Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Goodbye, Princess

Yesterday a little after five in the morning, my Princess Sparkles had a heart attack in my arms and passed away.

We first brought Princess home from an animal shelter nearly four years ago. Since then, she and I have spent a lot of time together. I've been unable to work and so we spent all day long together. Today is the first day I've truly been home alone in nearly four years, and it feels weird. Sometimes I think I feel her or notice her out of the corner of my eye. Every time I get out of my chair, I look around to see where she is. When I'm done eating, I look around like I expect her to walk over and want me to pet her. She was so much a part of my daily life.

Princess took care of me a little. It didn't take her long to figure out that (because I'm, well, a low-functioning mental case) Becca's in charge around here, so Princess kind of looked out for me by coming over to spend time with me or comfort me, especially when I was having an emotional breakdown or when I was really sick or even really depressed (particularly last winter, when I was medicated again). I miss the comfort of just petting her. I'm glad I got to spend Sunday petting her a lot, because it was her last day alive.

She's old for a rabbit. We only had her for the second half of her life; she spent her first four years with children, and as a result she loved to be petted but hated being handled or picked up. (They're the ones who gave her her name.) 8 is very old for a rabbit. We thought she was slowing down because it was that time, but she actually had developed pneumonia, and by the time we caught in (on Thursday) it was very advanced. She was having real problems breathing, and didn't want to walk around anymore because of the physical exertion. We were giving her medicine every 12 hours and feeding her with a paste because she just couldn't eat with her breathing difficulties. She was starting to eat on her own on Sunday, just a little bit of hay and fresh greens, so we thought she was getting better, but having to wrap her in a blanket and lift her up for medicine was just too much for her. Her heart gave out yesterday morning before we could even give her any; she just started breathing hard and then she shook; we put her down to see if it was the stress of being held, but she couldn't stand. She crawled an inch, then her head hit the floor, her entire body flopped over, and then she took a few more hard breaths and lay completely still, eyes open. We put our hands on her, but her heart had stopped. It was horrible and sad, but she's not in pain anymore. And I do genuinely feel like we did everything we could have done. She was just very, very sick and very old. I'm glad we were with her at the very end.

We adopted her fairly soon after Thumper had to be put to sleep when his cancer made it impossible for him to walk. I wasn't really ready for another bunny so soon, but Becca really wanted her. I remember the first time we saw Princess, Becca put her hand in the cage and Princess bowed her head down to be petted. That made me feel like she was ours. We brought her home and it was a learning process, and sometimes she could be infuriating, but I loved having her here every day. We loved each other so much. She was my family.

I think we gave her a good home. When we adopted her she was startled by every sound. Her fur was coarse and dark; she was totally brown with a little white spot on her paw, but as she lived here and ate better and became part of our family, her fur became thick and soft and that white spot on her paw became an entire crest that went all the way up to one shoulder. She seemed happy and even if she was demanding of attention sometimes (she was a princess, after all), she was always family.

I'm so sad that she's gone, but I'm so glad she was here. We gave her a home, but she helped make it a home.

This has been such a hard year, especially for my wife. 2015 was our financially hardest year ever. Last January, Becca's grandmother died. In August, one of her two best friends moved to Vegas. In December, the state stopped my medical benefits (although that looks like it's being rectified). The next day, Becca's mother died suddenly. David Bowie, my lifelong hero, died. And now Princess. Becca is distant from her family and feels like, except for me and her other best friend, she has no family left.

Personally, I'm depressed. I feel like just going to bed and never getting out of it, like my Mom did when I was a kid. She stayed in bed for days at a time. I just want to do that. All of my caregivers, even my pet, are dying or moving away. Having to care for Princess gave me a reason to get up in the morning. The only reason I made sure to get up today--even as I see her empty cage and her untouched food--is because I feel like she would want me to. So I'll just keep getting up every day. I can be sad and still live. I won't be sad forever. But I'll love her forever.

I'll miss you, Princess. I remember when Thumper died, and I said I had resisted getting a pet for so long because I didn't want to have to feel the emotional devastation when that pet inevitably died. I understand now that you can't have the love and companionship without the goodbye, and that a thing isn't beautiful because it lasts. I wouldn't trade my time with Princess or with Thumper just to not have to feel this sadness.


Sam G said...

I am so sorry for your loss. My faithful companion, Hank passed away last March.

Autumn said...

I'm so sorry, but glad she got her second chance with you guys. It's harder for rabbits in shelters to find new homes and wonderful to hear how much she was loved. Having an animal around is so so good for your health and stress and happiness so (when you are ready) I hope you will be looking for another companion and, if you do, I look forward to hearing about it.

Nathan said...

I'm really sorry to hear that.

Jason said...

I'm so, so sorry, Aaron. My condolences to you and Becca both. Damn, I hope you guys catch a break soon...

Some Guy said...

I'm so sorry, Aaron. It sounds like she was a great friend.

Roger Owen Green said...

Very lovely tribute.

Pat O'Connor said...

That was straight from the heart. Sorry for your loss.

SamuraiFrog said...

Thank you, everyone.

Oblio said...

So sorry for your loss, I know it hurts. I wrote the following poem for my wife after our Shih-Tzu mix dog Pepper died, whom we had in our lives for over 17 years, maybe it can connect.

Black and White
(A Valentine’s Gift to Kimberly)

The gray and white ball of fur is sleeping,
and she dreams of times when she was black and white
and could see and smell and run and jump and play…

She snores and sniffs and stirs and stretches and yawns,
opening her eyes to a world she seems to have always known;
a world of love and food and warmth –
a world of soft carpet and soft laps and soft, musical sounds –
a world so far away from the dark days so very, very long before…

She pads over to her spot, standing for a moment to think of her good fortune,
loving her place in the world, no matter that she has already been a part of it for so long,
shakes off the slumber, drinks and eats and scratches and thinks some more –
“How lucky I am to have a home that I love and that loves me…”

The cool grass is perfect for this warm day,
so she walks a bit, sniffs herself and lays down feeling
the heat from the sun and the gentle breeze blowing her fur
across her eyes and nose and face and ears –
“This place is good… I am happy here, every day.”

The days turn to weeks turn to months turn to years
and her life becomes a sweet series of days and nights,
with all the love and companionship she could wish for,
and her heart is filled with the love she feels when she’s in our arms
and knows that nothing will ever harm her.

The light has gone again and the dark is outside but here inside
she slumbers and stirs and sniffs and flits her furry legs,
dreaming of her youth and barking at cats and chasing after balls thrown
by the ones who love and cherish her more as each day passes –
each day a gift… each day a treasure… each day a new beginning…

Night has come and sleep is the magic carpet,
where eyes see and noses smell and legs run and birds scatter
and the world is new and a fantastic joy to explore, and she dreams –
dreams that she will live forever (because she will)…
dreams that she will never leave (because she won’t)…
dreams that all is well (because it is)…
dreams that nothing is sweeter than her life (because it is so)…
Black and White slumbers, at peace with the universe.

Carl said...

I'm sorry for both your and Becca's loss.she sounds like a sweet and caring creature, and I'm glad you guys all had each other.

Friend Mouse said...

I'm so very sorry for your loss. What you said - "I understand now that you can't have the love and companionship without the goodbye"" - is beautiful and really resonates with me; we had to put our 14 y.o. dog down a year ago and I am still sad at times about it. But as you said, I'm glad to have the sadness because it meant we had such a good, loving life with her. Peace to you and Becca both.

Splotchy said...

Hugs and love, man.