The end of an era

Phineas (late 1997? early 1998? - 4/4/09)

Mrs. Lucken is officially out of the rabbit business...and I don't say this in a cavalier manner (as tears roll down my face). It's been a long, long haul, and almost 11 years of love and adoration for a certain rabbit who came into my life on the first Michigan football Saturday in 1998. As many of you know, I don't care much about football...but it made that 3 mile drive home a much longer endeavor as we lived one block from Michigan Stadium at the time.

I didn't expect to get into the rabbit business, but when a woman came into the veterinarian's office where I was working, with this fellow and his pee-stained feet, I wanted to help her. She couldn't keep him, her landlord wanted him out, she couldn't drive to the Humane Society (and couldn't express herself, either...she had some special needs and probably loved Phineas but I'm not sure how she could care for him.) The offer to help get him to the animal shelter became a lifetime commitment when I saw the way he hopped in our first yard - a few hops here and there and then a leap straight up in the air followed by some furious and silly tearing around. I guess I should say it became at least two lifetime commitments, because I first had to beg my boyfriend to let him live in his dining room. (2= my lifetime commitment to Phineas, and Bill's lifetime commitment to his crazy girlfriend-come-wife.)

When we spontaneously bought a house 2 blocks up the street in Ann Arbor, I told Bill we could not actually move into the house until the rabbit came with us...and the rabbit could not come with us until we got him a friend to live with in the basement. In my mind, a dark basement, alone, was not the same as living in the dining room (in a cage of course), around people and pets (even if one of them ignored him). With no hesitation, he said, "OK, let's go get him a friend", and we loaded up our 10 month old, drove to Pet Supplies Plus, picked out Frances, and moved into 919 Edgewood that night.

I guess we are on to lifetime commitment #3, because Phineas and Frances were so cute together. (Phineas had been neutered for $12 - anesthesia cost, and sutures - by my friend and veterinarian at Ypsilanti Animal Clinic, so baby rabbits wasn't a concern). Frances sadly had some sort of bacterial infection which eventually paralyzed her (but a couple years and 2 hours down the line), but Phineas stood by her side, literally, to help her hop around and get her food. And as she deteriorated, he was always there as well. Frances taught me a lot about rabbits - how much they can respond to human kindness, how much rabbits like companionship and can be empathetic to each other - and I was heartbroken for Phineas that he had lost his pal.

On to lifetime commitment #4...I packed up 4 year old Emma, and 5 year old Phineas, and we were off to pick out a friend - this time at a rabbit rescue. I had loved Lydia's white paws when I saw her on the sanctuary's website, but it was Phineas and Lydia who really chose each other (with Emma's 4 year old input). Despite an early altercation (Lydia freaked out in the yard and broke Phineas' ear - my fault for putting her in a stressful situation too soon, with someone to take out her misery on), they became snuggling buddies for the next 5.5 years until we lost her suddenly 8 months and 2 days ago.

By this time, Phineas was 10 years old...at least (as he was an adult when he made his entrance in my life). I felt sorry, but 10 years of cleaning rabbit cages through 3 pregnancies, chemotherapy and surgeries, making nice rabbit areas in 5 separate houses (in the last move, I was driving 3 kids, 1 dog, 2 cats, and 2 rabbits in my minivan over to our house - poor rabbits were tossed and turned as I frantically followed the carpet cleaner, who thought we weren't home and was driving away...), had made me tired of the rabbit business. Mrs. Lucken has always loved Phineas, though...and had prepared for the life with one rabbit by securing a pair of guinea pigs who became Phinny's friends and companions. What kind of rabbit shares his cage and food gladly with two spunky little guinea pigs? But then again, what kind of cat gently licks her rabbit friend on the head when she sees him (Annie), and what kind of dog guards her rabbit friend from other dogs who don't know this is our family member (Phineas and Lydia were in a cage in the yard one time, and a neighbor dog was trying to figure out a way into the cage until Dagny tried to bite him several times).

And now I am crying again, because what a bunny, and what a silly life. I know it sound stupid, because he was just a bunny, and I really got so tired of trying to make his life as good as it could possibly be. I do have to say that I never gave up, though...and I did really love him. And I am so thankful, too, because somehow, I knew that he might not be around much longer (as I did with Frances, and even with Lydia). So Thursday night he had a bath and a long cuddle with me on the couch...and Friday I visited him about 10 extra times for pets and to try to get him to drink some water or eat his favorite treats. I even told Nathan that Phineas was probably going to need to leave his old body behind and go to heaven soon (to get a new body that worked so much better). "Who will drive him?" "Well, he won't have a body, so he can just go. He'll get a new one when he gets there, and the old one we will put in a hole because he doesn't need it anymore." Nathan told this to Bill last night, and he was ready to see Phineas today and say goodbye to the old body. Katie came down with tears and kisses and goodbyes yesterday too...and Emma was given fair warning also (I'm sure she visited, as she has become a good caretaker of these little pets).

And this morning, he was gone.

After all of these years, thousands of feedings, hundreds of cleanings, baths, vet visits, all the money spent at Pet Supplies Plus, nail clippings, hours chasing rabbits in the yard after fun fresh air time (with so many nice helpers along the way - sisters, friends, kids, friends of kids), introductions and goodbyes, Mrs. Lucken is out of the rabbit business. It was not a very easy road, and not always a very rewarding one...but why am I so miserable? Just a bunny, but also a lifestyle...and a lifetime commitment that I am so sad to have over.


Anonymous said...

I know how much you cared about him, and all of the other rodents.

It is nice to know that you all were somewhat prepared, and got chances to say goodbye...

love a

Tara said...

I'm so sorry, Pam. Phineas was a great rabbit, indeed! He will be missed by all of us who knew him.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, Pam. I'm go glad we toasted to him last night...I know there was some teasing, but I also know he meant so much. It will take some time... Hugs, hugs, hugs.

JD and Bonnie Kenewell said...

We're so sorry about your precious bunny!! What a lucky bunny all of those years!! Sounds like he was a good friend. {{Big Hug}}

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry.

lori b said...

im sitting here with tears pouring down my face. jeez. you know we share the same emotions towards animals...so i dont agree with the "its just a bunny" thing. our pets are a veeery important part of our lives. bunnies, dogs, ants...whatever it is that we decide to make our pets. im so sad. and what a beautifully written post. rest in peace little phineas. i didnt know until i read this how special you were, and how cool rabbits can be. and i loved hearing about how all of the animals get along over there in the lucken animal kingdom. pretty cool.

Marci said...

I remember the first time I pet sit for the Luckens - I knew Dagny and the cats would be a breeze but I was a bit worried about Phineas - what if he escaped or something happened? I had never even been around rabbits. Little did I know then that he was such a sweetheart and always just took care of himself, acclimated to wherever he was and loved everyone who came in contact with him.