Thursday, January 24, 2013

Peaches at the Bridge

Last Monday I had to say goodbye to my beautiful Flemish Giant girl Peaches.  She didn't want to go, and I didn't want her to leave me, but her body said it was time.  Reluctantly, she crossed over to the Rainbow Bridge.  I was holding her in my arms and am confident she knew I was there, helping her make the transition to the next world.

Peaches came into my life in 2005, after a hoarding situation in the Show Low area of Arizona sent a number of Flemish Giant rabbits to our shelter.  She got her name from the bright orange-tan color of her fur.  Flemish Giants, or "Flemmies" as they are affectionately called, are one of the largest breeds of rabbits.  The purebred males can sometimes get to be 20 or 22 pounds in size, and can measure nearly three feet in length when stretched out.  Peaches wasn't a purebred, but in her prime she tipped the scales at 15 pounds, a very respectable weight for a bunny.  By the way, the internet stories you sometimes come across where someone claims to have a 50-lb. rabbit are most likely bogus.  A rabbit's skeleton and physiology could not support that kind of weight, and the rabbit would be unable to move around.

Peaches in 2005

I didn't adopt Peaches right away.  For a while she was up for adoption, along with the other Flemmies she came with.  Flemish Giants are very popular rabbits, due to their large size and sweet, loving, gentle personalities.  We don't get them very often at the shelter and when we do, they usually get adopted quickly.  I was fostering Peaches for a while and took notice of her sweet disposition and excellent litterbox habits, a winning combination in the eyes of any prospective bunny adopter.

It wasn't long before a woman came forward to adopt Peaches, and Peaches went to live in her new home.  Not long thereafter, the woman contacted me and reported that Peaches is acting very strangely - urinating all over the place except her litter box, hiding behind a stairwell whenever she was let out of her pen for playtime, and generally behaving badly.  The woman had a male roommate and Peaches loved him, but she would have nothing to do with the woman who adopted her.  I tried to give her advice on how to counteract Peaches' recalcitrant behavior, and even went over to the woman's house to work with them, but Peaches just dug in her bunny heels and would not change her antisocial behavior for anything.  Eventually the woman could not deal with the constant urination and reluctantly returned Peaches to the rescue.  I went to her home, picked up Peaches and brought her back to foster care in my house.  The minute Peaches got to my house, the bad behavior vanished, her perfect litter box habits returned, and I realized that Peaches was finally back to where she really wanted to be.  I officially adopted her soon after, and she had not left my care since.

Peaches snuggling with mini-Rex Marty in 2011

Peaches loved to go out in the back yard for playtime when the weather permitted.  I have memories of her joyfully bounding across the back yard, kicking up her heels and leaping into the air in what bunny people call the Rabbit Dance of Joy, otherwise known as a "binky."  She would launch her 15-pound bulk straight up and catch some really good air, kicking up a cloud of dust as she did.  Once she was outside, she never wanted to go back inside the house, and not even the darkening skies of evening would change her mind.  She quickly learned that if she hid under some shrubbery in the yard, it was hard for me to force her back inside.  In particular, a large bougainvillea bush next to the cement block wall was her favorite hangout, because she could observe the whole yard without being seen, and the hundreds of sharp thorns would make it a difficult and painful proposition for me to drag her out of her very comfortable spot to go back indoors.

In the 8 years I had her, Peaches was never anything other than extremely sweet, docile and affectionate.  Her health was really good throughout her life, although once she had a case of urine sludge that was very severe.  Her urine got really thick with excess calcium and minerals in her diet, and came out of her body with the consistency of toothpaste.  She was very sick and at times her body was completely limp, but luckily I pulled her through that and made changes to her diet, and she was fine from then on.  About 6 months ago she had trouble walking around, and was losing the use of her back legs.  Eventually her back legs did go out on her and I had to move her from the exercise pen where she had lived her whole life to a cage lined with soft, fleece padding.

I could tell she got really depressed when this happened, because she had always been so active and vital.  She was sad that she couldn't move on her own, and I helped as much as I could by keeping her clean, holding her over her water dish so she could drink and changing her position several times a day.  She still loved to eat her vegetables and treats, and she would yank a treat out of your hand with as much gusto as she always did (ask my friend Julia).  Last weekend things started to get really bad for her, and she began losing her appetite, a sure sign of her decline.  By Monday morning, she was virtually paralyzed, her food left untouched.  I knew the end was near for my dear girl.

I was able to spend a lot of time with her on Monday - holding her, brushing her beautiful fur, and letting her know I was nearby.  Monday evening she started crying and moaning, and I knew the end was imminent.  She did not want to go, and fought very hard to stay with me, even though I told her over and over it was okay if she needed to move on.  Tears started to form in her eyes, and in mine, too.  Eventually she realized it was time and when she surrendered her spirit, a palpable wave of relief crossed over her face.  She relaxed a final time, and she was gone.

I am still dealing with the loss of my dear girl, and I don't think it's fully hit me yet.  I keep walking by the bunny room expecting to see her there, her big, dark eyes sparkling under her long, long eyelashes and her huge ears pointed directly at me in anticipation of a treat I might have for her.  I will think of her every time I'm sitting on the back patio, gazing out into the back yard at her favorite bougainvillea bush on the side, expecting to see her stretched out underneath it like Cleopatra on her barge.

When an animal touches your life and your heart as much as she had, she never really leaves you.  One of the amazing things about having animals in your life is that they change you.  They bring such goodness of spirit into your life, that you can't help but be a different (read: better) person from the experience.  I've always maintained that animals make us better human beings, and show us by example how to live our lives.  Animals can teach us so much, if we only open our hearts and minds to them, and I know my life was made immeasurably richer by the presence of a big, beautiful tan-colored Flemmie named Peaches.


The day after Peaches passed, I got a call from the local humane society.  They had received a young, injured bunny and needed to know if our shelter could take it from them.  Of course I immediately went down there to pick the bunny up.

I was not quite prepared to find a tiny, incredibly soft ball of the purest, whitest fur imaginable, barely weighing a pound and probably no more than 5 weeks of age, with an eye injury.  The doctors there said the eye itself was intact, just the conjunctive tissues surrounding it were damaged.  Her thin, fragile body was covered with numerous scabs, indicating that her life had been a difficult one so far.  That was bad enough, but unfortunately I came to realize that the poor little soul had suffered some critical internal trauma, because she was passing blood out her anus.  I gave her as much supportive care as I could, but knew that only time would tell if she was going to survive her injuries.  I keep telling myself that having hope in situations like this is important for both me and the bunny being treated.

The next morning she was even more listless and lethargic, refusing food and water, and I became increasingly pessimistic about her chances.  Sadly her injuries overwhelmed her and she passed away quietly in the afternoon, less than 24 hours after I brought her to my home.

She was not going to die alone and unnamed, an anonymous victim of the ignorance and cruelty for which the human race is so infamous.  Droplet was a tiny, sweet angel who deserved so much better than the extremely short, brutal, pain-filled life she had to endure.  I like to think that for the last day of her life, Droplet knew she was safe and maybe for the first time, experienced the caring touch of a human who held her close and whispered into her ear that she was loved, she was valued, and her life indeed meant something.


  1. Oh, honey, your Peaches is forever beautiful, pain free and doing binkies right now for you. Sweet little Droplet is with her, and they are loving you so much.
    You know, I disagree with your politics 100%. I am a gun loving conservative from way back. But none of that matters at all where the bunnies are concerned. I disagree with your politics 100%, but I dig the beauty of your soul and your devotion to these wonderful little creatures!

    1. Thanks, Brandi. We will agree to disagree on politics, but one thing we are absolutely on the same page about is rabbits!:-)

  2. Peaches was a beauty Stephen, an absolute precious soul. I ache for your loss but smile at the good life she had with you.

    Droplet....I dont even know what to say other than thank goodness she had a little time with you.

    Godspeed to both of them on their journey to the Summer Lands.

    1. Thank you so much, my dear friend. It was very sad to lose Peaches but it was deeply, bitterly painful to lose Droplet. She was so very young and innocent, I haven't yet come to peace with that cruel, senseless loss.