Where did the time go? If I convert your 13 human years with us to bunny years, that would make you 93 years old. Do you remember how, during your checkup on your 8th year, we got a bit offended when our vet informed us that the normal lifespan of a rabbit was 7 years? Every year since then, we learned to just laugh about it and be proud of every miraculous year together. I don’t know if at this day and age, that lifespan is still accurate, or if we’re just lucky to have a strong and healthy rabbit in you.
You were inside a box of Zest-O when you were given to my niece Katrice on December 22, 2006.
Darling Booni, I’m not your original mom, but because I was 24 and working while Katrice was just a college freshman, I was automatically appointed to be your primary caregiver.
Our home came to life as the once-little children in our house became teenagers and weren’t interested in anything other than computers and you. When they went to school, it was just you and me as I was already pursuing a home-based business then. When my nieces and nephews came home, we Googled and read as much as we could from rabbit.org. Come to think of it, your being with a bunch of nerds just might have increased your luck at having a long life.
Growing with you
Do you remember that your first room was a small cage meant for birds, and that you outgrew it in just one week? We transferred you to every part of the house in search of the perfect spot you can call your own, but you slept everywhere and jumped out of every makeshift barricade we made. We finally found the best place under the stairs where you spent most of your active years during the night. We used a book display case as a wall and built a door for you, embellished with a plate that said, “The Boss”.
We knew our place in the hierarchy of life very early on as bunny slaves!
During the day, you would happily hop out, roaming freely and socializing with your humans. When it was time to clean your room, you made sure to pop in and supervise us very closely. We still couldn’t believe that our elderly house members allowed us to give you your deluxe accommodations, even allowing you to occupy half of the display case so that you could hop on it to view our living room, with glass sliding doors and everything. The dogs we had when we were young weren’t even allowed to set foot inside! It was another stroke of luck that they were very understanding of your needs as a house rabbit.
Living with you
For many years, we fell into a routine of giving you your veggies first thing in the morning. We let you sleep and hang out wherever you liked during the day. At 4PM, you would hang out outside your room on a mat where you had your meals, as if to tell us we had to give you your veggie meal number two, pronto. And if we weren’t fast enough, we would hear you bang your empty food container against the floor. You knew the essence of the word hangry long before millennials joined the words hungry and angry together.
At night, after the humans had dinner, you would beg for banana slices from my mom. Sometimes, your share was more than hers, as if you were a pitiful beggar even when your weight said otherwise.
After dessert, you would go over to the sofa for our petting session. There, you would listen to me ramble about my day and I would pat your head until my arms hurt, or if asthma set in – whichever came first. Every night, I would get a free psychiatric session, and even an oracle reading where you gave your confirmation to questions by chewing. In a way, we found a way to communicate with each other.
Caring for you
I was thankful you rarely got sick, but when your age reached double digits, odd things started happening. There was more poop outside the litter box when you used to be impeccable in your litter habits. We started seeing your legs slide, and you would suddenly lose your balance. Your shiny and bright red eyes became cloudy and weepy.
At 12 ½ years, you lost your eyesight. Our bimonthly visits the past couple of months threw me off-guard. Changes started happening and more changes needed to happen. Your independence was suddenly taken away from you. You couldn’t clean your ears or your bum anymore because of your osteoarthritis. In a month, you became wobbly, until you just couldn’t prop yourself up anymore. Eventually, I had to move you to my home office beside my room to care for you better.
We started to hand-feed you everything, hold a saucer for you to drink from, and bathe your bottom. You became a baby in your twilight years. Now, you have a pee pad underneath your bed to keep you clean, and you require multiple diaper changes in a day.
I’m lucky though that you are every bit of trooper through all these changes, what with your voracious appetite and your strong will to live. I am grateful that you are healthy despite being a disabled rabbit on palliative care.
Crying with you
Please extend your patience, now that you are roommates with a couple of cats whom I promise are the sweetest of the bunch. Having always been part of my emotional support team, they are now your security team, keeping you company whenever I’m not in the room.
Having you as a pet multiplied the size of my heart and made me compassionate towards the cats who wandered into our garden. I may have gone completely overboard – you now have 16 cat siblings – but Cheska, the last one whom we adopted weeks before your disability, became your best friend. I thank my lucky stars that you are doing so well being surrounded by cats.
Bonding with you
Now, we are here: me at 37 and you at 93. I have grey hair while you are fortunate to be all-white, concealing your true age.
May I always remember how lucky we truly are for timing has always been right for us. That we can provide your needs. That we enjoyed connections and possibilities we didn’t know we can have now.
This precious time with you is an opportunity for us to bond like never before.
During the day, I choose to wear my bunny shirts to work. Our home office is filled with bunny stuff we have acquired through the years, including pictures of you and, best of all, your very presence. You sleeping soundly in your tipi with “The Boss” sign above it is my favorite view.
At night, the cats and I happily snuggle on a mat on the floor to be close to you. Our routines may have greatly changed, but my love for you remains the same, if not greater.
Thank you for being my greatest inspiration. You take every moment as it is, a creature who knows the true meaning of bliss.
Thank you for always finishing your meals, for still being naughty, for taking your supplements and medications like a pro, for being the responsive and intelligent rabbit that you are.
I hope that as we strive each day to give you a quality life, I could learn to bring some to mine. I don’t know what the future holds; maybe you are competitive and want to break the oldest rabbit record in the world. But even if you don’t, that’s okay, as long as you don’t suffer.
I remember someone’s insensitive comment, asking why we bother to care for a very old rabbit. We wanted to roll our eyes so hard, but we were trying to age gracefully, just like you. Maybe others will never understand. But no matter how unfortunate they are that they don’t have a Booni kind of love, they are not worth the wrinkles.
Some say you are lucky to have us, but the truth of the matter is, we are luckier to have you, Booni.
I love you.
This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s February 2020 issue.