When Mr. Binkles’ bunny partner, Mrs. Peabody died a couple of months ago, I feared he would never love again. Theirs was a close bond, or so I thought. I would often find them huddled together in the nesting box, and their mealtime rituals and games never failed to make me smile. Even though I would throw in multiple pieces of carrot or broccoli or banana slices, they would both want the same piece. So they would play the mine/no, it’s mine game and chase each other around the pen stealing the food bit from each other. Eventually, they would settle down a few inches from each other and chow down peacefully and in earnest.
When I’m home, I open up the bunnies’ pen and let them have access to all of the house. Binkles always comes charging out, eager to check out all of his domain (this is, after all, Binkles’ house, I am merely the live-in help). Peabody wasn’t as in much of a hurry, but she would come out and find some place in the house (usually behind the bathtub) to just hang out for a change of scenery. While out and about in the house, those two wouldn’t interact too much with each other. Maybe a passing nose bump, but the closeness they displayed in their pen was not evident when they were out.
In the final weeks of Peabody’s life, it was clear Binkles knew something was up. He became more gentle with her and spent more time grooming her, particularly around her nose where the cancerous tumor was growing. And while he still came charging out of the pen when I opened it, often he would return back to the pen to just hang out quietly with Peabody.
On the day I had to take Peabody for her final vet visit, I let Binkles remain out of his pen while I left for my sad errand. I wanted to make sure he was distracted when I came back home without his living and breathing partner.
According to house rabbit experts, in order for the surviving partner to be able to accept that his friend is truly gone, they need to be able to see their dead body. Otherwise, they will forever be waiting for their partner to return and would not be able to accept a new bond. Since I want Binkles to be happy, and I know he is a much happier bunny with a buddy, I brought Mrs. Peabody’s lifeless body home.
Binkles was out and about and didn’t notice me tearfully place her limp body in her usual spot in the pen. I took a seat in the living room and waited for Binkles to check back in to his pen. It took a few minutes before he went dashing into his pen (he tends to dash everywhere for no particular reason). When he first saw Peabody’s body, he nudged her playfully. He nudged her again. And then he went up and started grooming her face and her ears. He moved his way down half of her body, all the while grooming her. This lasted maybe ten minutes. And then finally, with a pronounced jump, he turned his back to her and hopped away.
I left her body there for another hour or so, thinking that maybe there was more to his process. But no, he was done. I don’t know what was going through his little bunny brain as he groomed her for those few minutes. Maybe he was making sure she was really and truly dead. Or maybe he realized that quickly, and the grooming was merely his way of saying good-bye.
For the next week, Binkles was a bit needier than usual, so I made sure he got lots of extra attention. I even let him stay out of his pen all night a couple of times. However, after waking up with a rabbit on my pillow staring me dead in the eye, as if he were plotting something very very naughty, that leniency ended.
At the end of the week, I had to take him to be boarded while I was gone on retreat. And while I was off in search of nirvana, Binkles would be on a search for a new partner. More on that in Part 2.