Til death us do part.
We think we are the higher species, that emotionally, we feel pain more keenly and are more aware of our emotional sometimes solitude. We comfort ourselves in our greatness with trite little observations of animals like..."isn't that cute?"..."oh look, they love each other...isn't that sweet?" ( I do this ALL the time!) None of us truly believe that an animal can feel a loss or a desperation in living alone as deeply as we can.
I thought the same until I met Gracie, Bella and O'Grady.
These were three meat rabbits, breeding babies destined for the freezer, in a back yard. They had little care or concern from their human, just minimal food and an old tire for their shelter and an ax when their babies were big enough to eat. By the time they came to us, Gracie, the original mother, was beyond even old. She was just a rabbit skin with bones inside, but what a will she had to live. We managed to keep her happily going for a few months more but one day a fatal stroke hit her and she quickly passed away.
Bella and O'Grady did ok with her loss. They knew she was old and sick and she died without ever getting truly strong. The two remaining bunnies carried on with their daily lives. They ate and drank and groomed each other and life continued on. One day Bella developed congestive heart failure, she was older than we had thought. We gave her diuretics and antibiotics to prevent pneumonia from setting in. But sometimes when life is ending, you can't fight it off. All too soon, Bella gave up her life that she had lived with O'Grady for so long.
O'Grady for the first time in his life, was entirely alone. Within a week, he stopped eating, a few days later I heard that fluid rattling in his chest. We started again with the diuretics and antibiotics and tried to stave off death. O'Grady somewhat stabilized, he didn't get better, but he didn't get worse. He ate a very minimal amount and only special treats. The fluid remained crowding his lungs but O'Grady hit a holding pattern and we waited, unsure what to do.
I had intended to try to bond another rabbit with O'Grady but we didn't currently have any unbonded females and I was afraid to try anyway in case the stress pushed him right over the edge. One day, a couple of weeks after he got sick, I was watching him and felt his profound loneliness....enough was enough...we had to attempt to bond him with Lincoln.
Anyone who has tried introducing rabbits, knows it is not an easy thing. They are territorial and do not like strangers and introductions can turn quite violent. I think I was more afraid than either of the rabbits, but there was nothing at all to fear. They liked each other immediately and the match was complete without a single wrinkle.
Within another week, O'Grady had his full appetite back. His chest was clear, he was no longer weak and ill. Lincoln and O'Grady have been best friends now for several months. They sleep laying up against each other, they take turns grooming and cleaning, they are fully bonded together and O'Grady is once again healthy and strong.
Rabbits form lifelong relationships, once that bond is made, it remains for all of their lives. Unlike humans they don't end in divorce and they never change their minds. They bond so strongly, they can literally die from grief if their partner has gone away, they feel that loss so deeply. I think as deeply as a human might.
O'Grady took the chance to find friendship again..was it his lonely heart or Lincoln's or both, or was it their faith in the goodness of real friendship that made this match so right?
Lincoln and O'Grady invite you to come to their table and consider the possibilities in the emotional lives of all animals, especially little rabbits.