A Rabbit of Good Character
When I first filled out the adoption paperwork at the House Rabbit Society, there were many possible boxes to check describing the ideal rabbit for me. Did I prefer an independent rabbit? a shy rabbit? a friendly rabbit? an active rabbit? I contemplated these options, and the fact that I have enjoyed rabbits described in quite a few ways. An active rabbit could be a lot of fun (and get into a lot of mischief), and a quiet one could be very relaxing. A shy rabbit could still be loving. I wrote that I wanted to find a rabbit of good character who would get along well with Calypso Spots.
Cami was certainly a rabbit of good character. She was a little reserved, but friendly. She loved to be petted and she wanted to make friends with Ms. Spots, although at times she was skeptical that it would happen. She was a little funny-looking due to having once been obese, and also due to having severely atrophied muscles from lack of exercise, but she had bright eyes and nice English Spot markings. We were looking forward to seeing her in glossy new fur, which was in the process of coming in.
I don't know why she got sick on Wednesday. She was diagnosed with bloat, which is one of the most common reasons rabbits end up at the vet, and a common reason rabbits die. She had been eating and eliminating well the day before, and hadn't had anything new or surprising in her diet. She had been enjoying jumping on top of her pen and looking out the window. There didn't seem to be any special reason for her to get sick.
All of the five rabbits I've lived with in the past twelve years have had at least one incident where the patient lost appetite, felt bad, and had to go to the vet. This is actually the basic symptom of a sick rabbit, not just of bloat. I don't think all of them had bloat, but some of them, including Ms. Spots, did experience GI stasis and gas. None of them were ever judged to be in critical condition for gastric problems (although there was great worry in all cases!) and none died of the digestive problems. As a rule, subcutaneous fluids, B vitamins, and greens got them feeling better in a day or two.
Because of this, I was not initially panicky about Cami. I did take her to the emergency vet shortly after realizing she was ill, but mainly expecting that she would be given fluids, come home in an hour or so, and be feeling better by the time of our scheduled appointment the next morning.
The emergency vet was concerned about her low temperature and somewhat distended stomach. He recommended we embark on an aggressive, expensive course of treatment. I had already had a financially draining month and had just cancelled my credit card because a string of improper charges had appeared on my last bill. I was hesitant to go wild with treatment that I hoped could wait until morning and the cheaper rates of the daytime vet. We came up with a compromise package.
When I arrived in the morning, I learned that they had removed an enormous amount of gas and fluid from her stomach and that she would definitely have died had I not brought her in. She was feeling a little better, but needed to be transferred to my regular vet's facility right away.
All of Thursday became a day of waiting for veterinary updates. Blood tests showed that her kidneys had been compromised, presumably by toxins from the bacteria in her digestive tract. At times she rallied a little and nibbled treats, and at times she threatened to go into cardiac arrest. The vet and I agreed that she would try to save Cami if Cami seemed to want to live, and let her go if she seemed to give up. We wouldn't try to rescuscitate her. This was the approach that had worked for me with George: he had experienced some really bad times, but his desire to live never seemed to falter. Of course, by the time George got sick, he had been living in a good home long enough to have reason to value it.
Cami was up and down all day, so she had to go back to the emergency vet in the evening for night monitoring and more fluids. She looked fairly alert when I picked her up, but by the time we got to the night vet, she had to go on oxygen again. I was having a very bad feeling about all this. I was suspecting she wouldn't make it, but also feeling that if I didn't put out enough positive energy for her, she wouldn't be able to do it on her own. I didn't want to be resigned to the worst, merely prepared for it.
A little after one in the morning, the call came that although Cami was still alive, she was failing and had become cyanotic despite being on oxygen. The vet thought it was time for euthanasia but was willing to wait if I wanted.
I didn't think there was much chance of saving her. Even if we got her through the night, she might not survive the day. If she lived, she was going to need heavy home nursing for a couple of weeks--which at least I felt confident we could provide.
I hated to do it, but I had also felt we were putting her through a lot of stress already. I agreed to the euthanasia.
The vet offered me the chance to come in and be with her at the end, but it didn't sound as though Cami was aware of anything except the effort to breathe. She had liked me, but I didn't think I had become special to her yet. I didn't think my presence would ease things for her and I knew it would only upset me more.
At about 1:25, Calypso Spots, who had been resting in the living room, raced over to Cami's area and finished off the piece of apple that Cami had refused the night before. It was clear she knew that Cami had just died.
In the morning I picked up Cami's body so that Ms. Spots could say goodbye. I wasn't sure to what degree Ms. Spots was upset to lose her new companion, or glad to have her territory back. She sniffed the carrier and the body repeatedly, and obviously had strong feelings, but I wasn't sure what they were. Eventually I moved Cami out to the garage to await burial in the back yard.
It makes me very sad that this charming and sweet-natured rabbit, who had not had an easy life, never had the chance to really enjoy the loving home we wanted to give her. She enjoyed our petting and treats, but since she and Ms. Spots hadn't finished getting acquainted and learning to share territory, she wasn't able to get the full benefit of living with us. She had a bright future full of love and petting, but never got to experience it and learn how wonderful a house rabbit's life can be.