I just joined this message board because I have been trying to deal with the guilt and grief I feel over the death of my wild rabbit four days ago. She was not a pet, but I felt like she was my best friend, and I felt responsible for taking care of her. I just called her “Sweetie.”
She started coming by about a year ago. She first started coming by after dark for some food, and then she started staying longer, and coming by more often. After a little while she was coming by every day, often spending the entire night just lying in the grass near my patio.
She was a very smart rabbit. Whenever I talked to her she would perk up her ears. If she was anywhere in the area she would come when I called her, and if I turned on the porch light, she would run over to get in the light to let me know she was there. If I was inside she would hop up on the little wall surrounding my patio to let me know she was there. She got so comfortable with me that I could reach right over the top of her, even if she was lying in the grass facing away from me, and she wouldn’t flinch.
Around last Friday she started showing signs that she wasn’t feeling well, but they were subtle. She would sit right up next to the house more, or not move around as much, or just have an uncomfortable look on her face. I thought she just didn’t feel well, and that it would go away. By Sunday I realized she was trying to tell me that she wasn’t feeling well, because she would come right up to me and stand there looking at me with this uncomfortable look on her face (my patio is below ground, so I would only be a couple feet above her when she came up to me).
On Sunday night I looked out my glass patio door and saw her sitting on the opposite side of the wall from where she usually sat, looking inside at me. She knew that’s where she needed to be in order for me to be able to see her from inside. I went outside to talk to her and give her some food and water, but she didn’t want it. She didn’t move at all. She just sat there looking at me. I started to sense that she was sicker than I had thought, so I decided that on Monday morning I would call the wildlife vet/rehab center to ask about bringing her in.
The rehab center did not open until 9 am. I stayed up with her all night, and around 7 am she was still outside with me. I came inside for just a few seconds, and when I went back out she had left. I had a gut feeling that this might be bad. Sometimes she showed back up in the late afternoon, sometimes she showed back up in the early evening, and sometimes she didn’t show up until after dark. The rehab center closes at 4 pm, and is about an hour away, so unless she showed back up by around 3 pm at the latest, I would now have to wait until Tuesday to take her.
I looked for her throughout the day. Around 7 pm or so I saw a rabbit in the grass a couple houses away. I called to it, but it didn’t move, so I thought it wasn’t her. A little while later I noticed that the rabbit had moved to near a tree maybe 40 feet away. Again, I called to the rabbit, but it didn’t move. I even went out to get my mail at one point and looked over to say “hi” to the rabbit, and it didn’t move, but just sat there.
It got dark and I went to take out the trash. I saw the rabbit had moved maybe another 10 feet closer in my direction, so I walked over and looked down. My heart sunk as I suddenly realized it was her. By now she was laying on her side with her legs sprawled out. I knew immediately that she was dying. She had been trying to make it over to me the whole time she was out there.
I took her inside and laid her on a folded-up towel on my living room floor. I tried to find an emergency number to call, but quickly realized that there was nothing that could be done for her. So, I just knelt down beside her and talked to her. It was horrible. She was struggling to barely breathe, couldn’t move at all, and once in a while kicked out her front and hind legs. I kept telling her that I was so sorry, and that it was okay to go, because I just wanted her pain to end. I think it took about 30 minutes.
I keep thinking back to those 3 or 4 days when she was trying to tell me how sick she was, and I didn’t understand. Rabbits apparently instinctively do not show pain, because it would attract predators. But I knew she wasn’t feeling well, and that it wasn’t getting better. I believe now that she contracted the RHDV2 virus, which means that there is little chance they could have saved her, but at least they could have put her down humanely so that she wouldn’t have to suffer the way she did.
Sweetie was truly my friend. We spent many nights together just hanging around outside. She trusted me and looked to me to help take care of her, and now I feel like I let her down when she needed me most. The guilt I feel for not taking her to the vet sooner is unbearable.
This is Sweetie: