My boyfriend adopted our rabbit Humphrey, (Known as Jake on Pet Finder) from a shelter in Minnesota in November 2014. Humphrey was a 2-year-old Lionhead/lop mix. I don’t know how I feel about fate, but I do feel several occurrences happened that make a person question what is meant to be. Months before Luke adopted him as a surprise for me, I was looking into adopting another rabbit for our timid Lionhead, Aslan. The rabbit he picked out, I was already looking at constantly online; he had no idea I was looking into adoption, or that I saw “Jake” previously. I was hesitant to bring it up to Luke, as this rabbit looked so similar to a rabbit I grew up with for 8 years, Pat, the bunny. I thought the similarities would be painful. Luke came home very late to my apartment and asked that I closed my eyes when he popped his head in the door. I obeyed, and when he asked me to opened them I saw a small carrier in front of my feet. I said, “what is this? “, and he told me to “take a look:)”. I opened the door, and there were the sweet eyes of the little boy we both had fallen in love with online. Although the shelter had named him Jake, when he looked at me I could not shake the name Humphrey- so we stuck with it.
Humphrey was very weak, sneezing frequently, and had thick snot when he arrived to our apartment. He must have been at that shelter for a long time untreated for his illness. He was taken to the vet hospital in our town the next day and given a liquid form of Baytril for 4 weeks for his sneezing. After the medication did not seem to do anything, we brought him to a separate vet for another opinion. This other vet, we will call vet M, was highly experienced with rabbits. He gave Humphrey a pill form of Baytril, which was easier for him to take. He was on this for several months. His snot and sneezing gradually decreased with this, and eventually he stopped sneezing for the time being.
When he stopped sneezing, I had asked Luke if either of the vets told him if Humphrey was neutered, to which he said “yeah, I’m pretty sure”; however, about a week after his sneezing stopped, we figured out that Humphrey was not neutered. His new hobby was humping a stuffed animal rabbit we gave to him. Our little Humphrey. Many months later when he seemed well enough, vet M recommended neutering Humphrey. We figured this was a good idea, as he was always wearing himself out on that stuffed animal of his. After his surgery, he seemed to recover well; unfortunately, about a month later he became very ill. His breathing seemed slow despite his energy level being relatively high. When he brought him back in to vet M, he informed us we needed to take Humphrey to the vet hospital again, as they had technology he did not have to pinpoint his illness. Luckily, we got in to the vet hospital the same day and x-rays were done. Our Humphrey had a very severe case of pneumonia. Our now new vet, vet W we will call her, told us that due to his previous struggle with Pasturella, which he probably had all his life, his health was already quite guarded. I will wonder if having him neutered at all would have saved him from this sickness. She had to do research online, as she had not treated a case this severe before. She put Humphrey on Azithromycin, a liquid pink medicine which I had been on as a child. He very slowly picked up energy, and was on this medication for about 3 months. He appeared to have completely recovered after that time. We brought him in for a checkup and he seemed to be better for the time being.
Humphrey turned out to be the biggest cuddler, lover, and fighter; and he could touch the clouds with his amazing binkies. Unfortunately, he did not ever bond with Aslan; but they shared cages side by side and seemed content to look at each other. Humphrey would lay by me on the couch and get petted for hours; he was a mamma’s boy, and I loved him, and still love him, so desperately.
Many months since that time were spent with our binky boy; he gave so much joy to everyone around him. His breathing always seemed very different from Aslans, which always had me on overprotective mom duty. In March of this year (2016), I felt something was not right. He did not look physically ill, but his breathing always seemed a little slow, and he could kick out a sneeze every so often; I felt that he needed to be looked at again. Vet W was not available for a couple weeks, and I wanted him to be seen as soon as possible. They put us with another vet at the same hospital for a checkup a couple days later. This part is where I regret with all my heart not trusting my gut. We should have waited for vet W. This new vet (lets go with vet B) seemed very nice, but wanted to put Humphrey back on Azithromycin, without doing any x-rays. He stated” this worked for him last time? we could try it again”. I was upset as he had already been on that medication a long time; I did not want to put him back on it on a whim when he was giving him a clean bill of health other than a few sneezes. If he was made immune to it, what if he caught pneumonia again? We left, and did not put him back on the medication. I regretted not making the vet take an x-ray; however, I trusted his examination. Humphrey was still a ball of energy and did not show any signs of weakness; not until July 5th. Luke and I were at a cabin from Saturday afternoon (we left at 2PM on the 2nd) until July 5th (returned home at 11AM). My father looked after Humphrey while we were gone. He did not give any negative comments and Humphrey seemed his normal self. Upon our return, I noticed he had not pooped in his box at all, something that would be easy for anyone to miss if you were not digging in the hay. There were small hard poops all around his enclosure and when I picked him up he had poop matted to his fur. Humphrey’s energy was there, he even came to snuggle me and was drinking lots of water. Then I looked at his food dish, and it was very full, I couldn’t tell if he had eaten. We spent the day cleaning him and monitoring his activity. I noticed his genital area was swollen, which instantly made my heart ache. He ate a small amount of spinach and banana in addition to the water. As he was eating a little, did not seem in pain, and had some runny poop we decided to wait until the next day and monitor him at night. That was the last meal he ate.
We called and made an appointment for the next day, the 6th of July. That night he ran to me right before bed, and wanted to be petted, which I did for several minutes. As I had to work early, I couldn’t pet him for hours as I normally would have, which still hurts me to think about.
The next day, I was picked up at work by Luke and we grabbed Humphrey for his 2:30PM appointment. He had not eaten, and had not pooped solidly that morning either. When we arrived they took his weight, and brought us into the examination room. We explained what happened and our usual vet, vet W, looked at us with hesitation in her eyes. She felt him and asked if she could do x-rays. I already started to cry, I hated seeing my boy look scared in the arms of a stranger; it felt exactly the same as when he was diagnosed with Pneumonia, crying in an examination room while they carried our boy away. Luke comforted me and reassured me he has already gotten through so much that we should be positive. When our vet came back in, the look on her face said it all. The x-ray showed us his heart was severely enlarged with fluid around it. His lung, was the size of a pea, and she could not get a heartbeat through her stethoscope due to the thickness of the abscess wall that was built up, from the pneumonia. She was using a website to try and look up information on heart disease, and informed us she had just been at a conference, but so little information was out there for rabbits and heart disease. Vet W looked at us and said, it was likely no medication could reach his heart even if we tried, and that we should let him go. Humphrey looked up at me so perfectly, so healthy and hopeful. Looking at me as if saying “mamma, have I been brave enough.” I’m crying as I am typing this; the look in his eyes told me he was trying so hard for me. How does anyone deserve unconditional love like that? He did not look like a rabbit ready for the rainbow bridge. Luke started crying placing his head on Humphreys, and I could feel my heart sinking. I choked out, can we at least take him home for a little while, and she shook her head. She said although he looks like he does, being such a brave fighter, was struggling to breathe and it should be done now. He did not show any signs of illness until the day before, for months, and my heart broke as I stood there looking at Humphrey looking at me. We hummed him the song we wrote for him, and held him in our arms as the anesthetic drifted him into a deep sleep. As anyone that has been through the euthanasia process knows, it was life changing; the worst day, the worst experience of my life. We went from hopeful visit, to barely being able to say goodbye. Although, we only had Humphrey for under 2 years, he was everything to me. He was the reason I stayed at my highly stressful job, the reason I got up in the mornings, the reason for believing there was good in the world. I am still filled with regrets, and “what ifs”. You can’t help but feel the blame is all yours. Money was never the issue for vet bills (I kept my stressful job to be able to pay for whatever he needed), which is why I will always regret not asking vet B to take an x-ray in March. I regret not adopting him sooner. I regret that I couldn’t take that last journey with him. I could find a million different ways to blame myself. I just wanted to spread his story, as I only found a couple other stories of rabbit owners that went through what we did. There was no way to physically tell he was ill, until the day before he died. He was better at putting on a brave face than I will ever be.
by Mallary Herbert