by P.A. Smith, Co-Editor
Buka joined our family way back in 1996. We didn’t know much about his origins or how old he was when he came home with us. All we knew was that he was purchased as an Easter gift at either a fair or a flea market – some venue like that. As a gift he was not wanted – no one was willing to take home and care for a rabbit. With a little begging and big hearts, we convinced our parents to take him home.
We drove home with Buka in the wooden crate he was purchased in. We had no idea how to feed and care for a bunny, but we knew he was going to be a part of our family. At home we gave him a bit of lettuce and left him the crate, which was closed with a piece of wire. The next time we checked on him he was sitting on top of the crate, ears up, surveying the living room.
We called him ‘Bunny’ and ‘Bunny Boy’ (even though we had no idea what his gender was) and ‘Buka.’ There was no official naming session. We still call him variations of all three names. I’ve taken to just calling him Bu. He responds to any of several names. Like everyone else in my family he is burdened with many nicknames.
We learned, mostly through trial and error, how to raise a house rabbit. We learned that iceberg lettuce is not good for rabbits. We learned that rabbits love to chew, especially lamp cords. We got him a cage and, at first, kept him in there at night. He hated being cooped up. He would rattle the door until someone opened it. We soon learned that Buka would be fine on his own hopping around while we slept.
We also learned that Buka had a playful personality that has come to define his role in the family. He loved to rocket down the hall into an open bedroom and looping around under the bed and zooming back out. He loved to do figure eights around my legs while I stood in the dining room. We made up games together like ‘Chase.’ Buka would start on one end of the living room while I stood in the middle. He would then run full speed while I feigned trying to catch him. He’d get to the other side and plot out his return. Buka had boundless energy.
Buka has been a constant in our lives. He was there when I graduated from high school, when I graduated from college, moved out, finished graduate school. He has been a happy presence and a part of the family. Always there for when I visit home. Always happy for a cheek rub.
Old friends ask how he is when we talk. Visitors to my parents’ house seek him out to say hello. He’s a celebrity – a novelty in a world of cats and dogs.
These days Bu is showing his age. Fourteen is very, very old for a rabbit. Old age has set upon him with heartbreaking swiftness. He doesn’t run anymore. He can no longer hop onto my parents’ bed to tell my mother it’s time to greet the morning.
Today I was on my way to work when I got a call from my mom. My parents are away and had received a call from my sister. Buka couldn’t move one of his paws. I stopped by the house to check on him. He looked uncomfortable and stiff, but was alert. He turned when I called him and leaned into a cheek rub. I had Abi come down to check on him because I had to head to work and could only stay a minute.
He was up and hopping with all four paws when she got there. He was eating normally, picking out the tastiest pellets.
I suspect he’s developed arthritis. It’s heartbreaking to see him in any pain.
I advised my sister, as I would any rabbit owner, to take him to the vet. At best, they can give him medication to reduce inflammation and pain. At worst, well, I’d rather not think about that yet.
Edit 08/02/10: Buka was put to sleep today. We’ll miss him.