Goodbye, BunBun & Cookie

Posted in Memorials at 1:28 am by ACR&S

Sharp on the heels of Tilly’s loss came another: On July 3, we had to euthanize our oldest Sanctuary resident, BunBun. He would have been 12 years old in September.

Here’s the story of how he came to us, from an earlier post:

BunBun was found by a police officer who was doing a check at a school after a hurricane. He was in an outdoor, wire-floor hutch with a broken-in roof, mounds of droppings and dead chickens underneath, no water or hay, and moldy pellets. We accepted him after he was seized, and contacted the school – they were out on break, the teacher who owned him thought a neighbor kid was taking care of him, “but maybe he got busy with vacation”.

She told me he was eight years old and had always been “perfectly happy” in those conditions.

I cried at hearing this, when I hadn’t cried before at seeing the filth he lived in. He had lived for eight years in a tiny, outdoor hutch, in increasingly abominable conditions.

There was NO way in hell I was going to be able to place an eight year old rabbit. He had tumors that had to be removed. He wasn’t litter trained at all. His teeth were horrible. Rabbits only live 8-12 years, he could die a week after being adopted.

But he was a sweet, affectionate, playful animal. He literally danced the first day he was in his big new pen. He made friends with a grieving rabbit who had just lost a mate. After his teeth were trimmed, he showed that he loved chewing up boxes.

I could have euthanized him. But I decided that I didn’t want him going straight from squalor to death, not with the beautiful personality he showed. He deserved at least one shot at a good life.

I’ve done everything possible to be sure BunBun had that good life. He has had friends, a huge pen, extra treats and scritches. But it’s been clear for the last six months or so that he’s been slowing down. His eyes have been clouding with developing cataracts. He’s not able to clean or groom his rear end, requiring lots of assisted grooming regular trims.

Most concerning has been that in the past 2-3 months, there have been times when BunBun has had a hard time standing up. I’d occasionally find him laying in his litterbox with all the litter kicked to the sides as if he had been struggling. Or he’d be laying with his front feet on the coroplast and his back feet on his rug, and seemed unable to get enough traction to stand up without help. I’d pick him up and set him upright, and he’d shake himself and hop off, but it’s been evident that he was starting to lose control of his hindquarters.

On July 2, the evening we got home after losing Tilly, BunBun didn’t get up when I shook the bottle of papaya treats. I picked him up, and he flopped right back down into a laying position. I checked his underside, and it was crusted with cecals – he hadn’t moved for several hours. I knew it was time, but I wasn’t quite ready to lose him on the heels of Tilly. I gave him fluids and critical care, cuddled with him for the rest of the evening, and then set him in his litterbox with water and pellets at hand so his friends Roo and Gracie could say goodbye too.

The next morning, I drove him to the vet with both of his friends accompanying him. The vet didn’t even need to examine him to agree that his body was dying, and all we could do was ease his passing. She euthanized him and we returned the body to the carrier with his friends – rabbits who see the dead body of a friend are better able to understand their loss, and seem to suffer their grief less. After we got home, I left the body in the cage with them until they seemed to start avoiding it. I was certainly grateful for our new arrival Gracie at that moment; she snuggled with Roo and seemed to share his concern, even though she hadn’t known BunBun more than a few weeks.

Bad things happen in clusters, it seems. This morning, July 10, we lost Cookie. He was one of the Jacksonville 48, a group of young males dumped in summer 2005 by an irresponsible backyard breeder.

When Cookie came in, he was the smallest and thinnest pig, at barely over 400 grams. That’s emaciated for an intact, year-old male. All four of his incisors were broken off at the gumline, and he couldn’t eat on his own; plus he had a URI. It took nearly four months of handfeeding and subcu fluids and antibiotics to get him eating on his own and gaining weight.

He was neutered and bonded with a little girl, Ms Piggy, and the two were adopted in January 2006. In April 2007 the adopter returned them – she had adopted two human children and no longer had time for them. They were ungroomed and fairly thin, so we decided to send them up as Sanctuary animals to get them healthy.

Unfortunately Cookie never seemed to be able to put on weight like a normal piggy. He was always bony despite a diet of unlimited pellets and alfalfa for extra calories. We did an extensive work up, and teeth, stones, and other typical culprits were ruled out, and we were left with a diagnosis of “failure to thrive”.

Despite this, Cookie was an affectionate, entertaining piggy. He was the loudest wheeker when veggies and food came around, and so patient about having his fur trimmed and his beard washed (he was a messy eater). He was very fond of his partner Ms Piggy.

Cookie has been sleeping more and more over the last few weeks and although his weight has been steady, I guessed his time was drawing near. This morning I found him dead in his cage, curled up in his favorite sleeping place. Necropsy revealed that his cecum (part of the bowel) was necrotic, as if it had been twisted. However, no twisting was evident. There is a condition in humans called volvulus in which the bowel is not correctly fixed to the abdominal wall and can twist and untwist during the person’s life until it is discovered and surgically corrected. This is a birth defect, and the likelihood of this is increased by the fact that another of the Jacksonville 48 died shortly after intake, of the same cecal torsion. It’s also possible that Cookie had an intestinal wall disease causing the bowel to degrade this way. Biopsies have been taken, which may help us discover the underlying cause.

It is both heartening and disappointing to know that this was not something we could have discovered through all the usual tests we did. It’s not something I just missed, which is always a worry with these little guys. But I wish these serious illnesses weren’t so invisible; I could have saved him so much discomfort if we had the same kind of diagnostics for piggies as we have for humans.

It’s been a very sad week. It mostly just seems so unfair to me that these patient, loving animals had to live through years of neglect and misery before someone came around who would give him the life they deserved. I really hope their last years eclipsed the previous ones. But at least I know without a shadow of a doubt that it was their own time to go, and I made it as easy for them as I could. I’m not sad for them, I’m sad for me:

“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”
— Kahlil Gibran


  1. Jenn said,

    July 11, 2008 at 5:38 am

    What a tough month for our sanctuary. They’re lucky to have that retirement home to come to for final care that rivals none.

  2. Searching for happy endings » A new intake — Buddy Holly. said,

    September 16, 2009 at 6:22 am

    […] weighed in at a skeletal 1 lb.  He was only 50 grams bigger than Cookie, a neglected pig from the Jax breeder dump who was missing all four front teeth, had a respiratory […]