A life, I'm sad to say, I was afraid was about to come to an end very recently.
Many people know bits and pieces of this story, some more than others, and I have never meant to leave anyone out. The truth is, I don't usually make things like this -- sad things -- public, but I decided to with Snickers this time because we needed people's prayers.
Here is the story, from the beginning, in its entirety. A story that's not over yet, but a story that I'm hopeful will end better than we originally thought.
It all started at the beginning of July. I don't mean to be gross, but how I realized something was wrong with him initially was that the size and shape of his poo was wrong. This is really the best way you can tell something is wrong in rabbits. I had been out of town the first few days of July, and my brother Alex who was watching Snicks commented to me that he didn't think he was drinking enough and seemed out of sorts.
When I got back to town, I started doing the things the vet had told me to do in the past when his poo is weird. Namely, I cut back on the pellet food he receives and upped the greens. I also gave him a little pineapple juice, which some people use to help break up hair that gets caught in rabbits' intestines. (Rabbit trivia: they do not have the throw up reflex that cats do, so they cannot cough up hairballs. Their hairballs are broken up by the hay they eat and are prevented by frequent brushing, which Snickers hates.) It didn't seem to work. I also noticed that his nose was wet, which it shouldn't be, so I thought it was time to visit the vet. He usually goes every summer for a check up, so it was time anyways.
We have the BEST VET PRACTICE here in Huntington, and they have been seeing him and caring for him since he was six months old. They know him well, and they LOVE him. They treat us so well and have been there for us through some abscesses he had as well as the fleas he had last summer. (Incidentally, I think back to the fleas -- which I thought was the end of the world at the time -- and I laugh now because I'd take fleas any day over what we're dealing with now. At least with fleas there's a treatment and done, but I digress.)
The vet confirmed his nose wetness, but she also noticed that he was drooling a lot, which is unusual. The vet indicated that this was a sign that something may be wrong with his teeth. She tried to look in his mouth, but if there's one thing Snicks hates more than being brushed, it's having his mouth touched. I can't explain it.) Dr. Ellis then told me that she needed to refer me to a practice in Charleston who could provide more specialized care. At this time, I realized that this was no joke and something serious was going on. This was on Thursday, July 14.
On Monday, July 18, I took him to Charleston. Snicks has never been in the car that long before, nor is he used to being caged, so we were now dealing with stress on top of the sickness. He also does not like to leave home because he is a curmudgeon. (This is also probably a good time to mention that 6.5 years (which he will be on the 14th) is considered old in rabbits.) I was nervous to take him to a new doctor's office, too, because his Huntington people love him so much and they are so good, and I didn't want to take him somewhere where they didn't care about him like that.
I was worried needlessly, because I found Dr. Tackett to be very caring and wonderful. She examined him that day, and informed me that he was incredibly dehydrated and she was worried he was in GI Stasis. In case you don't know (and why would you?), GI Stasis is known as the "silent killer" in rabbits. It's life-threatening. Dr. Tackett tried to look in his mouth, and, although she was able to get a decent glimpse, he tried to fight her, too. She told me that she did not see anything that looked wrong in there, but that all rabbits' mouths are different, and she'd have to put him under anesthesia to get a better look. However, she said that anesthesia is very hard on rabbits, particularly old rabbits in bad health, and her immediate concern was the stasis and the dehydration. She also said that his drooling could be due to the fact that he wasn't feeling well and not a tooth thing. That day she gave him fluids under his skin ("subcutaneous," which I had never heard of before and is somewhat fascinating) and told me to take him to get fluids from his vet here for the next two days. I was also given something called Critical Care to feed him as well as pain medication to give him. She told me she'd call me later in the week to check on him.
Over the next two days, I took him back to Dr. Ellis for fluids. After a couple days of fluids and pain medicine, I noticed his poo was looking better, and Dr. Ellis noted she didn't see any drool.
YES! I thought things were done and great, and I told Dr. Tackett so when she called me later that week.
But ... (you knew that was coming)
But once the fluids wore off and the pain meds were gone, his poo got bad again, and I realized that was because he was completely refusing water. He would eat his greens fine, he would eat his hay, he was moving and going to the bathroom, but he would not drink water. I got lucky because, although he would not accept Critical Care in a syringe from me, he would eat it out of a bowl, which was a method suggested to be my his vet tech here in Huntington.
He just would not drink water.
I tried new bowls, I tried bottle feeding him, I tried bottled water, and water of different temperatures. No dice.
I called Dr. Tackett again and took him back to her. This was Friday the 29th. She weighed him and said he had not gained any weight, he was still dehydrated, and she was worried about him. This time, along with giving him more fluids, she also took a blood sample and told me she'd call me with the results. She actually called me the next day with the results -- a Saturday afternoon, so nice -- which showed nothing. NOTHING. His blood was fine, except for an elevated kidney level of some sort, which she said was most likely being caused by the dehydration, not the other way around.
Now I should mention that neither Dr. Ellis, nor Dr. Tackett, nor the internet had ever heard of this particular problem before. There have been plenty of complains of rabbits who wouldn't eat or drink, or even rabbits who would drink but not eat, but no one had ever heard of a rabbit who would eat but not drink. It confounded everyone.
Dr. Tackett said that, at this point, the only thing left for her to do was put him under the dreaded anesthesia and check his teeth and tongue more intently. She said perhaps something was wrong with his tongue, which would explain why he wouldn't want to lap up water. If not, she was going to have to send me to a rabbit specialist. Who knew there was even such a thing? We scheduled his procedure for Wednesday the 3rd. This is incredibly scary because the vet had made it clear to me that anesthesia is so hard on them, and I was really, really afraid he wouldn't wake up. I told Dr. Tackett that it was just him and me, just the two of us, and I really needed him to be okay.
On Monday and Tuesday of this week, I took him to his vet practice here in town for fluids to prepare him for his procedures. It was so nice to see all the welcome faces of the people at Animal Care Clinic, who hugged me and told me to make sure to call them when I knew anything.
This past Wednesday, I left Huntington at 6:30 a.m. to drop Snicks off in Charleston by 7:30. Before we left, I took his little prayer bunny and put it in his cage with him. Luckily for me, Snicks is a HUGE fan of Pride and Prejudice and requested to listen to the audio book on the way to Charleston. :) But really, I make that sound a lot more lighthearted than the trip really was. When we arrived at the doctor, I opened up the car door, looked at him in the cage and said, "Remember you promised me you'd wake up. So you wake up."
I walked him in to the vet, which held a blue million people in the waiting room. Snickers is a bit of a novelty, which means people like to touch him, and I had this uncomfortable encounter with a fellow waiting room patron, which I don't want to recount here because I'm sure she meant well, but who made me feel worse. I finally got to check him in, and I was told I could call around 1 p.m. for an update on him. Then the receptionist came around and took him from me. I watched as she took him out of my sight, and then I went out to my car and cried. It was barely 8 a.m., I was exhausted, and I was about to travel back home without my beloved Baby Snickers.
I got home around 9, and planned to clean the house, including washing all of Snicks's many towels, before heading to school and working in my classroom. (The truth is, he has been peeing EVERYWHERE, probably as a result of his diminished kidney function. We're at the point where Snickers now has four bath towels, and I have one. Not one backup towel, ONE towel.) As I was vacuuming, I kept checking to be sure I wouldn't hit him with the vacuum, and then I'd remember he wasn't here. So sad.
I went to school where SO MANY PEOPLE were invested in how he was doing and cared so much to ask about him. It was so great to be at school that day, surrounded by my friends and colleagues who care, as opposed to being home alone, waiting. I also want to add that his Huntington vet's office wanted me to call them with updates, and I got several Facebook messages from the people there, too. They are so great!
I did call around 1 p.m. (okay, it was 1:01 p.m.), but the doctor's office told me that hadn't even gotten to take him back yet because they were so busy. However, he was next up, and the receptionist told me that Dr. Tackett said she'd call when he got out of surgery.
Finally, I got the call and heard what I'd been waiting to hear, which was -- he was awake. He woke up. Sadly, Dr. Tackett said that she didn't see anything in his mouth that really made her think it would cause him to not drink water. She said she noticed some irritation on one side of his tongue, but that it wasn't enough to make her definitively say that that was the cause. She filed his teeth down, gave him more fluids, and took a urine sample and told me she'd call me Friday with the results. We were back to a waiting game, but I felt like the day had been a success because he woke up.
I watched him closely, but he still wouldn't drink water. He was eating greens, eating hay, and using the bathroom (in fact, he was peeing still everywhere), but still no water. I decided to mix a little apple juice (organic, natch, only the best for my 4 lbs. old man, don't mind me, I'll be here eating Little Debbies myself) in his water. Dr. Tackett had suggested that people do this, but she usually doesn't like to recommend it because of the sugar he doesn't need. But she said I could try it, so I did.
He wouldn't drink it. It killed me.
The vet called me Friday afternoon for an update, so I told her the situation. She said his urinalysis didn't show anything wrong. She also told me that she called a specialist, who had no idea what could be wrong since she'd never seen this before. (In case you're keeping count, that's three very good, very baffled doctors and one abnormal rabbit.) She suggested that I put Snicks on a broad antibiotic in case he had some sort of kidney infection that wasn't showing up in his urine. Dr. Tackett said it had to be compounded, but, luckily, there is a pharmacy here in Huntington that could make it, so I didn't have to drive back to Charleston. I was told to give him this medicine for a month. I was also told that it might make his stools loose, which would be bad since he's already dehydrated, and, let's be honest, also bad because who wants to clean that up? She said if I notice that to call her and she'll prescribe something different. She also told me she was sorry that she couldn't figure out what was wrong and she really wanted to help him. She told me she knows how close we are. That made me feel good.
I got off the phone with her and sat down to continue reading my book, when I heard this trickling sound. Thinking it was Snicks peeing on the floor again, I got up to get the paper towels. I looked over ... AND I SAW HIM DRINKING THE JUICE MIXTURE.
I could not believe my eyes. I didn't move a muscle, not wanting to startle him. He took a second drink.
I called the vet's office back and told the receptionist that HE WAS DRINKING A BIT! She, however, did not seem as excited as I did, but she did tell me she'd go back and tell Dr. Tackett. I felt like Dr. Tackett would get it.
So, for the past 48 hours I've been making sure his bowl is full of the juice/water mixture, trying to make it a lot more water than juice. I'm using bottled water and not tap, just in case his senses are able to detect something different in our tap water that my taste buds can't sense. He's been drinking a bit, maybe not as much as I'd like to see, but it's something. I've been trying to play it cool around him, though, you know? :)
I picked up his prescription yesterday. I gave her my name, she checked the computer, and she was like, "Oh, is this for the bunny?" Indeed. I got a prescription that actually said "Lafferre, Snickers" on it. I mean really. I have to refrigerate it and everything! I also have to give it to him every 12 hours, so I'm trying to work that schedule out with going back to school this week. This prescription, I understand, is basically made to kill anything and everything that is bad inside his person. In fact, I looked it up online and read that this same drug is sometimes given to human victims of anthrax and certain types of plague. Yep.)
The truth is, he is usually a very good boy about using his litterbox, but there were times where he would fall asleep or otherwise have an accident. Or he'd hop out of his litterbox and his big feet would knock poo on the floor. It was irritating, I won't lie. But now, now when it happens, I just say, "It's okay Snicks, I got this." And I get the paper towels and the Resolve, and I clean it up. Because that stuff means that he's still here with me.
So that's where we are. Not back to 100%, still worried about the fact he's not drinking enough and maybe never will. I honestly don't know what will happen next. But, for now, he's alive, and he's safe. And for that, I am grateful.
Has this been exhausting? Yes. Expensive? Yes. In fact, I told myself that I wasn't going to add it up, because what good would that do and what purpose would it serve? The thing is, I assumed responsibility for Snickers's care years ago, and I've always seen him as a gift from God, and we're supposed to nurture and care for the gifts God has given us. It's not Snickers's fault he's not well, and he's only ever been a gentle and loyal friend. He's the oddest rabbit that God ever created (medical professionals back me up), but I do believe he's also God's favorite.