depressive episode, but no matter how bad it was, that giant hop appearing bunny would make me chuckle or smile. I got to where I looked forward to a few minutes with him each night, rubbing his jaw just like he liked it or “hypnotizing” him by petting the middle of his head. It gave me something to do that was outside myself, and I always felt a little better after we hung out.
A few months back, we woke up to him being way unsteady on his feet and super lethargic, i.e. not himself at all. We both freaked out, because he was almost 9, and bunnies just don’t live forever (yet). Turns out, because he was an old man, he developed some arthritis, and once we started give him some medication for that, he was back to normal. phew Bullet dodged, we nursed him back to normal and life resumed.
When Andrea woke up this morning, she knew something wasn’t right. Normally we feed him first thing (have I mentioned he likes to eat?), because if you don’t, he runs little circles around your feet until the food dish is filled. This morning, however, he had zero interest in eating. Like, turned his face away from the bowl and everything. I woke up a bit later, and Andrea shared her concern. We picked him up, which went easier than normal (uh-oh), and I hung out with him on the bed for a bit.
We got even more worried when he refused a treat too. He normally goes batshit crazy for the things, but even when I held it right next to his mouth, he just kinda sat there. Still, we had been through something like this before, and figured he just needed some help from the vet and he’d be fine. After getting an exam, the vet said his belly felt a bit off and they needed to run some tests. Still thinking he’d be alright, we left him there and ran to lunch.
When we got back to the vet’s office, the nurse said we needed to “talk” about the results of these tests. I still tried to think happy thoughts, but Andrea had an inkling that something was wrong. The doc came in a few minutes later and confirmed our worst fears. Sometime in the early morning, a small rupture had formed in his stomach, causing the contents of his stomach to leak into the rest of him. We sat there choking back tears as she explained that most owners don’t even catch when something like this happens, and rarely, if ever, do bunnies come back from an injury this severe.
Tearfully, we agreed with the vet’s assessment that there was nothing more that could be done, and he would need to be euthanized. It’s here I want to give a shout out to White Rock Veterinary Clinic in Pflugerville. They were incredibly sensitive to the situation, and let us spend some time with our tough little guy before prepping him for the procedure. Even after they did their thing, we were allowed some final moments with him in each of our arms before starting the injections. Once he was on the table, we were right there next to him, and with the doctor talking so soothingly and calmingly to him, she started.
There were some complications (nothing painful to him), but ultimately, we were there and petting him through most his initial sedation and as his breathing slowed. Though short-lived, the pain he was in from his stomach was finally over, and we said goodbye.
No matter how much you try to prepare for something like this, you really can’t. Even though it was the right call, and he’s out of pain, it feels like a piece of me got torn out, and I know Andrea feels the same way. This is the way of the human/pet relationship though. You go into it knowing that you will outlive this other living being that brightens your day. All you can do is cherish the time you have together and hope (know?) that they loved you as much as you loved them.
Goodbye fluffy friend, you will be forever missed.
Shout out to all the friends who have taken care of him over the years and were a part of giving him the best little life a bunny could have.