This blog recounts the passing of a pet rabbit and the intense bond that can be created between a moderate human being and a regular old rabbit.
A rabbit. A small animal among millions of similar rabbits.
A rabbit that is our rabbit. She is not one of the many contortions seen on a drive through the countryside, laying limp on the tarmac. Nor is she one of the millions serving humans and cats as food, boxed up and processed. This particular rabbit is exalted by the two of us above all others by the simple virtue of rescuing her from the fate of millions and investing time in the burden of care during her remaining lifetime.
The day has come and passed for our exalted rabbit, for which we have named Polly. Her final night was spent in quiet comfort lying by my wife in our bed (yes, that is indeed what has come about) as Polly slips from our lives, a few shallow breaths remaining. It is Polly’s end and there she goes, quiet, peaceful and imperceptibly, she slips away.
How much pain is felt for this small animal among millions? I will admit that we have been guilty of anthropomorphism, bestowing human qualities and characteristics, but I can say with absolute clarity that the enormous sense of grief the passing of Polly created is equal to the passing of relatives I have known. This is not meant to downplay the death’s of others close to me, as if I need to justify that, but rather reiterate how entwined our lives with Polly had become and would happily mark her high if grief was to be compared on some morbid scale.
As we cast our minds back over the four and half years since Polly’s rescue from abandonment to the wilds of Greenham Common, the memory selects and amplifies the key events in our lives and places Polly next to those moments in some capacity. There were times I would lay mentally exhausted and burdened and she would lick my arm. The simple joy of seeing her laying in the sunshine of the patio doors as I look up from tapping on my laptop. The therapeutic comfort for my wife in times of stress was, well, utterly and completely responsible for helping her through. I can only hope we gave Polly a good life, whatever comprehension a good life would conjure within a rabbits mind. We have however consoled ourselves with the satisfaction that we were responsible for providing a long and joyous life for her.
The intense surges of grief grip the throat, stomach and muscles as they ebb and flow, teetering on the cusp of control. I cannot discern any distinction between Polly’s passing and that of my dearest Nan. How has this come about? It is simply time with another species with emotions, needs, affections and compassion. We needed so much from Polly it could have been an utterly selfish act for our own well being.
The grief for a rabbit sounds trivial but is testament to the attachments humans can build with another species, especially one so entwined in daily life. As this strong emotional attachment ends in the absolute finality of death, it unlocks the reminders of our fragile and brief existence and trivialises much of the things we do everyday. I am reminded of those we’ve already lost as I think of Mathew, Tony, Nan, Gordon, Betty, Larry, Sandy, Smokey, Brian, Sue, Pat and Auntie Flo.
It is also a reminder of the saying ‘Where there is life there is hope, where there is hope there is life’. It appears to me that it is fairly rare nowadays to by intimately close to someone or something during their last few days, instead we are removed from the pain by shear suddenness, distance or lack of time. I mean, seeing every minute as the body slows down, shuts down, and gets to a point that we realise that the hope of continued life passes and is replaced by acceptance and the hope that they will go soon without pain and in peace.
Polly has gone and it is painful but the days will become easier I am sure, with the rawness of Polly’s memory becoming softer so we can look back on her life as part of ours with affection. If there is anything the fragility, shortness and unpredictable nature of life can show us is that each moment deserves our maximum attention. There is today’s life to enjoy.
A rabbit. A small animal among millions of similar rabbits. We named her Polly.
Polly died on Tuesday 30th September 2014 after four and a half years of life with us.