He barely looked different. He wasn't wheezing. He wasn't shivering. Even his eye was more open, and the nictitating membrane in his eyes that had been covered over in pain for so long relaxed. He was curled out in a classic relaxed pose. The one rabbits do when they feel so very secure they can sprawl out on their sides, comfortable. It's known as the Dead Bunny Flop. Correctly, it turns out.
T said goodbye to him, promising that she'd see him again someday. Again it touched and broke our hearts. We don't believe in an afterlife, but it is sweet to imagine that there might be.
T asked if we wanted a cast made of his paws. We hadn't thought about that. But we did. bunny_hugger and her parents had made one before, at Christmas of 2009, and he'd hated it. We hang it on the tree each year. Even when making it bunny_hugger knew one day it would made her sad. This day, it turns out, and this season. This postmortem cast, though ... well, he had no complaints. T trimmed his front claws, to make a slightly better cast, and cut the quick a little so a few drops of blood came out on it too. There was just barely enough room in the cast for his hind foot too, and we took that. The ornament bunny_hugger and her mother made in 2009 needed to be fired in the oven. This one will cure with time alone, which makes it a heavy-handed metaphor for what we're going through.
We gave him the last touches we would have. His hindlegs were twitching a little bit yet, the muscles of his body giving up that organization which makes something alive. T folded the towel up and around him, and we exited the surgery room.
There would be stuff to settle yet. We chose to have him cremated. We could have gotten his whole body and taken it home, or had them keep it in storage until spring when the ground would thaw and we could bury him. We independently considered and rejected that. Awful as we felt today, to imagine some April day driving to the clinic and getting his frozen carcass back --- no. He'll be cremated, and we'll get back his ashes in a week or so. His ashes alone, they tell us. Not mixed with other animals.
And so ... that was it. We told T of how much we appreciated all her work, all her love, shared with our rabbit over this. And how one of the things that broke our hearts about this was that we wouldn't see her again. Not anytime soon. When we are ready to have a new rabbit, of course we'll come back to the clinic. They're just too good not to use. But we would expect to come in once, maybe twice a year, nothing like the weekly visits that gave us a relationship with her. And she knew and understood and told us how she liked knowing us and how much joy it was to know our rabbit. And that she hoped she'd see us when we were ready for a new pet. And we hugged and cried.
So that was all the work. There was some cleaning up of the final bills. The receptionist didn't offer condolences or anything and we're not sure what that signified. Maybe it reflects that we'd already gone through such a wringer that we had to do something in the way that we would if it were normal. We probably did.
We went home. bunny_hugger did the harder job, calling her parents to say what had happened and telling our friends online what had happened. Meanwhile I did the harder job, taking down his cage and cleaning out his area for the last time, and thinking how bizarre it was that after all this time we wouldn't need his cardboard-box house cave any more.
We could clean up the living room and put away the fleece and the puppy pads and all the other things we'd arranged to deal with his inabilities. After about a year of compensating for his problems to have the living room normal again was exotic and horrible.
Just before we had set out a package arrived. It was the last attempt at compensating for the things he couldn't do anymore: a set of rabbit diapers. Really more like short pants, with a cleanable liner. It would've been something we could put on him so he could putter around the living room without the risk of messing the hardwood floor. It would probably have been useful, if he'd had a few more months in him. We had lived for so long with his death being imminent that it no longer seemed something that could happen.
And now we just have the house and the strangeness that our rabbit isn't there. He doesn't need to be fed, doesn't need an increasing list of medications, doesn't need us to check that he should be taken to the litter bin, doesn't need balls made of banana mush and pellet dust, doesn't need the fresh basil we had figured to load him up on his last day and that he couldn't have because we did not realize his last day was quite so soon.
T had said once that knowing our rabbit and made her want to get a Flemish giant, but she knew it wouldn't be like ours. There'd never be one like ours. Everyone thinks their pet is outstanding. But so many people, so separate from each other, said that about ours. He did have that charisma, that strange presence. How can we have the rest of our lives when a superlative rabbit like that is gone?