Being human

Being human

 

Harry the Rabbit is seven years old.

He was bought as a present for our eight year old daughter. You know the story. She simply HAD TO HAVE HIM. Until, of course, his novelty wore off. Which was about six days. Then I assumed the onerous task of being Harry’s guardian.

Harry spent the first three miserable years of his life staring at the garden shed, being pelted by rain and with only the prospect of a furtive hand inserting a carrot and gruel into his cage every day by way of entertainment.

Unsurprisingly, he was quickly at Death’s Door, shivering, glass-eyed and listless.

The vet pronounced him ‘beyond help’ and suggested that we take him home as the cheapest and kindest option. Nature would take its course.

For two days Harry sat in the Box of Doom in front of the Aga – we wanted his promised and inevitable departure to be as warm and comfortable as possible. But he didn’t die. He just sat there.

Confused, I telephoned a friend who had a household pet rabbit. She was bound to know what to do. She advised that rabbits are sociable creatures and crave company. Perhaps all that had been wrong was that he was lonely?

Despite her wisdom, we were still sure that the vet was probably most likely to be right. And somewhat impatient that Nature wasn’t taking its course fast enough, we set him free.

Yes I can hear the screams from Disgusted of Dagenham right now! I’m so sorry! But we honestly thought he had only hours to live and decided that if he lived them in the wild with a few furry friends before the fox got him, then it would be a better end than the years of solitary confinement we had subjected him to.

But then the sun came out and he perked up a bit.

And Lucy, our grumpy ancient chicken who had given up laying years ago, took a shine to him. Being surrounded by good-looking egg laying youngsters, she was probably just as lonely and isolated as Harry was.

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So Harry perked up a lot.

Thus began the weirdest love story I have ever witnessed. Harry and Lucy became inseparable. They ate together, played together, toured the garden together. Harry never returned to his hutch apart from for his food – which he shared with Lucy. And he slept next to her in the hen hut.

Once the postman and delivery men had got over their initial concern that ‘the rabbit’s got out!’, the Harry and Lucy show became something of a local talking point. Neighbours would hang over the garden fence to marvel at this bizarre friendship.

And for four years Harry and Lucy enjoyed the best free-range life imaginable.

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Ten days ago, Harry disappeared. We don’t know where, but he’s gone. There’s no evidence of the fox. The chickens would have told us. It could be a hawk. But we actually think he hopped off to die. A lot of animals do. He was about the right age and had been slowing down recently. All the signs that he was not in the best of health were there.

We were all bereft. Particularly Lucy, who for the first time ever ventured in through the open back door and into the kitchen, looking for him. It was a pitiful sight.

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After four days, Lucy’s tail dropped. She lost all interest in food. And then she took herself off to lie underneath the bush that she and Harry enjoyed most – where she peacefully died. She was at least eight years old, so it was a good innings.

She is buried at the bottom of our garden in a peaceful shady spot.

The moral of my story is that we humans are animals too. We all need a friend and companionship. Old specimens particularly. And sometimes we find it in the most unusual places.

That’s love!

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