Tuesday, June 27, 2006
The Bunny Diaries: R.I.P Sniffles the 1st
The other day two well-meaning friends, our son Henry's godparents, sent our daughter home with a cage, dried hay for bedding, some pellet food, and a water bottle--oh yes, and a baby bunny. He was the most serene rabbit, soft and angora-like, with dappled gray and tan coloring.
"Henry, what are you going to name him?" "Sniffles," he answered, "because he sniffs." That seemed like a perfect name, especially for an on-the-spot decision for an animal whose nose rarely stops twitching.
Several days later our son Eli came down early, as he often does, to check on things. I, too, was up early (a rare occurrence). He came inside and with a look of terror, his eyes wide, he cried: "there is blood in the cage!". I tried to be calm, fearing the worst. "Eli, come in the house and stay in the living room." I went to the cage--oh, phew, the bunny looked fine...at first glance. He wasn't and I can't possibly describe the state he was in because I don't have that in me to describe, but I knew he was suffering. I found a cloth, gathered him up and held him close, and found my husband. Henry was still asleep and Eli, having heard the sound of fear in my voice, had remained upstairs.
My first thought was, this animal is not going to make it, my next thought was deep empathy for the wee bunny, and my final one was that Henry will be devastated. My husband came down, we went to the mudroom, and I just lost it. I couldn't hold back the tears. I felt like Fern Arable at the prospect of losing Wilbur the runt to the hands of farm fate. My husband, who grew up with more farm animals than I ever did, knew what to do so the bunny would no longer suffer. I knew that calling a vet at that point was not an option. It was clear that the poor animal had been tortured by a cat who could reach his long arms through the thin cage rails. In our ignorance at the cage limitations, we had left Sniff on the porch at night. Big mistake, even for a country village bunny like ours. [By the way, my favorite all-time Easter bunny children's book? THE COUNTRY BUNNY and the Little Gold Shoes by Marjorie Flack]
Henry soon came downstairs and we brought him onto our laps and gave both he and Eli the news. As it was Henry's bunny, we knew he would take it the hardest. My husband had buried Sniff under the arborvitae hedge where he (or she--it was too soon to tell) liked to play and hide, and placed a rock over his spot. The boys brought flowers to Sniffles for several days and we even had a small memorial service for the bunny. I remembered the many gerbils, turtles, chameleons, dogs and cats that we lost as children. But there is nothing like your own child's first pet death--an important lesson in life and love. These small tragedies in the animal world make us the humans that we are.
POSTSCRIPT: A few days after Sniff died, my husband went back to our friends who had the bunny litter and brought home not one but two more: one for Henry and one for Eli. It was a huge surprise for everyone. "Sniffles II" and "Bunny" as Eli named his white and brown-spotted bunny. Sniffles looks just like the first. I'll post a photo soon. Now we realize they may be one girl and one boy so separate cages will be our next quest...or we might be finding ourselves with a litter of our own.