Today I buried Toffee, a wonderful 1/2 Mini Rex (“Cupcake”) 1/2 Dutch (“Panda”) bunny. He was a litter mate of Java and Jack. They were born about 5 or 6 years ago I think. That’s old for bunnies.
Toffee was named for his color, a coffee with too much cream sort of light brown. He was a bit smaller than a Mini Rex, more like a small Dutch, but he “had attitude”. Where the other bunnies came to accept my authority and would reluctantly get back in their hutch when they saw me coming (knowing their run was over) or would just sit waiting for the inevitable “pick up and put in hutch”; Toffee would not give up that easily. It was almost always a game of “Oh Yeah, well try to catch me here” with a dash to the side.
On more than one occasion I had to resort to the hose and nozzle as a herding tool to get him to, oh so reluctantly, take the ramp up into his hutch. In the last year he slowed down some and was more inclined to let me just walk over and pick him up. I think this was partly due to my doing more “pick up and groom” and less “pick up and put in hutch”; but it was also partly due to his coming to accept his hutch as his home. A place where he could rest without threat, with lots of fresh water and food, knowing that his turn to ‘run’ would come soon enough.
His last week was a good one
Java had a litter with a set of tan and white girl bunnies that looked to be twins (and many chocolate and whites and a couple of black and whites). The twins, too, have a bit more of a defiant streak to them. They would always hang out together (and near Java much of the time). Their favorite spot was a bunny scrape near the wire fence between the boys side and the girls side (while Toffee’s favorite spot was just opposite the girls). They would often touch noses through the fence and generally be exited to see each other. IMHO, they “had a thing for each other”; more so than the other bunnies. The twins were about 1/2 Toffee’s age.
About a week ago I picked up the twins and put them on the boys side of the fence while Toffee was having his turn to run. (His brother, Jack, got to stay in his hutch a bit longer than the usual 1/2 week; but now his hutch will never be locked again…)
I had promised to Toffee that some day he would get to be with the Tan Twins. It was very pleasant to look out the window and see them acting as a natural herd; Toffee on a rise watching the area, the Tan Twins grazing the grass, years of frustration satisfied at last. There was even a time 2 days ago when I looked over from the girls side and saw Toffee and one of the twins laying side by side in his hutch. It looked for all the world like he was saying “And here’s your new house, with private master bedroom, and both water and food dishes that never run out”. (The girls side does not have “nest boxes” but the boy’s hutches do. The girls are ‘free range’ with a single food “trough” – really a large Pyrex baking dish.)
Yesterday afternoon Toffee was on the front porch grooming and sunning himself. The boys side has a connection to the front “play yard” that is fenced off from the “front yard” and street. He looked a little tired, but generally satisfied with life. His general attitude was one of “Thanks, you made life worth while. But I’m taking a break and a rest now.”
This morning I opened the bedroom window to look out over the bunny yard. Toffee was in his usual spot near the fence between the sides. But his breathing was labored. He was making something of a “chuf chuf” sound as he breathed out. I went out and picked him up as though for the usual grooming session… He did get a final combing, but first I noticed that he was somewhat cold. Normally a bunny is very warm (they have a fast metabolic rate). So for about a half hour I held him, bundled in a towel, while he warmed up and got combed out, with a massage around the ears, neck and shoulders. After a while the “chuf” reduced to a sort of soft pant like sound. He was clearly happy to have his ears rubbed (bunnies especially like a bit of a scratch / rub where they can’t reach so well at the base of the ears and the middle of the back).
At about 9:30 am on Friday, March 20th, Toffee gave the little “jump” that bunnies do when something startles them just a bit. I’ve seen this before in old bunnies when they are dying. He went about 5 feet away and laid down, never to rise again. I was with him, stroking his face and ears while he died. I think he had a heart attack after congestive heart failure (the symptoms match). He was gone in just a minute or so. As his breathing slowed to a halt, it looked for all the world like he got a bit of a smile on his face. He looked just as he did when laying in his favorite sunning spot and forgetting caution would relax and snooze. He was at peace. Then gone…
Toffee is survived by an unknown number of free range bunnies from a few prior matings (that went off to other homes) and by what will most likely be twin litters to come. He was buried Friday evening in one of his favorite places: under the hose reel “cart” next to the front step. A shady cool spot in summer, but catching low angle sun in winter, where he made a ‘bunny scrape” and during his runs would rest there. Safe from birds (hose reel overhead) and with two exits (front and rear) but with side protection. I would typically let the grass grow a foot or two tall around the spot so he had “cover” and lunch if desired. He will now be spending eternity in one of his favorite places.