I'm sorry it's taken me some time to get this update on Fluffy's blog, and even now, when I think I'm ready, I'm kinda not. But then again, will I ever be? Please bear with me, this post will be as long as it needs to be....
Fluffy left this world on Tuesday, April 14th, 2015 at 10:45 am.
As per his last post, his health was declining and his mobility hit an all-time low. Severe arthritis robbed him of 90% of his mobility and walking became next to impossible. My husband and I had been hovering over him during this part of his life, always trying to read in Fluffy's face what he truly wanted. I made the same promise to him as I make to all my pets: "If the time should come where you are no longer happy, give me a sign and I will help you along in your journey. I don't want you to be here a day longer than you want to be." But as hopeful and strong as we all intend to be, when you are facing the last stage of an animal's life, especially one that you love so tremendously, it can be hard to read the signals.
I had done much research on how to care for a bunny in Fluffy's state. Using diapers to keep him clean, butt baths, massages, exercise and pain relief. I was prepared to do whatever it took to make this part of his life as enjoyable as possible, but there was one problem; Fluffy would have nothing of it. In order for me to care for him, I needed him to understand that he needed to be still, to rest his weary body and let me take care of him. No matter how many beds I made, pillow set ups I created to help him maintain an upright and comfortable position, how many exercises I tried to do to keep him as nimble and flexible as possible, he fought me, every thump of the way.
He would scramble from any place I put him, and usually ended up rolling and kicking and not being able to right himself. The few hops he could manage would result in him barreling over towards Binky, because he knew he would end up crashing, and his beloved Miss Binks would be there to break his fall (Oh sweet Miss Binks). I would tuck him in at night knowing he was fed and clean and next to his girl, but half way through the night when I would go to check on him I would find him somewhere else, sprawled in a most uncomfortable position, unable to move. And when I picked him up he would lick me so very graciously in gratitude and snuggle in my arms. Who was this snuggle bunny?
There was a lot of licking during those last few weeks. He seemed to only find comfort when he was in our arms, or up on the couch atop his Stupid Blankets, which he continued to battle with to the very end. I think that was the only sort of happiness he could find, shredding those Stupid Blankets, other than cuddling with his #1 Girl.
I knew what he was saying to me. "Mom, this isn't what I want. I don't want to sit still. Never have, never will. I hate this body of mine and I want to go. It's time. My life has been amazing, but now my life needs to continue elsewhere...."
You weigh the pros and the cons, every day, every hour, every minute. Is this a good day or a bad one? A good afternoon but a bad evening? How do I let go of him? And what about Binky? How do I take Fluffy away from her? She will be devastated.....
The day before he left, he had a check up with Dr. Deb. He was down to .93 kg (2 pounds) from 1.18 (2.6 lbs) two weeks previously. This was obviously due to him not being able to maintain any muscle mass and his body starting to atrophy. There was nothing we could do. That evening my husband and I cuddled extra long with him. While Fluffy was always my Little Man, he seemed to favour his Dad that night, crawling over to him to rest and lick him. My husband had been out of work during this time and cared for Fluffy during the day, while I was at work. He and Fluffy had bonded closely, and it was beautiful to see him showing such gratitude towards him. My husband and I knew that the time was near. We had Fluffy scheduled for a check up on the upcoming Saturday, and between the two of us, we silently knew that that day would be "the day".
But of course, the Big Tough Lop had his own plans. The next morning as my husband and I were with him, I heard him breathing funny. I knew that rabbits in his state often had breathing issues, due to extra pressure being placed on the lungs, as a result of laying on their sides for extended periods of time. Here was my Big Tough Lop, struggling to breathe. I look at my husband and said, "This is the sign. It's time."
I called Dr. Deb and she told us to come right in. We packed up Miss Binks in the carrier and I had Fluffy wrapped up in my arms and held him the entire drive to the clinic. When we got there, we were taken to the Quiet Room, and I laid out a blanket on the couch and put Fluffy and Miss Binks together. She sat over him while he lay on the blanket and Norm and I gave him kisses and pets. I told him that this was the day he gets everything back. I said through my tears, "Fluffy, you're going to fall asleep, and when you wake up, you are going to be young again! We're going to set you free! You will be able to run and jump and binky and these stupid legs of yours aren't going to hold you back any more! No more pain, no more cloudy eyes, no more falling over - you are going to be so happy!"
Dr. Deb came in and gave him a needle to make him sleepy. "It's okay Fluffy, you can go. You've had a beautiful and wonderful life. Thank you Fluffy, my Little Man, my Big Tough Lop. We will be okay. Don't you worry, we will take care of Miss Binks for you and one day she will come to be with you too. One day, we will all be together again." Once he was sufficiently sleepy, Dr. Deb took him out of the room to shave his leg and insert the i.v. for the other needle. She brought him back and we placed him back beside Binky. We whispered our love for him in his ear, stroked him, kissed him and cried for him. Then my husband and I sang his song, "He's a Fluffy Man, he's a Fluffy Man, he's a Fluffy, Fluffy Man!". When we were ready, Dr. Deb took the last needle and gave him the injection. And in a matter of seconds, she felt for his heartbeat. But it was gone. My beautiful, funny, crazy, delightful Little Man was gone.
We were left alone with him. All we could do was pet him and cry. He was so small. Once his spirit left his body, he really was just a shell. Binky remained stoic. I'll never forget the look on her face. Such pure sadness, but also, strength. It was then that I knew, she knew this day was coming. She knew exactly what was going on and what had happened. Her husbun of over 10 years was gone, and she was now alone. She bent her head down towards his and groomed him. She didn't try to nudge him, she didn't wait for him to reciprocate, she did not expect acknowledgement. She knew. And our hearts broke a thousand times more. And when she was done, she sat in silence, staring off into space.
Now, our main concern was Binky. How would she handle this loss? Would she be depressed? Would she stop eating? Would she look for him? Or would she simply carry on, unaffected, as some animals do? We prayed that she would be able to be happy without him, that she could find the strength to live the rest of her time without her precious husbun by her side. That night, for the first time in over 10 years, Binky slept alone.
Over the next few days, her appetite did wane, but she still nibbled on her pellets and hay, and picked at her greens. I think for her, there was so much enjoyment in eating with Fluffy. She would hear him munching on something and would immediately appear by his side and sniff his mouth or by his feet to see what it was. 9 times out of ten she would steal whatever food he was eating and Fluffy never once seemed to mind. But now the thrill was gone. No one ran to the salad plate with her when dinner was announced, hearing those breakfast pellets tinkle into the bowl every morning failed to excite, and even the freshest handfuls of hay went untouched. The family room seemed very quiet now, not that it was loud before, because bunnies don't really make loud noises, but there was a definite silence in the air. Fluffy's personality had been so huge and uncompromising that, once he was gone, it was like the volume had been turned off. No little bunny running to greet you, to nose bonk you for treats, tossing rattles, digging in blankets or thumping his displeasure.
But slowly, Binky did adjust to this new phase of her life. She found immediate comfort with Blue, a stuffed bunny that my husband bought them for Easter. Before long, she was snuggling with him, snoozing beside him and grooming him. While this brought comfort to us as well, there is no doubt that our hearts were broken to see that she longed for Fluffy's affection, and that no matter how many kisses she gave Blue, he would never be able to give any back. But she seemed okay with this. Bit by bit, she ate more, fell back into her familiar routine and her diva personality slowly returned.
Binky has always been a Daddy's Girl. She hasn't kissed me in over 10 years, but she smooches her Daddy on a regular basis (and I'm totally fine with it). But after Fluffy left, her kisses stopped. My husband would hold her in the familiar position and ask her for kisses, but none would come. It wasn't until 3 weeks after Fluffy's passing that one evening, cuddling with her Dada, she once again graced his nose with licks of her soft little tongue. That was a real turning point for her, and for us. Knowing that she was able and willing to share love again stitched our hearts back together just a bit and gave us the glimmer of hope that we needed that she would be okay.
This journey has been long and difficult, and it still continues. But it has been an unforgettable process that I was blessed to have experienced. "End of Life" care is such an emotional time with much questioning, second-guessing, reflection, sadness and even joy. You say goodbye in bits and pieces, never really knowing when the final farewell will be said. But as hard as it is to watch a loved one reach their end, it is a precious time that is both a blessing and a privilege. Fluffy's final months, weeks and days were his to live, and I was honoured to help him live through this time with comfort, dignity and as much happiness as possible. In the end, his tired little body could not keep up with his boisterous personality, and he refused to confine his spirit in any way. Leaving this world was his wish. I feel very lucky to have been blessed with the ability to listen to my pets - I mean, really hear their words, their desires and what they feel deep within their hearts. It was my job to set him free, free to continue his life unhindered by the earthly weights of age, health and time. He did not leave this earth a day too soon or a day too late. It was the exact date that it was supposed to be, and I am so grateful to know this for certain in my heart and in my mind.
I know other things too. I know that Binky was worried about him. I know that she knew he was sick and I am certain that they had even discussed this inevitable outcome on many occasions. I believe that while his passing was very hard for her, she found some relief in knowing that he was no longer suffering, that he was at peace and that she would see him again one day. I know that I myself was blessed to have found Fluffy at Mississauga Animal Services, to have welcomed him home and spent the next decade waiting on him (and Binky) hand and foot, serving him the love, devotion, security and companionship he deserved. There was nothing my husband and I wouldn't have done for him, and that Big Tough Lop rewarded us with endless laughter, immeasurable joy and the sweetest of love, the kind of love that only a bunny can give. I am grateful for this blog, so that I can look back and read all about his silly antics, his Bunny Misadventures, like when he hopped in the paint tray, found the yarmulke under the stairs or ran away from home (with me in hot pursuit!). What an incredibly funny, amazing, loving and animated Little Man he was....
If you are still reading this, I thank you. I had no intention for this post to be this long but I promised myself I would write it all out, however long it took. This post was actually written in bits and pieces, over a period of three days, simply because I had to stop here and there to let out more emotion, to cry a little bit more, and take some breaths. It's been very therapeutic for me, and I hope it has offered some closure and reflection for all of you who have followed him over the span of his life. His Peeps. He loved you all so very much and I thank you for all of the love and support you have sent over the years.
I will wrap this up with my favourite video of Binky and Fluffy. I will miss watching this display of love so very, very much. There is nothing quite as heartwarming as watching two bunnies who adore each other quietly revel in each others company.....
For you, Mama's Little Man, my Big Tough Lop, my heart will always cherish every moment I shared with you...