“Grow old with me! The best is yet to be.” ~Robert Browning
Domestic rabbits live on average 7-11 or 8-12 years depending on the source of your information, the breed (larger rabbits have shorter lives), genetics, and lifestyle of the bunny. I always use the 8-12 year range to quote to people in the hope they’ll understand the long-term promise they’ll be making when they say: “Yes, let’s take that one home.” A shelter is an adoption agency, not a lending library.
In my mind I choose to believe the 8-12 year range to give myself an extra year with an animal that will be my source of joy, calm, and amusement. How ironic that it is that extra year that I use to validate the worthiness of a potential adopter to weed out those whose interest in bunny companionship may wane in a couple of months, while simultaneously using that same year to steel my heart against the limited time I might have to share with a more senior rabbit I might want to add to my family.
Mystic, by best accounts, turns seven this year, (her former owners couldn’t even remember they had a rabbit in a hutch outback, so I’m guessing her birthday was even less of a priority) and she is showing signs of age. We’re having trouble keeping weight on her despite her long-standing and often commented upon voracious appetite. The GWB as I’ve called her is still a Great White Bunny, but she is no longer a Giant White Bunny. Her blindness is advanced making her more tentative and sedentary – a lot less barreling down the hallway and mercifully that means a lot less barreling into things she cannot see or remember. She’s adapted, in her own way, she sidles against the hall wall and follows the thundering feet of her brother, Bullwinkle.
She looks particularly disheveled right now, almost like an Abyssinian guinea pig with a bunch of conflicting cowlicks, but that is due to the big way she sheds, molts really. Her fur is an eruption of white clumps both clinging to (through static electricity) and pushing away from her body. Merely passing by her can mean an outfit full of fluff. I don’t really care, though my husband has pointed out more than once, that after an encounter with the GWB, I have more chest hair than he does, and maybe more than she does. I am helping the economy with this rabbit, too. I am single-handedly responsible for the uptick in stock prices for tape-style lint removers. I’ve gone through 4 lint brush rolls this shed alone. I brush and groom her incessantly during the Great White Shed because I don’t want her (or Bullwinkle for that matter) to ingest all that hair. She has trouble keeping herself clean when she sheds, so that represents a whole new type of care she needs. And I think despite her lack of vision that she like most women has some vanity and feels best when she is looking her best. Finally, I believe she tends to get sick when she’s shedding; my froth of companionable fluff is always evident after a visit to the vet. Somehow I think the molt and the malaise are related, though no one has written anything that corroborates my theory, yet.
Today after consulting with my vet (the fabulous Dr. Kruse at VCA Wakefield) and the wonderful rabbit folks at MSPCA Nevins Farm (thanks, Sheri Gustafson), I picked up some higher calorie baby rabbit food, and have opted to leave out a full bowl of pellets (heretofore known as “treats” to be administered sparingly) for her enjoyment. My concern had always been that she would devour the whole bowl in a sitting. And surprisingly that is not the case. She CAN stop after just a bunch, albeit a big bunch. That never would have occurred to me after years of witnessing her crack-like addiction to the things. Had I known she could resist temptation if she just feels secure in the belief that some treats will still be there for her later, I would have come up with this solution 3+ years ago when we first got her, and nearly lost her as she inexplicably dropped from 10lbs to 7lbs in a month. And trust me, we, and a series of vets and specialists, tried very hard to “explic”.
That brings me to my next point, Mystic has always been sick, except for maybe a cumulative 12 months of our almost 4-year tenure when eye ulcers and mysterious-never-diagnosed-illnesses offered a brief respite. She’s never had good vision but that was less an illness than a tragedy. She lost her vision because the previous owners (note I do not call them “family”) neglected her eye ulcers. So you’d think I’d have been prepping for the inevitable for quite some time or at least that I wouldn’t be so focused on it. But I am; I am missing parts of her all ready. It’s strange especially when you consider, my dad’s pretty old (he’ll be 87 in April) and has experienced a long series of health issues over the years, but I never feel that he is about to leave me as I do with Mystic. I’ve learned many a life lesson from animals and I am hoping that my baby Mystic is not here to teach me about loss. I’d much prefer to find out she’s here to teach me about miracles, long lives, and answered prayers.
Great Rabbit Resources:
House Rabbit Network: http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.rabbitnetwork.org%2F&h=LAQEykIWF
House Rabbit Society: http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.rabbit.org%2F&h=vAQF8NsHE
MSPCA Nevins Farm Sheri Gustafson, and volunteers: Stephanie Vandetta, Maureen Collopy and Uli Thomann http://www.mspca.org/adoption/methuen-ne…
VCA Wakefield Dr Astrid Kruse: http://www.vcahospitals.com/wakefield
|Remember, Rabbits are not Easter treats, learn before you adopt or opt for a chocolate bunny|
© 2012 by Alison Colby-Campbell