They’ve been a part of our lives for several years. But this week I couldn’t cope any longer and handed them over to new, hopefully better, homes. D sobbed in the car on the way home and I didn’t even have the courage to tell J, signing the papers while he was happily engaged at school. He still doesn’t know he won’t be seeing our pet rabbits again.
I’ve had rabbits for as long as I can remember. I even smuggled one into a rented hovel in my hedonistic student days – and nearly got evicted as a result. Cats make me sneeze. Dogs would be ok if they didn’t bark, poo, and terrify the proverbial out of J (the result of a couple of unfortunate experiences.) But rabbits – harmless, fluffy little bundles of cuteness, have always had a place in my cynical heart.
There was a period of inner-city, fast-lane living when I was pet-free. But with the arrival of Unhusband, pregnancy, and the ensuing move to suburbia, it wasn’t long before I ended up in Pets at Home.
J and D have grown up with rabbits; have mauled them, loved them, chased them round the garden, and in D’s case even sampled their poo. I’m not sure if she thought she was eating raisins, but it didn’t do her any noticeable harm.
Then a few months ago, with the news we were to become a family of five combined with the realisation we couldn’t move, we set about creating more space. Things were more complicated than we thought. So while we moved from place to place, caravan-of-hell to top floor flat, the rabbits remained marooned on a building site, formerly known as home. And we still don’t know when we’ll be able to return.
At first, it was manageable – just. But suddenly, with my due date edging inexorably closer and our budget diving exponentially lower, I simply couldn’t cope any longer. Exhausted, stressed and with no outside help, something had to give. I couldn’t bear the sight of our once happy pets languishing, unloved in a damp and dangerous excavation area. Couldn’t face the daily perils of clambering over steel girders and breeze blocks, just to clean them out and feed them. Couldn’t cope with the fear of any more vets’ bills – no longer able to run freely around the garden, their stifling living conditions were making them unwell.
I phoned every rabbit rehoming number on Google, to no avail, and usually no reply. Eventually, wracked with guilt, I packed them into a box, with some fresh hay and food and took them to an animal charity. I don’t really know what I was expecting. But I wasn’t prepared for the reception I received. In my naivety, I thought perhaps they would see my plight, as well as that of the rabbits. As if.
The woman on reception clearly thought I was a heartless, irresponsible bitch. And her uniformed colleague treated me like a hardened criminal. I was lectured about my ‘legal responsibilities as a pet owner’ and made to feel like I shouldn’t be allowed to keep children, let alone animals.
I tried explaining the situation, while D clung to my ankles and asked awkward questions, and all I wanted was to sit down and be treated like a person, a heavily pregnant, on-the verge-of-tears-one, at that. ‘Don’t you have family who can help?’ the woman insisted. It was all I could do not to break down or lose the plot. Did she really think I’d be there if I had the kind of family that I could turn to for support, practical or otherwise?
I know animal charities have a priority towards animals. But what about a touch of compassion for the humans, who sometimes, simply have no choice but to hand them over? What were the alternatives? Sell them as snake food? Release them to the mercy of the local foxes? Have them put to sleep and out of their misery? Or let them come to a natural miserable end?
Eventually, the rabbits were taken into care. I emptied my purse of coins for D to post in the melancholic dog shaped collection bin. And we left without even saying goodbye. Which was probably for the best.
I made a sad and difficult decision and did what I thought was best for the animals. I left feeling even more guilty and distressed than I had done on arrival.
I just hope the rabbits go on to new and loving homes; I hope, really hope, I haven’t scarred my children for life. I hope a car bomb or a prosecution doesn’t await me as a result of this post. And I will never be able to look the Easter Bunny in the eye again.