8.5 years ago the black bunny to the right of the picture was brought into an animal sanctuary where I used to spend my time as a trustee and fundraiser. I clearly remember the day she was brought in, and the family too.
She was 2.5 years old at the time - an unloved, unwanted children's pet. They claimed she was aggressive and they couldn't go near her and so they didn't want her anymore and had brought her to the sanctuary to 'get rid'.
We named her Hermione; an apt name at the time because not only had the Harry Potter books just become popular but she proved to be quite a grumpy witch. She really did not like humans, she really did not like other rabbits, and she really proved to be a bloody nuisance as she was returned twice over a period of 18 months and was constantly soiled and wet due to a sensitive tum.
It was Christmas Eve when I said to myself enough was enough. The sanctuary environment was not able to give her the care and attention she needed, as she required such careful monitoring with her diet and needed regular bathing too because she was so overweight and couldn't groom herself and was always soiled. She was just such an unhappy rabbit so I brought her home, gave her a room to herself and I left her to do as she pleased.
I never interfered or forced myself on her. Each day I just routinely looked after her, leaving her be, just as she wanted. Somewhere in my mind I believed she was just a temporary foster bunny but before long a year had slipped by.
It had taken a whole year but I had gained her trust.More than that, she and I had inadvertently developed a strong bond with one another and she begun to enjoy cuddles on my lap each night. Over time they grew to two hour long stints each night where she would fall asleep in my arms and truly relax and snuggle down. We had such a close and trusting relationship with one another but still she would not tolerate another human or bunny.
She was 6 years old at this point, quite a good age for a rescue rabbit, especially because she had poor teeth from being fed dried food. But it was probably another 18 months or so before she began to be tolerant of other humans, namely my husband, and then another 6 months before a miracle happened and she fell in love, with a dog bed!
I was in the vets one day and saw an advert asking for a home for a French Lop. He was bullying the staffie dog he had grown up with and at 18 months of age he had been allowed to get too big for his boots and was ruling the roost. We named him Hugo and divided Hermione's room so they could share it, as we thought she wouldn't tolerate him. Well we were so wrong. He came with a big squishy dog bed, which she instantly adopted and seemed to accept him as a kind of BOGOF offer and the two of them lived very happily together until Hugo died rather suddenly one day just over two years later.
By now Hermione was a good 10 years old and completely blind (having survived the removal of one eye due to cancer and developed a cataract in the other). Out of respect for such an elderly rabbit we started calling her 'Mrs H'. We thought she would now live out her life on her own but she readily accepted another of our bunnies who had not long been bereaved too.
Mrs H and Larry (a thug of a Netherland dwarf) lived happily together for the last 10 months or so until today, when at 11 years of age I made the decision to put her to sleep. She had needed another dental, and I knew the risk of anaesthetic at this age was so high, but there was no choice but to go ahead but as I suspected she took it hard. She made it through the op but struggled to come round and 24 hours later she was still in a kind of comatose state so I let her go. It sounds so simple when you say it in black and white but this has really shaken my status quo.
My small, little world has lost a very big shining star and I will never forget the love she gave to me. She taught me so many valuable lessons about rescue animals that will stay with me forever. She really was a miracle to me and I will miss her immeasurably.
This Saturday is the second of our two 'Rabbit & Guinea Pig Roadshows' and whilst I stand amidst a sea of bunnies I will no doubt catch myself at some point thinking of Mrs H and hoping that our efforts will help at least one more bunny to live a better life. Mrs H got what she deserved and I won't give up until all the bunnies in the country enjoy a life worth living.