House Rabbit Handbook: How to Live with an Urban Rabbit
By: Marinell Harriman
This is a must-have for every rabbit owner.
Available at the Rabbit Meadows Store, many bookstores, or Amazon.com
Rabbit Health in the 21st Century Second Edition: A Guide for Bunny Parents
By Kathy Smith
Buy on Amazon.com
Read about the book from the author's perspective and a reader's perspective at the bottom of this page!
When Your Rabbit Needs Special Care: Traditional and Alternative Healing Methods
By: Lucile C. Moore & Kathy Smith
This book provides a thorough reference guide for bunny owners who are caring for elderly, disabled, and special needs bunnies.
Buy on Amazon.com
When Only the Love Remains: The Pain of Pet Loss
By: Emily Margaret Stuparyk
When Only the Love Remains is a collection
of poems encompassing every emotion felt by the author, upon the sudden and untimely death of her beloved rabbit friend, Poochie. Emily and her beloved "Pooch" are pictured at the right.
This writing was a cathartic experience enabling the author to recover, and is a memorial to the glorious life of Poochie. Pet lovers will find comfort and support in these passages of love and loss.
Read more about Rabbit Health in the 21st Century
Kathy Smith, the author, offers her perspective:
The inspiration for this book came to me on May 7, 1998, the day my beloved Smokey lost his five-month battle with cancer. I realized how much medical knowledge I had picked up during those months, and as a tribute to Smokey's courage, I wanted to share what I had learned with other bunny caretakers.
It took over two years to complete the original Rabbit Health 101 which became available in July 2000. It's successor, Rabbit Health in the 21st Century -- the only authorized revision of Rabbit Health 101 -- was released in March 2001. My goal with these books was to help rabbits in two ways: (1) by providing important medical information in "layman's terms" and (2) by providing a fund-raising opportunity for Rabbit Rescue, Education, and Welfare organizations.
Medicine is a constantly changing field. Just as Smokey inspired my original work, His Royal Highness King Murray has inspired the Second Edition. Thanks to Murray (who seems to think I should have first-hand experience with almost every condition I write about), the Second Edition includes personal anecdotes in more sections along with the latest medical information. Dr. Noella Allan reviewed the book in its entirety prior to its publication.
From Jeannie Kee, a grateful reader who vowed to spread the word after she got priceless advice and help from this book
I remember the day we adopted our first bunny, Acara, a Holland Lop and so beautiful. She was tan with smoky gray Siamese markings. Acara was the sweetest little bunny you could ever meet. We couldn’t resist this adorable bunny that flopped over in her cage to show us just how cute she was; so we bought her or as I like to say, adopted her. We knew nothing about rabbits, but both Drew and I were eager to learn how to provide the best home possible for our newest family member. I don't regret bringing her into our life, but do wish we had been informed about how much and what kind of care would be involved.
Acara taught us just how special bunnies really are. We could not believe how much character one bunny could have, the fun it would be, and that all the work of caring for her would be completely worth it. Acara taught us how important it is to allow your bunny to be free to share your home (once you have bunny proofed your whole home) and heart with, especially for their spirit. I could never imagine keeping rabbits in cages. Once you experience sharing your life with a house rabbit, you soon begin to realize how cruel it is to cage these special creatures. The easiest way to express the cruelty of a cage is to explain that the rabbits in cages are so sad at being confined that it leads to depression, and an unhappy rabbit that just sits there. They need to be allowed to stretch their legs, run and jump, and explore, which is not possible in a cage. Think of bunnies in the wild; they forage for food all day and also spend it exploring and playing with their family and friends. I believe that if you must cage a bunny, it's important to let them have some free time to explore; then, you will experience the joys that your bunny will share with you.
Soon, we learned that Acara needed a friend. Rabbits are very social creatures and spend the day grooming each other, sharing their meals and treats, and sleeping together. So, Jack came into our life, a two-month-old black and white Dutch. He was the size of a "beany baby" and so full of spunk. Jack became Acara's companion and her "baby."
Acara we bought at pet store; so, she was always ill with something or another, but that never stopped us from caring for her. I remember that the previous people had "returned her because she was defective" to our luck. We snatched her up, and it turned out to only be ear mites. She was always so patient with us as we brushed her and bathed her, trusting that her best interest was our main concern. We had many health issues over the next two years, and one night I awoke at 1am; I thought I heard "mommy, mommy." I sat up in bed, only to find myself in the next second running out into the living room and finding her having major seizures. I believe that she called me to be with her, especially since I never awake at night, to help her. She was so scared. We drove to the nearest vet clinic, about 20 minutes away, only to have her continually seize. After waiting for what seemed like days in the emergency room, we decided the best thing would be euthanasia; this was not easy. We really loved her, but we didn't want her to be in pain and we were concerned for her quality of life after hours of seizures. Acara, as I look back now, held on for us because none of us were ready to let her go. The vet was inexperienced with rabbits, making it an even worse experience with it taking three injections for her to finally let go.
We were so torn from the loss of such a sweetheart and reluctant to bring another bunny into our lives; but Jack was lonely and needed a friend. I found a local rabbit rescue and made a call. I remember Sue saying she had two girls whom sounded perfect for us and to come to her house and meet them. Then we could bring Jack for introduction and his approval because after all, the final decision was up to him. We drove over to meet the girls, and I liked the lop bunny. I guess I felt partial to her because of my history with having Acara; but that rabbit had a few health issues and I wasn't sure we were ready to take on that kind of commitment. I agreed to meet the other girl, whose name was Matilda. We were told that she was a huge love, chocolate Dutch and we should come see her. She was rescued by a couple when they noticed her as she ran across a lawn and ended up in a Rottweiler's mouth. Lucky for her, she only had two puncture wounds on her shoulder and a small scratch on one of her eyes. My boyfriend instantly fell in love with her. She was so cute munching away on her veggies as we spoke to her. Matilda liked to hang out at Sue's feet while she worked, and was very well behaved in the house. So, now it was up to Jack. We gathered him up and drove over, and like his father, instantly fell in love with Matilda. There were very few bonding issues for the pair and they were pals from the start; a sign for us that she was to come join our family.
Tilly, as we came to call her, was the sweetest rabbit you ever met. She would let everyone pet her; a true advocate for rabbits. She never fussed about being picked up and actually seemed to enjoy the hugs, kisses and attention. She would just sit there so everyone who came up to her would have the opportunity to pet her. How she loved to have her head stroke and her ears rubbed. She would also allow you to clean her eyes, which she had constant discomfort from an eye problem that we were never able to diagnose and required extra medical attention. Tilly never fussed about us clipping her nails, which is so un-bunny like; neither she nor I ever complained. Jack, he was a terror when it was "grooming time"; it was a nice break to not have to worry about Tilly. She was also one of those bunnies you could hypnotize, so any veterinary care was simplified. Tilly just seemed to trust everyone and never had thought that were bad humans.
Tilly was always so patient with my three-year-old niece whom adored her. One day, as I left the room to get Tilly and Jack their morning veggies, Alissa was happily talking and petting Tilly. I told them both I would be right back and to my horror, upon my arrival, I found Alissa atop of Tilly; she was "giving Tilly a hug." Tilly just lay there, acting like it wasn’t a big deal, waiting for the small child to move. In my panic, I think I gave everyone a mini heart attack. I screamed in a very scared and concerned voice, "Alissa, NO!" She moved off of Tilly and began to cry and Tilly thumped and ran under the bed. I still have no idea, to this day, why Tilly was so understanding, calm and, I guess, aloof to the scary situation. I then explained to Alissa that lying on top of Tilly was not OK; that she could be hurt very badly. Alissa just had no idea and Tilly did not even protest, so neither could understand my concern. I let it go; after all no one was hurt
The two were to grow over the year to be best of friends. Alissa talks about Tilly all the time and even has a bunny costume so she can "be Tilly." Alissa always shared her fruits with Tilly; both had a great love for eating any kind of fruit! Over time, we allowed Alissa to get more involved with caring for Tilly and Jack in hopes of teaching her compassion, love and how to properly care for another creature that you might share your home with, be it an animal or another person. Alissa has learned respect and compassion at such a young age and I am very proud of her. Each
morning that Alissa would come to our house, she would feed Tilly and Jack their morning rations of fresh veggies, (which Tilly could hardly wait for; she’d eat up to two cups of veggies herself a day, help clean out litter boxes and pick up stray poos.
Tilly was such a food-oriented girl; she lived for treats. We realized they were not the best things to give, but she insisted on a cookie before bed each night. So, we found these healthy bits and she and Jack would each get one before bed. Tilly got to the point that she knew where we kept them and would go over to the door and cutely stretch up and reach for the knob letting us know she wanted a "cookie." I had never met such a clever, pushy girl and we loved her for it.
I got to the point where I was so concerned for her health, all the HRS books recommend not giving treats that I began to make "cookies" for her. Oh, how she loved when I would bake up a batch of cookies! Jack wasn't as excited, but since Tilly ate them so excitingly, he had to join in. Tilly even taught Jack to like to eat veggies!
Since Tilly was so sweet and enjoyed handling, I was able to hold her and cuddle her on a regular basis. I made it a routine to check her over every time she was groomed and I can't express how important it is to do a monthly check-over of your bunny; especially, since they are not able to speak to us. During one of the "check-ups" I noticed bumps on her belly so we rushed Tilly to the vet to have it checked out. It was a huge concern to us and we wanted to be sure she was OK. Tilly had only been living with us for six months and we were scared. The vet could not diagnose it and so we guessed it was an allergy to the litter. After changing the litter the bumps seemed to go away. Then, a few months later we found a lump on her chest. Off to the vet again only to find out it was a tumor this time; we decided to have it removed. The biopsy results showed it as being a basal cell tumor; we all hoped that the vet had removed the entire tumor and that Tilly would be OK. She seemed to be doing well and was especially happy after the tumor was removed, jumping onto things and being a "normal" healthy rabbit. For the next few months Tilly's monthly check-ups were great; no signs of new tumors. Then, on the third month, I found two new lumps on her chest and a new third lump on her right, rear leg. I was crushed and sacred.
I searched everywhere for information on how to help Tilly and to be sure that she was getting the best possible care she could receive only to find that there is very little resource out there to help. I found a vet to remove the tumors and found out that my little girl had breast cancer. What could I do for her? What was best for her? I could not find any holistic vets in my area that were familiar with rabbits, but I did find a wonderful acupuncturist. So, to make Tilly more comfortable, we decided to do the monthly sessions and put her on supplements in hope of building her immune system to help her fight the cancer. By this time, Tilly no longer enjoyed being "caught" and she feared a visit to the vet. We did not want to stress her any more than was necessary. Thankfully, the animal (rabbit) acupuncturist made home visits. On her appointment days she must have know that Richard was coming; she just sat there and allowed me to put her on my lap for her treatment session. As the doctor put the needles in, she just relaxed so much and would actually grind her teeth in ecstasy. We had two sessions and I could tell that she looked forward to each session. Richard also put Tilly on Chinese herbs and an anti-cancer treatment plan. Tilly seemed to be doing OK and actually looked forward to her nighttime herbal med's banana mix. All the while, I was searching and looking for information to help me help her and to be sure I was doing the right thing. I was so disappointed to find that there is very little out there. There are so few holistic rabbit vets out there. I followed Richard's recommendations and gave Tilly lots of love; she became quite spoiled.
To try to cheer her up, I went to the local rabbit rescue shop to look for a new toy for Tilly. I usually only went once a month to buy supplies, but I made the extra trip in hopes of finding something special for her. I picked up a few things along with a bag of litter and was all ready to go when I noticed a book, Rabbit Healthcare in the 21st Century, which I had passed up on many occasions before. For some reason, I decided to put back the litter and splurge and purchase the book. Little did I know that it would forever change my life. I began to read the book and became so excited that it was such a wealth of information, and like me, the author had experienced losing a bunny to cancer. I read the chapter on Alternative Medicine and decided to e-mailed the author. I wanted to see if she had any other recommendations that would help Tilly be more comfortable. I was excited at the possibility of finding a resource that could help me.
Kathy responded right away and helped me. But, sadly Tilly began to refuse her med's, food, and was not eating any veggies, her favorite. We also noticed she seemed to have difficulty breathing. The breathing problem came on so quickly, but we now realize that it may have been going on for quite some time. Again we had to go to the vet's office to be sure she was OK. It didn't look good, so the vet took some x-rays. Tilly was such a good patient; she cooperated so well. I felt so bad for her as the vet was listening to her lungs; she just kept running to me trying so desperately to climb up me to be right by my ear, a place where she felt safe and could get constant kisses. I reassured her and we waited for the x-rays. It seemed like forever waiting in the waiting room. Tilly relaxed and was so happy to be in my arms and being loved. I reassured her that we only wanted to help and do what was best for her. Tears rolled down my cheeks as the vet explained that her lungs were either a) filled with fluids (pneumonia) or b) the cancer had spread. Tilly's x-rays went to the specialist and we waited. Oh, she was so mad with the idea of being given any kind of liquid med's. She did not like the syringe in her mouth at all. The idea of having to force-feed her was out of the question. She was boss, and did not want to be forced fed or forced to take med's. In order not to stress her any further, we gave in to her wishes. We fed her whatever she wanted to eat, which was mostly dehydrated fruits and homemade "cookies" that I baked especially for her. Then, we got the news that it was indeed the cancer; the tumor was causing her right lung to swell and compromise her breathing. There was nothing we could do, except enjoy the time we would have with each other. We just allowed her to be in "charge" and did whatever she wished.
After we received the news, Tilly began to withdraw and we knew the time to say goodbye was coming closer, sooner than we were perhaps ready for. We made the decision that we would not allow her to suffer and made the appointment for euthanasia for the next day after her daddy would get off work. In the true spirit of Tilly, she did not agree and did not want to go back to the vet clinic; so that morning at 5:30 am, she began to run frantically through the house looking for a place to hide. I am sure she was scared; the vet explained that she was experiencing the feeling of a drowning person, and she just couldn't find a safe place. My boyfriend had to go to work and felt so sad and worried and just didn't know what to do, so he reluctantly went out the door saying goodbye to Tilly and reassuring her that he would be home soon. I stayed in our bedroom to give Tilly a bit of space hoping she would calm down. As soon as I heard his motorbike start, she screamed, and so I ran through the house looking for her. I found her behind the couch searching frantically for me; I’m sure she was terrified. I went slowly up to her, calling her and reassured her I was there with her; I am sure now that she had given herself a heart attack. I gently stroked her and reassured her of our love for her. After I calmed myself down, I phoned my sister to help me. Tilly was laboriously breathing and needed to be taken to the emergency vet. My sister ran downstairs to get her car, and while she was gone, I just kissed Tilly's head and stroked her and told her how much we loved her. As she lay there, I realized that I needed to share with her that I was OK with her going; she had fought long and hard enough. I kissed her, told her I loved her so much, and that it was ok to go. Suddenly, the whole room became quiet and peaceful, Tilly drew her last breath and seemed to say thank you, mommy, and left. I cannot express the spiritual experience that I felt; but I just knew it was the right thing to have her last breath drawn with me there in her home knowing how much she truly was loved. My allowing her to go was the most precious gift I could give to her after everything that she has given to me, and to my boyfriend. I believe we were all at peace with the situation because we realized that no one wanted Tilly to suffer at all, so it was OK. It all happened in less that 5 minutes so I feel blessed knowing that she didn't suffer. I spent about five more minutes holding, kisses, and crying, then I left her to allow Jack to say goodbye. He nudged her once, and then to my shock just sat on her head. Kathy later explained to me that he may have already said goodbye and she believes that he also gave Tilly the OK to go.
Now I was faced with the task of explaining Tilly's death to little Alissa. My sister and I decided to explain that she had cancer and was very ill and now she had gone to bunny heaven where she would feel no more pain. Alissa looked at the two adults and said with tears in her eyes "but I didn't get to say goodbye". We then explained that we would have a "goodbye celebration" for Tilly when her ashes came back from the vet clinic and she seemed to approve of that. Then, it was time for me to go because I needed to take Tilly's body to the clinic for cremation. Alissa with tears in her eyes said she wanted to go, my sister and I looked at each other, and decided we would fulfill Alissa's wish. So, I went upstairs to gather Tilly and then met the two of them downstairs. Alissa also told me that she wanted Tilly to be in back next to her car seat, so my sister sat in back with Tilly on her lap. The whole car ride Alissa petted Tilly and told her goodbye and how much she loved her. Then, she asked me to play her Harry Neilson CD, so she could sing "Without You" to Tilly. It was so sweet, as I drove to the vet clinic, to see my three-year-old niece sitting in the back singing "Without You" to Tilly with all her heart as tears streamed down my cheek. I was so touched. After the song, she asked me to play Tilly's favorite song "Me and My Arrow" and so she sang her favorite songs to Tilly all the way to the clinic and told Tilly not to be afraid. I could not believe the compassion and grown-up attitude and understanding that Alissa expressed; it was just so special. There is not a day that goes by that Alissa doesn’t ask me "Is it ok to miss Tilly, a lot?" I tell her, of course, and that I miss her so much but she will always be alive in my heart. I think Alissa took the death the hardest, but she seemed to understand and has made peace with losing her best friend, Tilly the bunny.
In Tilly's memory and hopes of helping other bunny caretakers, I decided to help spread the news of how valuable Kathy's book is in every household that shares their home with a bunny. Kathy and I have become friends, and all her support and kindness helped me become at peace with losing Tilly, but also made me realize that Tilly's memory can live on forever by helping others, and so the journey began. I wrote to Sue, she is the woman that we originally adopted Tilly from, and now Rabbit Haven will be offering Kathy's book for purchase at Rabbit Haven and there is a special page for Tilly on their web site. I have also donated the book to local shelters in my area, and hope to expand. Tilly was the most special bunny, and I will never forget her. In her loving way she recently sent us a special bunny, Hannah has a bit of Tilly's spirit in her; like Tilly, she loves and actually requires being held and cuddled and given lots of kisses.
Thank you Tilly for sharing your life with us and, although it was short (less than a year), it was worth every second. I will always love you, my special bunny, Tilly.