It’s been less than two months since we said goodbye to one of our pet bunnies. Last week, we had to say goodbye to the other one. Jellybean seemed to handle Oreo’s absence just fine for the first month. For a nine-year-old rabbit, she was still pretty spry. But then she stopped eating.
This wasn’t the first time. We nearly lost her three years ago when her digestive system shut down. An early morning trip to the emergency vet clinic and a few doses of Critical Care recovery food got her eating again and she was fine.
We hung on to the bag of Critical Care and had to use it another time, about a year or so ago I think. She bounced right back again. But this time, it didn’t work.
The strange part was that she seemed to act normally otherwise. She slept more, but she’d been doing that for awhile. She still sniffed around, still explored the living room, and she even begged. She just didn’t eat more than a nibble or two.
It’s hard to tell when rabbits are sick. You have to watch them very closely. We think she’s probably been sick for awhile, and maybe Oreo’s loss got to her more than we realized. They were bonded and hadn’t been apart for eight years. But on Wednesday, she started grinding her teeth—a sign that a rabbit is in pain, and we didn’t want her suffering. So we had to say goodbye.
(Which—along with the holiday weekend—is why I haven’t been posting too much lately. I needed some time to grieve.)
But I don’t want to focus on the end—which was very quick, she fell asleep and was gone within a few seconds. Instead I want to remember her the way she was.
We never planned to get a rabbit when we went to the pet store in August of 2004. We were looking for a guinea pig, but we stopped to look at the Holland lops, like we always did, and Julia picked up a few. Big mistake! We brought Jellybean home that day, and quickly had to adapt to a bunny in the house.
Jellybean was our first “baby.” She was also our Olympic bunny. We bought a pet fence and set up a small pen for her in our living room. Each night as we watched the Athens Olympics she would run laps in the pen. Inevitably, one of us would yell out “On your mark, get set, GO!” She would sit there, looking at us like we were nuts, then a little twitch and off she’d run. When we let her out of the pen, she would sprint back and forth across the house—front door to back door—in a few seconds. A little brown and white blur.
She was also our “Houdini.” She could slip through any gap, no matter how small. She could also open supposedly pet-proof fences. One morning—after we had bonded her and Oreo—I came downstairs and found their shared pen open. Oreo was inside, feet in his bowl, waiting to be fed (no surprise there!) but Jellybean was gone. This was before Anna was born, and the house was neither baby nor bunny-proofed. She could be anywhere. Into anything.
I searched for her frantically for several minutes before she strolled out from where ever she was hiding and walked back into the pen and to their shared litter box. I quickly shut the gate and caught my breath, relieved that she was safe.
Then I watched her lift the gate with her nose and walk right back out again. Houdini.
We bought metal clasps that day and latched the fence shut. She didn’t get out again, but not for want of trying. She licked those latches for months determined to wear them down.
We nicknamed her “football” because she was always under our feet. We nicknamed her “the bunny vacuum” because she was always picking up the crumbs that Anna dropped from her table. But the nickname we used the most was “Jelly Belly.” I’m not sure why. There’s the brand of jellybeans, of course, plus it made “The Name Game” easier when it got to her turn.
Jelly, jelly, bo, belly
Banana, fana, fo, felly
Fee, fi, mo, melly
She was always a curious bunny, which showed how safe she felt in our home. Oreo was the shy one. Jellybean was never shy. She would nose around her pen while I was trying to clean. “Do you want to help?” I’d ask. She’d just hop around and get in my way. She wouldn’t even move for the vacuum. Neither of them ran from it—unlike the dogs I’ve known who always ran from vacuums. Oreo didn’t like it and would begrudgingly move, but Jellybean would walk right up and sniff it every time.
It’s a miracle she made it to almost nine-and-a-half without getting vacuumed up herself. She had a good long life, and was her curious, spunky, outgoing self right up to the end.
That’s all we could have asked for, but we’re still going to miss her.
And now Oreo can’t horde all the bananas to himself anymore. They’ll have to share—whether they like it or not.