A Terrible Mother

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.


About Becky Dickinson

Mum of three. Writer, blogger, grower. Trying to keep my head above the compost heap.

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  1. Gwen Bramwell says:

    Aaaaah B, how sad for you. This made me cry! Chin up gorgeous x x

  2. Lorna Claydon says:

    Rest assured Becky, worse things than this will happen in your kids lives. What you have shown them is, that when you are in a tough place, you have to make tough choices, and do your bit to be a responsible member of society. I wish the parents of the kids I have fostered had learnt that lesson as children! J&D and Bump are lucky to have you as a Mum.
    You can always assuage your guilt when you are ‘back in business’ by volunteering at the centre or giving a home to one of their pets and your kids will get another wonderful life lesson – its OK to ask for help when you need it and it feels great to give back (or pay it forward) when you can
    Rest up and enjoy being pregnant ( possibly for the last time in your life). Its a privalege even though it doesnt feel like it sometimes! xx

  3. I think Lorna’s comment is bang on.

    I think you made the right call. And I think you did well to share this post – it might save a few people some heartbreak by getting them to stop and think a little bit harder before they take on the responsibility of a pet (I’m not suggesting you could have foreseen how things would unfortunately turn out for you).
    I’m not a pet person personally. Even the lovely image you paint of the fun your kids had with the rabbits can’t persuade me to be bothered with extra mouths to feed and extra poo to clear up! I know pets can be fun, but I think there is too much pressure on parents to get family pets. My family had pets growing up and I mostly remember them being the reason why we had to go home early from social occasions. I guess rabbits are probably a bit less needy!

    • Yes, all pets are a committment (though I’m not sure about fish, as never had those!) Love your blog name by the way – I always had bike lights in the fruit bowl in my cycling days. Usually a pollution mask as well!

  4. Oh no that’s sad. But you were right, not only was it best for you and your family, but its also best for the rabbits. Good luck!

  5. Nicola says:

    Just found your blog, and love it. You have a natural talent for writing.

    I work / volunteer at an animal charity, and sadly, it is overflowing. The trouble is, so many people are NOT responsible like you, are NOT caring, and they taint the air for those that are. We see thousands of dumped animals each year, some in terrible condition, and the owners couldn’t give too hoots.. that is if they even bother to bring the animal in in the first place, rather than just open the front door and shove them out. So please forgive the charity workers, as they have been hardened by grief, untrue sob stories, and lack of sleep when they are up all night trying to save the lives of injured and sick animals

    And thank you for being a good, caring owner in putting the welfare of your bunnies first.. it cannot have been an easy decision. I have been there, years ago, pregnant and with a cat I could not keep, so now I repay the help I had, by volunteering at a sanctuary. You did the right thing for you, the family and the bunnies

    i will try to do what I do, and that is teach the people on reception that all those who bring their animals to us are not heartless, and some are like you, and just cannot cope any longer, and are doing the right thing.

    Thank you for your post, it has renewed my resolve to keep up my teaching xxxx

    • Thank you for such a lovely comment. It’s still strange throwing carrot peelings on the compost heap after so many years, but I know it was for the best. Keep up your good work. XXX

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