Almost every night for more than eight years, Husband stood in the doorway between the hallway and the living room. "Good night, Tycho. Stay furry," he would say before he closed the door and we went to bed. Last night was the last time he said it. While we were in London last week, Tycho boarded at the vet's office. They noticed that he had developed a pronounced head tilt and had a hard time hopping. They started him on antibiotics, hoping that it was just an infection. When I picked him up on Friday morning, the vet told me to keep giving him the antibiotics for a week. If it didn't get better, she said, he might have had a stroke or a brain abscess.
I was totally unprepared for how bad he was. When he could not get out of the carrier at home, I was concerned. I helped him out and it turned out that he could not use his front legs at all. He just scrambled and scrambled with his hind legs, which generally pushed him around in a circle or caused him to fall on his side like a blob of Jell-O. I called the vet and the staff told me that's how he had been for a few days and I should check back in tomorrow.
On Saturday, I found him collapsed in a little heap between his litter box and the leg of an armchair. I picked him up and realized that he could not get to his water dish, and even if he could, he could not stand up to drink from it. To make sure he had water, I got a plastic plate and set it next to him. He was able to crane his neck over the low lip and his little pink tongue eagerly lapped up the water. I also surrounded him with food. He nibbled at his favorite (carrots), but they rolled away from him because he could not hold it down, so I added a lot of parsley, which he ate the way the dogs slurp up the spaghetti in the Disney movie "Lady and the Tramp."
By Sunday, his stomach began making strange gurgling noises. I could not bring myself to call the vet, so I asked Husband to do it. She said if he didn't improve on Monday, we needed to consider putting him to sleep. I cried into my lunch.
Yesterday, I noticed that he could no longer use his left hind leg and was attempting to propel himself forward with the one foot that worked. I asked the vet if it was selfish if I had him home one last night. She said that would be fine and we made an appointment for 9:20 the next morning. He later had several unpleasant digestive incidents but since he could not get to the litter box, he coated his legs, tail, and butt with it. I wiped him off as best I could with baby wipes.
When I brought him to the vet this morning, I thought about all the times he made me smile over the years. When we first got him, he loved to run around the apartment and explore. His cage was in the dining room and he often got on his hing legs and begged for food while we ate. He used to jump on a chair and then climb onto the top of his cage and sit on it. Then he ate the corners off the wall and had to be restricted to a smaller area and moved into what I called his sublet in our living room. He always loved to see what we were up to. If he heard me open a package, he ran up to me, hoping for a treat. There were, of course, the times when I also wanted to wring his furry little neck. (See: the missing corners of the wall, the covers of several books, etc.) Overall, though, he was a really sweet rabbit. He hated being picked up and would not sit in anyone's lap or lick them, but he loved being pet. He was great with kids. He'd sit still while they pet and poked him, and if he got annoyed, he retreated into his cage but usually came back out to give the tyke another chance. He loved eating. Even when he had an ear abscess that must have cause him severe pain, as it was on his jawline, he eat eagerly. Anything sugary was his favorite - bananas, raisins, granola bar chunks, M&Ms, dried fruit - he loved it all. Sort of like me.
If I held him on his back, he'd zone out and go into a trance-like state. This is how I was able to cut his toenails, which he hated. Even when he was in the zone, he still was stressed out. I think one of his few defenses was to try and blind his enemies by shedding immense amounts of fur and creating a white out situation. While his enemy choked on rabbit hair and tried to clear the air so she could see, he might escape. Every time I cut his nails, I was covered in enough white fur that it looked like I was wearing a fur coat.
I'm lucky to have had him for eight years. When we adopted him from the House Rabbit Society chapter in Albany, they told us that he was already between one and two years. I had read that the average lifespan of a house rabbit was 5-7 years. (It's since been revised to 7-9.) The hardest part for me is that he degenerated and had such a poor quality of life at the end. I always thought that he was sort of die in his sleep and it would be over for him. I think he deserved that kind of death, but it was not to be. He was pretty calm at the vet's, though, and I pet his soft little head the whole time until he was gone. I'll definitely miss him. Good night, Tycho. Stay furry.