Last week was a sad week in our household, Winston the rabbit died.
Winston was the rabbit we should never have had. We loved him, looked after him, but he wasn’t officially ours.
Three years ago last Summer in 2014, I attended the New Forest Show with my parents. My eldest son came for the day with his girlfriend at the time. We met up briefly with them, before they wandered around the show grounds on their own. I remember having a conversation about how as children, we had purchased rabbits at the show. They had sadly died of Myxomatosis. We joked about making sure they did not go home with any pets!
I remember walking round a demonstration mobile home at the show, when my phone suddenly rang. It was my son. He told me he had bought a rabbit as a present for his girlfriend who had fallen in love with it. Of course there was a problem, in our family there always is.! She had spoken to her mum who had told her they couldn’t keep it as they had terrier dogs who would eat him alive! My son asked if we could keep it for her. I remember getting cross and saying it would end up costing us money, be hard work and he would never look after it. He assured me he would pay for it and look after him. I told him he hadn’t thought it through and had he considered where the poor rabbit was going to live. I told him he needed to return the rabbit to the show tent where he had purchased it and sacrifice the money he had spent..
He then broke the news that he couldn’t. He was already in a car on the M3 motorway with the rabbit in a box. I was so angry, felt so helpless, that in exasperation I rang off. Thirty seconds of deep breathing, calming down and telling my parents briefly what happened, and I phoned him back. What was he going to do?
The girlfriend decided he should be called Winston and Winston he was.
The next day I posted what had happened on Facebook and happened to mention as a joke that if anyone had a hutch to let me know. A friend’s rabbit had just died and she wanted rid of her hutch, so Winston suddenly found himself with not only a home, but a mansion. It was a double storey hutch. He might not have been white, but what a lucky rabbit he was.
My son eventually split from his girlfriend so the rabbit might have been officially hers but it became ours, and of course his plans of paying for Winston and looking after him never materialised. He never had any money and was mostly living away from home! By this time we had all grown fond of Winston, so getting rid of him was not an option. My elder son went to college, and it was my younger son who helped to look after him.
For a while Winston had a small wire run and was locked in his hutch at night and let out during the day. As Winston became a little older my husband, who is a softie at heart, felt sorry for him and would let him run around our walled garden. At first Winston was easy to catch at night, but he got crafty and liked to play games with us. Many frustrated hours of running round the garden in the dark were spent. Winston made it more and more difficult to catch him that one night he was left out all night. He survived.
Whenever he was difficult to catch he was left out ,until eventually he was left to roam the garden continuously with his upgraded mansion hutch door always open, just in case he wanted to have the comfort of some hay and a roof over his head. He actually preferred the comfort of our covered swinging hammock. The cushion stuffing was particularly delicious! He would sometimes escape the garden and on a few occasions we spent a couple of hours trying to catch him in the street. What a life of riley he lived, up until last Wednesday.
On Tuesday night we had a rehearsal at our house and Winston came to the door and was fed as usual. Everyone was talking about how lucky he was that a fox hadn’t got him and how wonderful it was he could roam freely round the garden. My husband fed him at 1am in the morning and said he seemed fine.
The next morning I put his breakfast out, but was in a rush and didn’t see him. This was not unusual. By lunchtime my husband noticed that his breakfast was still not eaten and took a walk around the garden. That was when he made the sad discovery. Winston dead behind the swinging hammock.
He didn’t look bloated or hurt, so the most likely cause we’ve been told is a heart attack, as rabbits apparently get easily scared.
What will I miss about Winston?
- watching him bound across the garden chasing after the cats
- watching him try to make friends with the cats
- seeing him stretched out and relaxing in the garden
- seeing him on his hind legs with his face at the bi-fold door waiting for his kale early in the morning
- seeing his fur change colour with the seasons
- funny rabbit tales
What won’t I miss about Winston?
- having no flowers in the garden
- stepping rabbit poo into the house
- having to replace all the things he chewed
- the expense of kale, rabbit food, litter and hay
- chasing Winston round the street and garden trying to catch him
- finding someone to look after him when we went away
- worrying he might be eaten by a fox
We are sad to have lost Winston, but won’t be getting another rabbit despite my youngest sons pleas.
We take comfort that he had three and a half years of good quality life. A veterinary nurse friend came and as we sat watching him run round the garden she said he had the ideal living conditions for a domestic rabbit. He might not have had other rabbits for company like in the wild, but he had the cats who he loved even if they didn’t all love him back!.
RIP Winston, gone but not forgotten.
Honestly Fiona xx