Ms. Funny Rabbit -- 04/22/00

This is difficult to write, I am so upset and sad and angry.

Ms. Funny Rabbit was brought home by Jennifer about four years ago as a baby rabbit. Jennifer had found some people selling rabbits for $10 and she fell in love with this little rabbit and just had to buy her and bring her home and tend try to persuade us to let her keep her new pet. (At that time she was just finishing eighth grade; now she is just a few weeks short of her 18th birthday and will be graduating from high school in June.)

Her first pet rabbit -- in fact, our first family pet of any kind (other than a few goldfish) -- had been Mr. Funny Bunny back in 1991. The summer daycamp Jennifer and Sean had been attending had some rabbits as part of a nature program and it was announced that the winners of an essay contest would each get a rabbit. Jennifer was one of the winners (actually, I think they had more rabbits available than essay entries since parental permission to adopt a rabbit was part of the entry requirement) as we were informed on the last day of camp -- at a late afternoon bonfire "pow-wow" that was to end camp. The pow-wow was cut short by an intense thunderstorm. We were leaving in the morning for several days vacation and asked if we could pick up the rabbit upon our return. Nope. So the rabbit traveled through the downpour in Jennifer's backpack to our car. A quick stop at a pet shop bought $70 worth of cage and food and water bottle, etc. for the "free" rabbit and a neighbor agreed to rabbit sit while we were away. Eventually I built a fenced in yard for Mr. Funny Bunny, about eight feet by twenty feet with a raised two room hutch. When cold weather came the hutch was winterized with layers of plastic (although we also brought him inside our enclosed porch and once into an unheated attic area to protect him from subzero temperatures without overheading him -- and one winter ran an extension cord to his hutch to provide heat from a lamp). In late November of 1995 (just as we were moving to Rhode Island) there was a heavy snowfall and a dog apparently was able to leap the fence.

When Jennifer brought home Ms. Funny Rabbit we did not want to risk the same fate, although there did not seem to be a problem in our new neighborhood with people letting their dogs roam free. In Binghamton, despite a leash law, many irresponsible dog owners allowed there dogs to wander freely about the neighborhood. (There were many times when I was cleaning up dog crap from our lawn in Binghamton that I threatened to gather up a large quantity and dump it on the front porches of those creeps who allowed their dogs to run free.) So we kept Ms. Funny Rabbit inside. None of us were satisfied with this arrangement, but we did not have the time to fully litterbox train her nor is our house set up so that a rabbit can safely wander about. (Although rabbits can be housebroken, they can't be trained not to bite on electric cords, etc.) We bought the largest wire cage we could find which we placed in our laundry room. When someone was around to watch her, we would let her out and she would hop around the laundry room (although she always liked being on the throw rugs rather than the tile floor). The kitchen is two steps up from the laundry room and she showed no signs of hopping up those stairs but, of course, we could not count on that always being true. In addition Tiger was very curious and suspcious of this strange furry creature. When she first arrived she was much smaller than Tiger and he would sniff at her and then back up cautiously when she would sniff him back. As she grew and grew, until she was as big as he was, he became increasingly suspicious of her. A few times he pounced on her, whereupon she borrowed a tactice from the sixties protestors and just went limp. Still, we worried about a real fight breaking out between them, so we only let her out of her cage when she could be supervised.

In '98 we decided that she had just grown too big for her cage and that, anyway, she deserved the freedom of being outside in a more natural habitat. Nancy bought a hutch for her from Agway and I set about to build her a yard. Remembering the lesson of Binghamton, I was determined to build a dog-proof fence. Even though we did not have dogs wandering around freely, I did not want to put her at risk.

Her yard was roughly octagonal, probably around twelve feet across, fencing wrapped around a clump of oak trees with a front section made with fence posts and an entry gate. The fencing was about five feet high, heavy plastic coated wire. Chicken wire fencing was run around the lower edge of the fence and on the ground around the fence, slightly buried in the dirt, to discourage her from tunneling out. (Although the high quanity of rocks found in our New England soil seemed to discourage that activity anyway.) I also ran chicken wire fencing around above the heavy duty fencing on all sides except the front area where the gate was located. This brought the fence around eighty percent of her yard to about eight feet in height. The only exception, the front fence, faced our house. I also fastened a canopy of nylon netting in the trees above her yard. (At this point I was more concerned about hawks and owls than dogs.)

Rabbit owners will tell you that they are wondeful pets, intelligent, friendly, sweet animals... and Ms. Funny Bunny was no exception. She loved her yard. She would hop up and down the ramp from her hutch. We kept her food dishes, her salt wheel and her water bottle in her hutch. Sometimes she would lounge around in her hutch, but more often she could be found stretched out on the ground in her yard. She had an area next to the left rear area of fencing where she had made a little hollow in the ground and pushed in dried leaves that seemed to be her favorite place to hang out.

She loved to be petted and to have her fur brushed. When I would come out to visit her or bring her food she would be right at the gate, waiting for me to enter, then she would hop around my feet, sniffing my shoes, and then kind of scrunch down waiting to be petted or brushed. Mr. Funny Bunny had loved broccoli and savoy cabbage; Ms. Funny Rabbit was not interested in that stuff at all. She loved apples -- any kind of apple -- and grapes (yes, I know, grapes are like candy to rabbits so you shouldn't give them too much or too often) and carrots. She didn't care for lettuce (except, sometimes, she would eat romaine). This January I saw someone (Kristin Thomas) mention in Pamie's discussion forum how much her rabbits enjoyed timothy hay. I had been giving Ms. Funny Rabbit (actually, although that remained her formal name, we had taken to calling her "Bunny"... by the same token, Tiger is often called Ishmael) alfalfa, which she would eat but didn't seem enthusiastic about. I emailed Kristen and she suggested a particular brand of timothy hay available at PetSmart. I tried timothy hay from Agway but that seemed to be the same as alfalfa to Bunny; she would eat it sometimes but it depended on her mood and her appetite; it certainly wasn't a favorite. So next chance I got I stopped at a PetSmart and got the recommended brand; she really liked it.

I had been devestated by Mr. Funny Bunny's death. Although he was Jennifer's pet in theory, in actual practice he was mine. I gave him fresh food and water every morning, took time to visit him and pet him everyday... would sit in his yard and pet him and brush him. I did not want another rabbit. I tried to avoid becoming attached to Bunny but she was so sweet and loveable that she captured my heart and I would search the produce section of the supermarket. Just as I bought savoy cabbage specially for Mr. Funny Bunny, I would buy grapes for Ms. Funny Rabbit. Oh, sure, everyone in the family would eat grapes, but my real purpose in buying them was to be able to give her a special treat. So, as you might expect, I would visit her just to play with her, to pet her, to brush her coat.

When that very cold weather hit in January we brought Bunny into the basement in her old cage to keep her out of the sub zero wind chill, but we didn't want to keep her confined to a cage, so we sort of barricaded off a ten by ten corner of the basement for her. The steps to the bulkhead entrance opened into this area and sometimes she would hide under the steps and sometimes she would hop up one or two steps to look around. We ended up keeping her inside until the really cold winter weather ended, not moving her back outside until a month or so ago.

A couple weeks ago I had been a little concerned because she hadn't shown much appetite for a day or two, but it must have just been some briefly passing thing because she quickly returned to normal. Last night I went out to check on her because it has been rainy and windy and sometimes she pushes her food dish to where rain can get on her Agway rabbit food and make it soggy, so I brought out a cup of fresh pellets to replace what had been in her dish since morning. I had bought a bunch of red seedless grapes the day before (with her love of grapes in mind) and brought some out for her (while teenagers in the kitchen devoured the rest -- some of Jennifer's friends waiting for her to return from her trip to Canada). She had, indeed, lost interest in her soggy food and was very happy to get fresh, crunchy pellets and even more to get grapes. While I was out there I also refilled her water bottle.

This morning I looked out back and saw her lying on the ground by her gate. This was not her favorite site, nor her second favorite spot either, but there was a concrete area that I had put there to avoid mud while feeding her, etc. and it seemed to make sense that she could avoid mud while waiting for someone to come and feed her or play with her. I still had several shots left on the camera I had taken to Pittsburgh and I was thinking that I should go out and set up some Easter Bunny shots with her, perhaps bring out some colorful plastic eggs, get a cute picture to scan and put on the web. An hour or so later Nancy asked me what was by Bunny's gate and I replied that was Bunny lying by the gate. Then I looked out, yes, it was Bunny, but why was she still in the same place as she had been an hour ago, she usually moves around her yard more often than that.... so I went out to check on her.

She was dead.

An animal -- hell, it had to have been a dog, a strong dog, had pushed under the fence in the back, at the only place where this would have worked, where the ground inside had been hollowed out by Bunny to form her favorite spot, the fence pushed up, bent in and up, the chicken wire fencing pushed up as well... Bunny was lying on her back by her front gate, killed by a dog. I have never seen a dog in our yard, not once in four years have I seen a dog in our yard. We have neighbors with dogs but they are responsible dog owners who do not let their dogs run free. But there are a number of new homes down the street and one of them must be one of those miserable thoughtless irresponsible low-life creeps who allow their damned animals to roam around. In Rhode Island it is legal to shoot a dog on your property that is threatening your animals, but it is not the dog's fault, it is the fault of the rotten bastard that owns the dog. Too late. It doesn't matter who the miserable son of a bitch is who let his dog roam the neighborhood. The damage is done. I may never know which filthy scumbag dog-owner is at fault, but doesn't matter, it won't help. Bunny is dead. Our poor sweet innocent friendly rabbit is dead.

I told Jennifer to stay inside, that she did not want to see what the dog had done. I will not describe it to you either.

I cut away the fencing where the dog had come in so that I had room to work. I dug a grave for Bunny where her favorite spot had been. It is very difficult to dig in Rhode Island soil. There seems to be more rocks than dirt. It was raining, covering my glasses with rain, but I was crying so much that I couldn't have seen anyway. Hell, I can't see very clearly right now.

I must be part caveman, experiencing the same atavistic impulses that primitive societies always seem to display in the face of death. After I dug the hole I poured in a bed of the cedar chips we used for her bedding. Then I carefully placed her body in the hole. I emptied the remainder of her timothy hay into the grave and added her food dishes, her water bottle, her salt wheel, her toys, and her brush. I added more cedar chips; then shoveled the dirt and rocks back into her grave; and then finally placed a number of large rocks over it to keep that dog or any other animal from digging her up.

I cannot express the hatred and contempt I feel for the scum who allow dogs to run free.

Poor Ms. Funny Rabbit. Just four years old; you should have had many more years of live.

Poor, sweet, gentle Bunny.

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