Monday, September 21, 2009

When We Lose One...

I am very proud of the work that Brambley Hedge Rabbit Rescue does in the community, saving the lives of innocent rabbits, one bunny at a time. Since 2000 we have adopted close to 1300 rabbits. If it wasn't for the Rescue and all the hard-working, dedicated and loving volunteers I work with, I don't know where those 1300 rabbits would be. I like to think we make a difference for these sweet, gentle creatures and have saved the lives of so many, both literally and figuratively. But sometimes things don't work out so well and we cannot save the life of a bunny. This is the true story of one of them:

The call came to me Saturday afternoon from a shelter in town, they had a rabbit who had been turned in as a stray with a severely broken front leg. Apparently the broken leg bone was visible and poking out of the skin. Their vet staff declined to do anything for the rabbit, and they asked us to take it. I told them we would, but they need to do something now for that rabbit in terms of heading off infection in the wound and giving it a pain reliever. I had seen severely injured rabbits before, in fact one of my bunnies, Nevaeh, came to us with a very similar injury to her back leg. She had surgery and a metal pin was placed in her back leg, and several months later she was as good as new, and to this day shows no ill effects from her ordeal. So it was with a lot of hope that I picked up the unfortunate little bunny and resolved to do whatever it took to help her.

What I found was a beautiful light brown female with gray markings, probably less than a year old. Her fur was clean and soft and she was not skinny or malnourished, undoubtedly she was someone's companion animal until very recently. The leg injury was certainly serious. Her front left paw was broken about halfway up to her body. The lower half of the paw dangled limply, and the broken end of the bone was clearly poking out. The shelter people were charmed by her, and said she was very friendly and easy to handle but I sensed a different situation. I found a rabbit who was so terribly and totally traumatized, she was barely aware of her surroundings. She was easy to handle because she was too injured and traumatized to resist. Her body was limp and her eyes dull and unresponsive. She was alive, but she wasn't there.

I scooped her out of there, got her home and set her up in my injured bunny cage, gave her subcutaneous fluids and put the cage in the living room where I could monitor her constantly. She just laid on the soft towels and padding of the cage and did not move at all. She did not lift her head to look around her new environment, she just stared blankly ahead. I went to her and stroked her little head and spoke as gently as I could. She did not react or acknowledge my presence. I placed water, plenty of food, hay and treats within easy reach of her and she did not move or eat anything. Only after a couple of hours did she move around just a little bit. But she just kept staring ahead with tired, glassy eyes. She was alive, but she wasn't there.

The game plan was to take her to the bunny shelter Sunday morning so she could be transported to the vet's office first thing on Monday. I gently placed her in the carrier for her ride to the Rescue. When I got there, she was laying on her side. She did not look good. We held her as she began to gasp for breath. Erika and I knew she was leaving us and there was little we could do for her. You could tell there was fear in her eyes. She knew her life was coming to an end, and she was afraid. We did everything we could to comfort her and let her know she was with people who loved her. She would not die alone.

I could tell she did not want to live anymore, but she was also afraid to let go. We kept telling her over and over again, it's okay if you have to go, it is okay to leave. It will be all right very soon, there will be no more pain and no more fear. Her gasping breaths eventually became shallower. We held her gently and cradled her little head and stroked her cheeks. Her breaths became shallower and quieter, and soon they stopped. Her eyes relaxed and a look of peace crossed her face. Seconds later, she was still. Her life on earth was over, and her new life at the Rainbow Bridge was beginning.

We tried to make her passage to the next world as quiet as possible. It was very peaceful, there was no struggling or panic or blind, uncontrolled fury, which happens to some rabbits who are not ready to leave this life but are forced to. Her death was gentle and soft, like the morning breezes that swirled around her. She did not die alone, in a cold empty cage or on a garbage-strewn street. She was with Erika and me, and we poured as much love as we could into her, filling her with light and caring, and let her know that her short time was not in vain. She was loved and appreciated, and I hope she knew her life had value.

I don't know what kind of horrific, unbelievable trauma this sweet little creature had to endure, and I never will know. All I know is that it was something so bad and so awful that she could not live with the memory of the experience. Her spirit had already moved on when I picked her up the day before, her body just took a little longer to make the transition. She was with me less than 24 hours but she made a huge impression on me.

She did not have a name when I picked her up and she did not have a name when she died, so I will give her one now. Danika is derived from the Slavic word for "morning star." Like the morning star, visible in the cool blue of dawn, she shined bright, pure and clear before fading into the morning light. Danika's life on earth may have ended harshly, but she moves in beauty and grace now, all sweet silvery light and surrounded by more love than we can imagine.


  1. Hi there, I stumbled on your blog on facebook and can relate to this story. I volunteer at my local shelter and live on an animal sanctuary that is connected to House Rabbit Society. Despite all the horrific things that I've seen that people can do to a wonderful, innocent creature, I do tell my volunteers and remind myself that each life that we are able to help and rescue, even if they have to leave us, meant that hopefully they knew that someone did love and care for them. Thank you for helping these lost souls.

  2. Thank you for your kind words regarding my blog entry "When We Lose One..." As volunteers we see some truly awful and evil things happen to innocent creatures, and it can be overwhelming at times. You are so right when you tell people to focus on the good they can do, rather than the evil they cannot change. We can't save them all, but we can make a major difference in the lives of some. Thank you too for the work you do for the truly deserving. -- Steve

  3. Anne Kenyon (Silent Tears Animal Rescue)September 1, 2013 at 1:51 PM

    You know, I don't think we ever truly 'lose' one, because they themselves make sure we don't. When the leave on that most final, yet most precious of journeys, they reach in to our hearts, and grab a little piece as they leave. By doing this,they ensure that part of them will remain forever with us, and part of us will remain forever with them. We are linked forever, and the link is indestructible by time,storm, distance or destination. x