Losing Pets! – Part Three (Leo the Bunny)

I love bunnies, especially fuzzy-haired ones

Only some of the pets chosen to make the move to Nova Scotia made it.  That’s because we ran out of room for our rabbits.

The rabbits were both farm animals and pets   We did not raise them for meat but to sell to others for pets and also for their hair.  I sold angora rabbit hair along with sheep’s wool and goat fleece, mainly to spinners.

I loved bunnies; the hairier the better.

We had planned to leave the buyers of the farm a few of our rabbits, as they had expressed a particular interest in rabbits.  But I had also intended to take especially one male angora rabbit, who was a special pet, with us to Nova Scotia.

However, I realized that this wasn’t going to happen after the two UHaul trailers and my car were loaded.  There was no room for another carrier or cage, and it wouldn’t be fair to juggle the cats around in order to empty out a cat carrier that was already lodged in place.  The cats were squeezed enough.

I would just have to leave all the rabbits behind.  I knew they would be happier together than separated.  This included my little angora bunny.  But it was something that gnawed at me.  I’d really wanted to bring especially that one rabbit with us!  It didn’t seem fair.

So in the spring of 2012, once we were well settled in Nova Scotia, I began looking for a rabbit.  I ended up purchasing five babies from a breeder near Bridgetown — three females, two males.  They were lionhead crosses, except for the youngest male who was pure lionhead.

He immediately became my favorite.  He reminded me of my angora bunny.  He was the youngest, smallest and boasted the longest locks.

We found a perfect set of hutches for them from a seller near Kingston.  Five holes for five bunnies!  Three in one set (for the girls), two in the other (for the boys).  We moved the bunnies (who were still quite young) from the totes I had set up for them in the bird room to the hutches that we had placed beside the Fundy’s Mountain store.

I named the three girls April, May (nicknamed “Fanny May” because of her attitude) and June.  The boys were Leo (for lion, because he was the pure lionhead, and also for July, to keep the month sequence going) and Gus (for August).

Leo the lionhead bunny grew and seemed happy in his hutch.  I gave them leftover fresh veggies from the kitchen and long grasses from the yard.  I also bought a few bales of hay for them.  Leo loved treats.

I didn’t begin to notice a change in Leo until the summer of 2013.   He lost interest in his treats.  But he was eating rabbit pellets, which was what mattered.

And then, after awhile,  all the food in his hutch was disappearing again, so I felt better about Leo.  And yet something about Leo himself didn’t seem quite right.

Finally I decided to investigate.  I knew how much most rabbits do not like to be handled (unless they have been raised with it).  But I couldn’t get away from my feeling that there was something about Leo that needed investigation.  It was hard to explain, but he seemed lethargic,  sparkless.

Because of his hair, he didn’t look thin.  But when I picked him up, despite all of his panicked kicking, I realized he was thin indeed.

I didn’t understand it because his food had been vanishing.  When I opened the back of his hutch (I opened this only to clean and to add hay), I saw what was happening.  There was a hole at the bottom of the partition board between his hutch and Gus’s.  One of them, likely Gus, had chewed out a hole large enough for a rabbit to squeeze through in the wood.

Even though I had cleaned their hutches and put fresh hay in fairly recently, I had not noticed that hole, which had likely been growing daily for awhile.

Unfortunately Leo didn’t recover.  I realized what his problem was as soon as I examined his teeth.  They were overgrown and misshapen.  The poor fellow hadn’t been eating — Gus had been sneaking in and stealing his food, making it look as if everything was all right.  I had learned at the farm that when multiple male rabbits are involved, watch out.  Sometimes (not always) the stronger males will eliminate the weaker males through a variety of tactics.  In this case, Gus had his eye on Leo’s hutch.

I clipped Leo’s teeth and moved him into more protected housing, but he didn’t recover.   There may have been other underlying health issues that led to his tooth problems and decline.  The other four rabbits were healthy and well built.

It was very sad for me as he had become my personal favorite.  It always seems as if the smallest and most vulnerable animals and birds that we adopt as our own are the ones that we lose.  It’s as if the weakness leads to a compassionate bond.

Too often while working with birds and animals, I have discovered anew the importance of investigating anything suspicious early on.  In this case, if I had realized sooner that Leo had a tooth problem and treated it, we might not have lost that special little bunny.

Interacting closely with animals is a guaranteed learning experience. Sadly, it is often through loss and failure that we learn the most.




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