Today I celebrate the life of Ninja, a black Netherland Dwarf rabbit with grey on the bottom of her feet. Ninja was born in the summer of '02 and I purchased her from Petco in January of '03. She was an active and alert bunny, happy and healthy, though she was the last one in the enclosure when I came to the store that day.
I wanted a pet, but my Minnesota apartment had a strict no pets policy. Fish and the like were acceptable but no dogs or cats or anything else that lives and sheds outside of its enclosure. So to get around this problem the answer was, of course, to get a quiet pet. The decision came down to either an iguana or a rabbit, and the rabbit eventually won out due to being fluffier.
Ninja made herself at home in my apartment at once. Although I had to keep her in a cage during the morning and night while I was at work and asleep, I always let her have free run of the living room when I was home to supervise her, keeping boxes next to the bookshelf and computer desk so she couldn't get behind them and chew on electrical wires. She generally stayed on the carpet, not liking the feel of slick linoleum flooring on her fuzzy bunny feet. I'm sad to report that Ninja lost some of her boldness, playfulness, and affection when I had her neutered. I was only trying to be a responsible pet owner.
She was a well-travelled rabbit, always coming with me when I returned to Chicago to visit my parents, sitting in a small travel cage buckled in to the passenger seat. One day I took her to a friend's house to meet her guinea pig, but she wasn't anywhere near as interested in the guinea pig as the guinea pig was in her.
Then the big day came when I moved to Mississippi. She traveled with me for two days in the car, with a brief stopover at my brother's house (who lived about halfway, by fortunate coincidence), to her new home. My new house had a spare bedroom I didn't need, so I took the door off its hinges and installed a low swinging door in its place, and turned it into a rabbit room. She no longer had to spend her mornings and nights in a cage, but had free rein of the room at all hours.
It was not to be her room alone, though, because a few months later I brought home Zasz, an albino rabbit. After Zasz was neutered I brought them together, and (as rabbits do) they fought for dominance by pulling fur out of each other and wrestling for top position. I'll never forget the day I came home from work to find black and white fur all over the room, but they eventually came to an understanding without anyone getting seriously hurt. A few months after that I brought home Daggoth, a brown Flemish Giant. Daggoth I left unneutered, and did a much better job of introducing to the other two by allowing them to meet in neutral territory before keeping them together in the same room. These friends would be with her for the rest of her life.
Ninja never knew want or hunger, she never knew the fear of being chased by a fox or a dog, and she was never cold. Despite fulfilling her physical needs, I have to admit that I was not the best owner. You cannot raise and train a rabbit like a dog, and I fear I made her skittish and shy by disciplining her the wrong way. She also suffered from "poopy butt" for most of her adult life, and I never discovered what I could do to help prevent it except to try to keep her clean.
In her new home in Mississippi, I would leave the rabbits alone with plenty of food and water when I went back to visit Chicago. They would always be fine when I came back, although sometimes thirsty if they knocked over one of the water bowls while I was gone, they always had enough to see them through until I got back.
But when I came back home this time after visiting my parents for Christmas and New Year, I returned from this joyful time of celebration to the sad scene of Ninja, lying cold and stiff, in one corner of the rabbit room. There was plenty of food and water left, and the thermostat was left on (but low) while I was away, so I know she didn't die of neglect. It was simply her time, as a six and a half year old dwarf rabbit. Rabbits are expected to live for five years, longer if neutered, but not as long I'm sure for the smaller breeds. From all appearances, she died peacefully, crawling to the corner, lying down on her side, and breathing her last breath. I don't know how long ago it was, but it couldn't have been too long since her body wasn't in a bad state when I found it. I buried her in the backyard this morning.
Ninja, I know I wasn't the best owner, but I did the best I knew how and you taught me what I know today for Zasz and Daggoth. The rabbit room will always feel emptier for your absence.
I can only hope the Black Rabbit of Inlé brought you the comfort that I was not here to provide in your final moments.
A big thank you to all the noders who extended their sympathies.