When I wrote ‘What Bunnies Taught Me About Life’ in January, I never expected that five months later, I would be sitting here, writing this.
My partner Marius and I lost a member of our family this month. Our sweet bunny, Grey, passed away suddenly. She leaves a deep bunny-shaped hole in our hearts, but we feel lucky that we got four amazing years with her. She loved cuddles day and night, apple slices, giving her brother Otis weird haircuts, and trying to slip into the bathroom unnoticed. She is very missed.
In ‘What Bunnies Taught Me About Life’, I shared learned wisdom as a bunny owner. Rabbits are so different than cats or dogs—they’re prey animals, they love cuddles but hate being picked up, they’re crepuscular (most active at dusk and dawn), and they’re sensitive to just about everything. They’re a totally unique sort of pet. They taught me about bravery, self-compassion, happiness, and a great many other things.
Grey’s passing taught me a lot, too. These, of course, were lessons I hadn’t hoped to learn for at least another ten years. But that’s life, isn’t it?
1. You never know what someone else is going through
Bunnies are notorious for hiding aches and pains. They will leap around and act normally to give everyone the impression that they’re okay, even if they’re hurting inside. Grey acted perfectly normally in the days and weeks leading up to her hospitalization. We had no idea that she was suffering until she gave us a clue, and then it was too late.
In the days after she passed, I, too, had to act normally at work. We had shoots and editing deadlines that couldn’t wait. But it occurred to me that we humans do the exact same thing as bunnies—we push down our grief and pain. We try to act normally, no matter what. If we were more open about such things, maybe we would be better able to help each other. Maybe keeping calm and carrying on isn’t the best solution… maybe if spoke to others about our hurt, without fear of judgement, there would be a little less hurt in the world.
2. Closure is important
Grey and her brother Otis were a bonded pair. They were siblings from the same litter, and we adopted them at the same time back in October of 2015. They spent every minute of four years together.
When a bunny loses its mate, it can often spiral into a deep depression, just like humans. The risk that a grieving bunny stops eating and just gives up is high. It’s important that you help them understand what has happened to their mate.
Fair warning: this next part is morbid.
Bunnies don’t understand if their mate mysteriously disappears. They will often search for them their whole lives. We noticed this in Otis—he kept wandering the apartment, looking for Grey. I have no doubt he would have continued to do so if we hadn’t provided closure.
Bunnies, like all animals, understand death, and it’s important that they spend time with their mate’s body. This was hard for us bunny owners, but we couldn’t just think of ourselves. We had to put Otis first. We loved Grey, but he was her bonded pair. The other side of her coin. Her other half.
After he understood what had happened, Otis was sad for a few days, but he continued eating and drinking—both good signs. For the first week, Marius, or myself, or both of us, were home at all times. We spent more time with Otis. We invited friends over. We gave him a stuffed animal, which is a good stepping stone in helping your grieving bunny.
Bunnies are social creatures—the only way they pull through the death of a mate is with constant love and support. Otherwise, they fade away. Are we humans really so different?
3. You’ll regret NOT doing something far more than you’ll regret doing something
When we first noticed something was wrong with Grey, we took her in to see our vet. He sent fluids for testing, put her on meds, and sent her home with us. When we got home, she was running around and all seemed well. We thought the meds were working.
The next morning, she was in far worse shape. We gave her pain medication and waited half an hour. No change.
It was the Sunday of a long weekend. Our clinic was closed. Almost every clinic in Toronto was closed. Twenty calls later, we discovered the ones that were open didn’t take “exotics”. They recommended we take Grey to Guelph, an hour away.
We didn’t hesitate.
Now that it’s been two weeks, I find myself regretting not seeing Grey’s hurt sooner. I keep going over the details, wondering if I should have picked up on this or that. I regret not immediately taking her to the ER in Guelph Sunday morning, instead of spending an hour calling around.
What I don’t regret is doing something. I don’t regret changing my plans because Grey was sick. I don’t regret spending the money at our vet’s or at the clinic in Guelph. I don’t regret sitting in the backseat with her the whole way there, petting her.
I don’t even regret leaving Grey at the clinic in Guelph so they could take care of her for a few days… even though it meant I wasn’t there when she passed. I would have regretted taking her home and thinking maybe there was something the clinic could have done to save her.
And I don’t regret writing this article, even though it’s hard.
I don’t quite know how to end an article like this. It’s been a tough one to write, so I’ll just let the wisdom of Winnie the Pooh speak for me.