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Posts: 7

Hello everyone,

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:



Posts: 3
I am so very sorry for your loss. I don't think it matters if it's pets or wild animals as long as there's special connection between you and them.
It's pretty obvious that she had a special place in your heart, so did you in her heart. I know where the guilt comes from but I am sure she was happy that she finally got to meet you in her last moments and that she was able to take her final breath listening to the voice of the person she trusted. She was a wild animal so her last moments could have been much much worse. Yes she could have been put down humanely but that doesn't necessarily mean you wouldn't have suffered with guilt. I've seen so many people suffering with guilt over euthanasia. It might have crushed you into pieces as well.
So instead of blaming yourself, praise her for being so brave throughout her final journey and for being such a fighter till the end. I know it's so much easier to say than to do but I hope you find some comfort in knowing she could have been pretty much alone but she wasn't. The last thing she saw was not a needle but the face of someone she loved and truly trusted.

Posts: 7
Thank you Fumi.  I wonder now if I shouldn't have just brought her inside and adopted her, before she even got sick.  I know that usually goes against the advice of experts, but I have heard stories from people who have successfully adopted a wild rabbit, and the rabbit was very happy.  Given what I know about her, she might have been happy too. 

Posts: 73
So sorry for your loss. Yours is a beautiful story. You and the little rabbit had a bond, just like me and Anna and Alex.  I miss them sooo much. Our family has a big hole where they should be. I know you must feel the same. 

Posts: 7
It was a week ago tonight that I lost my little rabbit I called Sweetie.  I've been going back over my reasons for not just adopting her and bringing her inside so that she didn't have to face the dangers of the wild.  I did have my reasons, but of course in retrospect I'm telling myself that I should have just taken on whatever difficulties adopting her would have brought, rather than leaving her to fend for herself outdoors.

The candles I lit tonight for the Monday night ceremony are still burning.  I've decided to let them burn out on their own.


Posts: 834
Butch, I am sorry for your loss of Sweetie, such a beautiful little bunny. It is hard to know what to do in a situation like yours. You gained her trust and showed that you cared. I agree with Fumi, Sweetie's last moments were spent with you listening to your voice and feeling your tender touch. As sick as she was she fought her way back to you, she wanted to be with you during those last moments. Long ago a feral male cat showed up at my house. I would put food out for him and after a while he trusted me enough to sit on the porch and let me pet him. This went on for a few months and then he didn't show up for several days. Late one evening I heard Inky crying outside my door. It was obvious that he was severely injured from fighting with another animal but he made it back to me. He allowed me to touch him just for a few moments and turned away to leave. I knew there was nothing I could do. Butch, I know right now you are wishing you could have done things differently but think about the things you did to make this beautiful little bunny trust you. Please take care and thank you for sharing your story and picture of Sweetie with us.

Posts: 1
Hi Butch. I lost my beautiful rabbit just last Friday , so today was awful as I relived the day Through the hours . My bunny was a pet but our stories are similar . I only had her for 11 months . She was almost 5.
I feel So much guilt as I reflect back on the last few days leading up to my bunny dying - there were definite signs she was unwell , but I hadn’t pieced it altogether . I missed all the clues as they were subtle individually, but together they told a story . My hunny bunny died from a cat scratch - the bacteria got in her blood and she went septic . On Friday early afternoon, I rushed her to the vet , and they tried their best , but bunny didn’t make it. I have been crying every day and sometimes I feel like I could throw myself on the ground and wail. My chest hurts, I think about my bunny non stop and all the mistakes and poor decisions I made Keep coming back to haunt me .
My kids are upset and my husband has been patient , but it’s a very painful experience.

We got our bunny from a neighbour who was moving to the States. Then about 6-7 months later , I got a cat ! Biggest mistake of my life . The bunny used to chase after the cat , and the cat always ran away , but one night they made contact .... and that was the start Of what was to become a bad infection , which I missed. The scratch was on bunny’s ear and we all missed that too .

I think my bunny was slowly getting sick over about 4 days or so .

I thought she’d be in our lives for so Much longer . But instead we’ve got a cat now that we don’t particularly feel warmth to and the bunny is gone .

I can relate to your pain and guilt . I feel the same way . I hope you’re feeling a bit better these past few days . I rang a counsellor and that was helpful . This forum has also been good.

Posts: 7
Thank you for the response.  I'm very sorry that you lost your bunny.  One of the things I've learned is that bunnies apparently hide their pain very well, so I definitely don't think it is your fault that you couldn't tell how sick she was.  The same thing happened with me and my bunny I called Sweetie.  I could tell she wasn't feeling well, but I had no idea she was as sick as she was.

I know what you mean about rethinking all the decisions you made.  I have gone back over my decisions and the circumstances for each of those few days every day since then.  I have read many, many stories from folks who had very similar circumstances happen to them as well, and everybody who cares about their pet and loves them goes through the same feelings of pain and guilt.

I am slowly getting better, so I think you will too.  I've also learned that sometimes accidents happen, and because it truly is an accident there is nothing we can do to prevent it from happening.  I include my not knowing how sick my bunny was in that, and you not knowing how sick your bunny was.  We know it was an accident because if we had known then what we know now we would have acted differently.

I hope this helps a little bit.

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