Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Good night, my beloved Herbert.


Herbert died several weeks ago, very suddenly.

Here’s Herbert’s Whole Story.

After Marvin died, I waited to get another bunny. It was what I was supposed to do. So I did it. For a few weeks. Until one day when I found myself in a mood that I get in sometimes—a mood that’s like being internally furious, full of purpose, absolutely independent. Once in a while it happens. It’s like a sort of mental lightening storm, and I wouldn’t want to be someone trying to get in my way on one of those days. I saw a bunny named Standley on Petfinder and called Angie about him (who I’m now quite close to—she founded Special Bunny rescue, and I’m on the board). He was out being bonded. She said, why don’t you go get Sergeant Pepper at Everett Shelter? I had seen Sgt Pepper. He was on Petfinder for a while. He was an 8-month-old mini lop, gray and white, and he didn’t seem like ‘the right bunny’ for me. And Everett isn’t really my local shelter. It’s a high-kill shelter around 40 minutes away. And I had around 90 minutes until an appointment I couldn’t miss.

But, see, there was that internal lightening storm. So I got on the road.

Herbert meets Beezy.
I went into the shelter, and walked past another rabbit (an unavailable one, still on stray hold) and there he was. On a bed of the wrong kind of wood shavings. And I said, out loud, ‘Oh, HI!” He glared at me. I scooped him out of the cage and flipped him over, thinking I would be able to look at his teeth and tell if he had malocclusion. He disagreed with my approach. But we got through that, I paid for him (they didn’t even know what to charge me) and put him in one of those cardboard ‘I got adopted’ boxes, and I got back on the road. The transaction took around 10 minutes, end to end.

I took him with me to my appointment. Then I took him home. He met my kitties. And then he fell asleep in his condo (Marvin’s condo) and I took one of my all time favorite photos of my new bunny. He was just so tired, and in a new place, and yet I guess he knew he was home, because he slept in a sprawled, flopped, vulnerable position. I named him Herbert (after asking my dad if it was ok to borrow dad’s middle name for my new bunny.)

Herbert meets Zucchini.
Herbert was shy at first, and not super snuggly. Which was a big change from my Marvin, who greeted me with purrs and insisted on snuggling my face every single morning. I decided it was important to get Herbert a sweetheart, and I got Rosie (another story). Herbert was so excited (possibly because he was still recovering from his neuter). They fell in love and were very bonded, and he missed her when she died. And then he met Babette, and you can read that story from the beginning on this blog.

Herbert's first nap in his new home.
And my first favorite photo of him.

Herbert wasn’t 100% healthy (even though he was of course perfect in every way, in my point of view). I discovered a big, grape-sized swelling just under his ear. We had it drained, tried lots of things, and then ended up getting him lateral ear resection surgery, which was a big success. I’ll write more about that later for people who are considering it for their rabbit. I continued to flush it and he did well.

A month or so ago I discovered a big lump on his belly. The size of a big gumball. The vet took samples and discovered pre-cancerous cells, but thought it was an abscess. I had a bunch of things coming up, so I put off the surgery for just a little while. But I think I knew it was going to be a problem. Something in me knew not to put him through another surgery.

Herbert meets Rosie.

At the end....

This next part is going to be hard to read if you’re sensitive, like I am. There’s nothing gory. But I want to share the details because I want bunny owners to be prepared when they face the end of a bunny’s life, because often it happens with similar symptoms, and it’s much harder to deal with if it’s all a surprise.
My blurry favorite.

Herbert gets corporal snuggle treatment from Alisa.
A few weeks ago, my friend Zoe was over here. She’s a rabbit person. She was on her way out, and I told her not to leave without saying goodbye to my Herbert! And then I noticed he was breathing hard. That worried me. I picked him up, and noticed he had poopy butt. So I took him to the sink to rinse him off, and he started struggling and writhing really violently. I dropped him in the sink and scooped him back up and put him on the floor. Babette came over and actually lunged at him, or me, I’m not sure which. By this point I was freaking out completely. I took him into the other room and sat on the couch with him. He was throwing his body around violently. I was screaming that he couldn't breathe, and trying to figure out the equivalent of a bunny Heimlich (there is such a thing, and you should read about it so you know it). But he wasn’t choking. I think I knew that too. Zoe was there trying to keep calm.

Herbert loved men. Especially my friend Chris.
Herbert wrenched himself out of my arms and ended up on the couch. His head was pulled way back. He was having a heart attack, which often comes with a seizure. I know now that when you see a bunny pull his head way back like that, he’s trying to breathe, and there’s almost nothing you can do. Often end of life also comes with a scream, which I was spared, but which many bunny owners endure.

And then, he was limp, and he was gone, and I was screaming and crying and telling him how sorry I was. I couldn’t stop. The whole thing, from telling Zoe to say goodbye to him through his death, was less than five minutes. I’m grateful for that now.

I had a necropsy done, and he was full of cancer. It was lining his little perfect chest, and in his cute abdomen, and had caused fluid buildup in his precious lungs, which caused the hard breathing. His body was un-curable, and it was only a matter of time.

Kisses for shredded wheat
As hard as it was, I’m glad I was there for him, even though I was frantic. The best advice I’ve ever gotten, and given, about the end of an animal’s life is to be brave for them. It’s so hard, but it’s a gift you can give. I wasn’t brave, but I was there, and that’s the second best thing.

Babette stayed with his body all night. That broke my heart. And she’s been a bit of a mess since then. She threw herself over a baby gate (quite a feat for a huge bun like her) to be near my foster girl buns in the back room (which completely panicked them of course).

And now, a new bun for Babs.

So, I waited, and then I got Walter, a baby from Chaotic Acres Rescue.

And now it appears Walter may be a girl, so I’m nervous and hope that Babette will accept her. I want my bunny equilibrium restored, because it’s become one of the things that makes my house into my home. More news and photos of Walter coming soon.

I love, love, love my bunnies.
I hate, hate, hate writing this kind of post. 
My heart hurts.


  1. So very sorry for your loss. Much love to you and Godspeed to Herbert. I will be thinking of you.

  2. You gave Herbert the best he could ever have! We had some like that too - awful.

  3. we are so glad we got to meet him, Tamara! Love your insights about him too!