Over a number of years I got frustrated with people, namely non pet owners, saying animals are just dumb creatures and that people are more important than animals.
This could never be more untrue. Yes, people are important, of that there is no doubt. But for those of us who have been pet owners, and have had the privilege of keeping a pet, and caring for it, tending to its needs, spending quality time with it then we are the ones who appreciate that they are more like special companions than just dumb creatures. I still very much remember the day my twins Sooty and Sweep were born!!
When I was approaching my 40th birthday in order to mark this special occasion and after many years of deliberation I decided I was going to have a rabbit. I had wanted one for many years, but several reasons and excuses prevented me from having one. So I finally took the plunge, I bought a beautiful lop eared pure albino and called her Venus. However, after a couple of weeks because I lived on my own and had to leave her on her own most of the day at home, whilst I was at work, I started to feel little pangs of guilt.
Rabbits are very sociable little creatures, and ideally do need to be paired up. However, one has to consider the fact that rabbits are rapid breeders. But hey that’s nature. So I decided Venus needed a female companion, and duly went and found a beautiful mixed brown coloured rabbit, similar to those in the wild. Now, what to call ‘her’. I say her because I insisted at the pet shop it had to be another female, after all I didn’t want a population explosion on my hands, and they very confidently told me it was definitely a she. Straight away I noticed she was into constantly munching her hay….and other bits and pieces quite happily, and so came up with the name Munchkins, and affectionately called her Munchy.
Fortunately they were both of a similar age and therefore able to get used to each other and get on well rather quickly, in no time at all after a week or two of gradual introductions and play time together, they became best of friends and so I was able to put them together in the hutch as constant companions.
It was after about 4 months I noticed, some ‘funny’ behaviour going on between them, and decided to get this checked out. true to my suspicions, Munchy was not a she but a he. Young rabbits are very difficult to sex, hence the reason the pet shop got it wrong…..oops.
So, a change of plan. I bought a second hutch in order to keep them separated, but allowed them some together time in the play pen, whilst I kept an eye on them and played gooseberry making sure they got up to no hanky panky, this was until Munchy was 6 months old and able to be neutered.
I recall one Friday evening early July, about a week before my appointment at the vets to have Munchy neutered, my phone went off and I went and sat in my bedroom talking to a friend for about 15 to 20 mins, then returned to the lounge to find Venus and Munchy stretched out next to each other and licking each other. Thinking no more about it I put them back in to their individual hutches for the evening and giving them their usual bit of fussing I let them settle down for the night. This was my usual routine with them.
It was about a month later, on 8th August 2005 whilst getting ready for work, that I noticed Venus was acting a little out of the ordinary. She was even more affectionate with me than usual, and was pulling some of her fur out from her chest and belly. I had read that this was a sign of nesting, the female prepares a nest of her own fur when she was expecting to give birth, this apparently also happens, I read when there is a pseudo pregnancy. Knowing I had taken necessary precautions to ensure they did not mate I knew this could only be a pseudo pregnancy.
I thought no more about it throughout the day, other than worrying if she was unwell. She had been eating and drinking well on the morning. Getting home from work that evening I had the biggest shock of my life. On seeing Venus that evening, I got worried again, she was stretched out in the litter tray and instead of coming to the front of the hutch to have her usual fuss and treat from me, she just turned her head around to me made a little grunt and then turned away from me. My first instinct was to get her to the vets.
Rabbits are very resilient creatures, but once they are ill they can start to go down hill very fast. I searched around the main part of the hutch for her favourite toy to see if I could interest in playing. I couldn’t find the toy so I had a little feel around the ‘bedroom’ area of the hutch which is sectioned off with a door at the front of the hutch, but has an arch at the back for easy access for the rabbit. Having had a feel around, my hand then touched something very warm and soft and it moved. I quickly pulled my hand away, my very first instinct was there was a rat or a mouse in the hutch, and how the heck had that happened. I sat there in the chair on my balcony for several minutes stunned, and thinking what I should do next. Then it occurred to me, there was no way any other animal could have got in to her hutch. There were no holes or openings big enough for anything to get in or out.
I decided to be brave, and opened the door to her bedroom area, had a good look around and at the back of the hutch I found to my total amazement these two tiny little grey baby rabbits with no fur (known as kits or kittens) under the hay tightly snuggled up to each other. I sat there in shock for well over 20 minutes.
Now of course Venus behaviour all started to make sense, she wasn’t ill at all…..far from it in fact, she had become a mummy and Munchy was a daddy……and I had become a grandmother!
The next couple of weeks I was on tenterhooks wondering if they were both going to survive, I never saw Venus tend to her babies during the day and wondered if she was feeding them, and they were therefor going to survive. I then learnt that this is normal behaviour for rabbits, and in order to protect their babies they tend to feed them of night-time. And fortunately one of these nights I couldn’t sleep, went on to my balcony and found her feeding her twins. I knew then everything was going to be alright.
It wasn’t long before the twins came out of their bedroom and started to make their appearance in the main part of the hutch, their little eyes started to open and they had started to grow fur. Venus even trusted me by now to handle them. What I hadn’t expected was that it was jet black fur. For me it was strange that a pure albino lop for a mother, and a sandy golden brown daddy could produce two jet black babies….such a beautiful freak of nature. It turns out that female rabbits are pregnant for only a month. With that timing my mind wandered back to the night I had that phone call and left them alone for about 15/20 mins…..and in that short space of time the deed was done!
Over the coming weeks and months I had to make different arrangements so that they all stayed together as a family, and they became house rabbits. I had decided I couldn’t part with them and just had to keep them. When thy were old enough to be sexed, I found that one was a buck and the other a dow and hence I come up with the names Sooty and Sweep. As soon as Sooty was old enough I had him neutered.
I lost Venus the same day as Micheal Jackson died, I was too lost in my own personal grief with Venus and didn’t know until the following day about MJ . I found out that albino breeds of rabbits don’t tend to live long. I lost Munchy about 18 months or so later and then Sweep about another year later.
For me Sooty especially has been an incredible companion, a very loving and affectionate creature. I have always tried to spend as much time with him as I could and learn as much as possible about the language of Lagomorphs. I know what little quirks he had, what treats he loved the best, and he sensed when I was down, when I stroked his nose he used to purr and shudder out of contentment. we had a very special bond with each other.
It was when I started to write my blog just 3 years ago this very week, that I decided to write as my pen name Sootykins after my beautiful little boy. In his own little way he has inspired me. He has made me smile when I have least expected it. I am going to miss the mornings and evenings when he used to stretch out across my chest and snuggle his little head up to my chin and lick it, he would lie there contentedly for about an hour. Of a morning, he wouldn’t eat his food pellets until he had a few raisins from me, or some fresh carrot or broccoli, hand fed of course. And of an evening when I was getting him settled down for the night he used to come to the front of the cage begging me for his special rabbit biscuit or yoghurt drops. For people who have never had a pet, of any sort, they really are missing out a lot. Pets bring so much pleasure, they are soothing, calming, friendly and trusting and are wonderful companions. When I have had periods of stress he has helped me to stay calm.
I noticed a couple of days ago he was not himself, and this morning he died in my arms. I am so going to miss my little Sootykins, he has been a huge part of my life these past 9 years, he has been there for me at my low points, he has been so loving, and I am sure in his own little way understanding. Now at least I know he is with his mum and dad and sister….all together again.
It’s too early to say if I will have another rabbit yet, right now there is a big empty hole in my life, and I am so missing my little companion.
R.I.P my beautiful Sootykins – 8th August 2005 to 8th November 2014
Such a wonderful, affectionate trusting friend and companion.
Thanks for stopping by.