Like every foster rabbit that comes to us, we had such high hopes when you came into our home. We’d get you ‘altered’ and healthy so that a loving family would give you a forever home where you’d live the life of a house rabbit. But for one reason or another, perhaps you were too shy or old, or easily frightened, or you used your teeth to express yourself when a growl would suffice, no one came to adopt you.
So it was with Belle (aka Mrs. Bootski), a stray who was captured in Bellefontaine after evading her captors for three cold months in 2001. Throughout February, March, and April, neighbors had spotted her roaming the area before she was finally corralled and caught. Even though we were 100 miles away, we were the only foster home that had room for her, so we made the trip to pick her up.
It was obvious that Belle was extremely shy and unaccustomed to human affection. Despite our best efforts to socialize her, she didn’t warm to anything more than a nose rub at feeding time. She wasn’t even interesting in exploring during her free time. As the weeks turned to months, and the months turned to years, we knew it was going to be hard to place Belle into a new home. After three years of zero interest in her from potential adopters, we decided that even if Belle was adopted, it would be especially stressful for her to get re-settled, therefore she joined our sanctuary program. She moved into the living room where she seemed to enjoy interacting with the dogs, cat, and (somewhat) with us. Still, she didn’t come out of her x-pen when given the chance, and became stiff as a board when picked up for cuddling or grooming. Although she was constrained by the restricted liberties of being a foster, she finally settled into her routines and became comfortable with familiar surroundings and with the people who cared for her.
One night about bedtime, Sue noticed that Belle hadn’t eaten her veggies or her pellets and she seemed to be uncomfortable. I picked her up and held her while casually examining her. She was cold and lethargic, so I let her snuggle into a plush blanket on my lap and gently stroked her head and ears while she relaxed and her eyes started to close. Twenty minutes later she let out a deep sigh and she died. Despite all of the euthanasia events I’d tended to in the past with rabbits and dogs, this was the first time an animal had ever died in my arms of natural causes. Thankfully, it was a quiet and peaceful passing, although it still left me feeling empty and helpless in the face of “The Black Rabbit.”
I am so very grateful to the sponsors who contribute to the sanctuary program. Without your support, taking care of rabbits like Mrs. Bootski would be completely up to us and would undoubtedly limit the number of other fosters that we can care for and find homes for. Because they are generally long-term residents, there’s no way for us not to become attached to them just as we do with our own pets. Currently three of our nine fosters are sanctuary rabbits living out their days by keeping us company. Sadie, Sylvester, and Pumpkin join me in thanking their sponsors for all their help!
I had to put Patty down this morning. In two days, her back legs went from being stiff with arthritis, to not working at all. She could not walk and I noticed she was having trouble breathing. By last night, she had started to have some thick nasal discharge and had lost interest in eating. It was her time. She was over ten years old and had fought cancer for two years. (Thank you very, very much to Dr. O, Dr. Tim, and the fantastic staff at the Bird & Exotic Wellness Center in Toledo. You guys gave her another good two years with me that I am so grateful for.) (Thanks also to Dr. Clark and his staff at the Bellevue Animal Hospital for Patty’s initial spay and tumor removal, and for helping her to the bridge this morning. We lean on you a lot and want you to know how very much we appreciate your putting up with us!)
Patty was named after my mom (it gets hard coming up with new names for all these guys). She was the last survivor of a group of six we took in when their owner was evicted — the first group rescue to put us over the three-foster-bun limit that Sue & I were supposed to operate under. We’ve never been under four fosters since then! She and her five relatives were surrendered by their owner after a BHRS member contacted me for help.
That contact in itself is a long story, some of the details are still secret for privacy reasons, I think. (The person who saved those rabbits is on our mailing list – THANK YOU for getting them to us!). They all lived outside, in a wire run in a backyard in Toledo where they were fed day-old donuts from a bakery where the owner worked, and only randomly received water. The waste from the rabbits simply piled up so high in the run that the buns were basically living on a large mound of droppings, with very little room above their heads. Breeding was not controlled, and the rabbits were occasionally harassed by neighbor kids. They were all rex rabbits with thin fur on their feet, so everybun had sore hocks. Since they weren’t used to having clean water, they were all accustomed to drinking their own urine, which all continued to do while in our care. It’s gross until you realize that this behavior was one they developed as a means of survival.
Of the six rabbits, three of them were already so old that they were unlikely to be adopted: Granny was eight, her daughter Annie was five, and the granddaughter Patty was over three. None of them had been spayed and I knew cancer would be a risk. As it turned out, all three of them succumbed to it. Despite immediate spaying, (all of them had ovarian or uterine growths discovered during the spays), Granny died in less than a year, but Annie and Patty became bonded here. Annie died last fall. Mammary lumps were discovered on Patty’s abdomen in December of 2007 and her primary veterinarian considered her condition terminal, the cancer having spread to her lungs. Although I don’t second-guess my vet, *something* prompted me to get a second opinion this time. A second x-ray did not indicate presence in the lungs and the doctor was willing to remove the growths. Pathology showed it was indeed a fast-spreading type of cancer. During the next 18 months, she had five more surgeries to remove the recurring tumors, in addition to hormone therapy, in an attempt to control the spread of the cancer. Even so, Patty remained a happy, curious rabbit. In mid-2009, when the lumps appeared again, Dr. O. and I decided that yet another surgery was not a practical option for a rabbit of her age and condition. It took from then, until now (December 2009), for the cancer to take over.
During her stay with us, Patty was a bit of a celebrity. She was never afraid of our four large dogs, and she seemed to like interacting with them, climbing on them, jumping over them, and moving their tails whenever they got in her way. With her soft rex fur, beautiful long eyelashes, and super friendly disposition, she was always popular with kids when adopters would visit. But younger rabbits were always chosen over the old ladybun. She became very attached to me, and loved to share mutual grooming sessions if I would lie on the floor with her. She also insisted on being fed FIRST, and was not afraid to follow me around the foster room until she was served. Once I was being interviewed for a documentary on fostering (it’s a work on hold for now), and I decided to sit on the floor with a rabbit sitting on a bale of hay behind me, making an interesting backdrop. I picked Patty because I knew she would sit still eating hay and not go exploring. Suddenly in the middle of questioning, I felt warm breath in my ear and the distinctive touch of a raspy little rabbit tongue licking me. She decided to start grooming me during the interview, right when I was responding to “What is the most rewarding part of fostering?” Of course, I had to answer “Having a foster rabbit giving me bunny kisses.”
See you at the bridge, Patrice! Be good!
Thanks again to everyone. An especially BIG thank you to the sponsors in our sanctuary program. The cost for Patty’s many surgeries and meds would have overwhelmed us if it were not for your extremely generous support. All of BHRS’s fosterers are tremendously grateful for your contributions to the care of these very special rabbits.
Patty came into foster care in 2003 as part of a family of buns that were in danger of being released into the wild due to the owner being evicted. All were in a poor condition, having survived on little or no water and a diet of stale donuts brought home by their owner. They had lived outdoors in a run that was more than half-filled with piles of feces, so each of them had some degree of sore hocks. The three oldest of these buns were Granny, Patty, and Annie, who were all over the age of five and had not been altered. Annie’s leg had been broken at some time in her life and had healed at an almost 90 degree angle from normal.
Because of their age, we knew they would be difficult to get adopted. Unfortunately, Granny died eight months later from lung cancer. Annie and Patty bonded together and despite their wonderfully friendly personalities, they were repeatedly passed over by adopters in favor of younger buns. In 2006, due to their advanced ages, they were added to the Sanctuary program as un-adoptables.
In November of 2008, Annie became very sick with lung cancer and had to be euthanized. Patty has had three mammary tumors removed over the last two years; however, her health is good and the cancer does not appear to have spread to her lungs. She is a beautiful satin rex girl with long, gorgeous eyelashes! We watch her closely for signs of any additional tumors. All of these girls are textbook examples of why it so vitally important to have pet rabbits (especially females), spayed as soon as they reach adulthood.
Farewell to Martina who lived to a ripe old age of 12. She was a foster bunny with the Coles, got adopted and then her person died about 4 years later. She returned to the Coles and stayed as a sanctuary rabbit for over 5 years until her passing. She mellowed with age and the last year or so, we were able to pet her without fear of getting bitten. Rest easy, beautiful girl.
Here is her original entry: Martina is a gorgeous female silver marten rabbit. She was a Buckeye HRS foster rabbit who was adopted back in 2004 to a loving home. In 2008, her owner, though only in her 30’s, passed away from cancer, so Martina came back to her original foster home. Martina has chronic pasteurella and upper respiratory ailments. Though treated by an experienced rabbit vet, she will always sneeze and needs frequent nebulizer treatments.
Puff came to the Buckeye House Rabbit Society in April 2005 as a healthy, active boy and was adopted in December 2005 to a family with small children. Two years later, I received a call from his adoptive family saying they could no longer care for Puff — caring for a bunny in addition to two small kids was too much to handle. When Puff came back to our foster home in December 2007, we immediately noticed something was off. He wobbled when he walked and also when he stood still. Sometimes he would lose his balance and almost fall over.
After a thorough vet checkup, x-rays, bloodwork, and some other tests, Puff’s diagnosis was inconclusive. His wobbliness could be caused by anything from a neurological problem to a parasitic infection (which he was treated for).
To help him maintain his balance, Puff needs to live on non-slip carpets that give him lots of traction. Other than his wobbliness, Puff is a normal, healthy, sweet bunny with a very hearty appetite!
He lives a happy life in a large pen are with his best friend, Calvin, another Buckeye HRS Sanctuary rabbit. They lean on each other most of the day, literally keeping each other from falling over.