An essay on grief

This was published in the University of North Dakota, Dakota Student by Heather Jackson. 

I could relate to aspects of her story, and thought it was worth sharing with you. ~Tamara
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In June I lost one of my best friends. He had been with me for nine and a half years. He was sweet, beautiful and caring. Perhaps, reader, you are thinking of a person. But this best friend was my rabbit, and his name was Ramone. 

Ramone came into my life when I was a pregnant 18-year-old. He came to me as a high school graduation present in May of 2001.  He was a beautiful black and white Dutch rabbit. The name “Ramone” came from the punk band, “The Ramones.” As a teenage punk rocker, of course I had to name my rabbit after an influential punk band. So, Ramone, it was. 

Black and white Dutch rabbit

 

Ramone was a part of my life when I experienced a lot of pain and change. He was with me during the last part of my teenage pregnancy, the abusive relationship I was in, and the few moves I’ve had within the states of North Dakota and Minnesota. He was always there for me. I could hold him when I felt sad and alone. It seemed as though he knew how I felt. He cuddled next to me and I would pet his soft fur, even talk to him about my day and how much I loved him. 

Companion animals become such a huge part of our lives. Sometimes humans develop closer relationships with our animals than we do with other people. The animals become a consistent and enormous aspect of our lives. We are responsible for their well-being. 

Our daily routines involve taking care of our animals. We expect our animals to be waiting for us when we get home, to greet us and show so much enthusiasm when we walk through the door.  

Although Ramone was a rabbit, most would not expect how his behaviors were. But he was happy when I got home. He would spend time with my daughter and I in the living room all evening until bedtime when he would spend the night in my room. 

Sometimes he slept on my bed and I would wake up in the middle of the night to see two cute rabbit ears at the end of my bed in the moonlight. He was liter-box trained and would beg for treats. He was a wonderful friend. 

Sadly, Ramone started getting sick in December of last year. He would go through periods of not eating, and I would get him on some meds to get his digestive track moving again. This continued off and on until May when he completely stopped eating for more days than he ever has. 

Suddenly, I started to force him baby food and critical care food, give him more medications and tried to cuddle and comfort him more than I have. There are no rabbit-savvy veterinarians in North Dakota, and even though the vet I saw at Petcetera did an awesome job, I called rabbit-savvy vets in Minnesota and contacted the House Rabbit Society. 

They were able to talk to the vet at Petcetera and give some advice. In the end, I did everything I could and was thinking of euthanizing him. He died peacefully with my partner and I at his side at 11:30p.m. on June 17. 

Grieving his death was one of the hardest things I have even done. The first few days I was extremely numb. My body ached and I couldn’t eat. I was in denial; I did not want Ramone to be dead. 

I wanted him to be alive and I wanted to hold him and tell him how much I loved him. The grieving process is still hard; I still tear up when I think about him. I still go into denial and get angry about his death. Reading books about pet loss was extremely helpful in this process. It also made me feel okay about my feelings. 

Of course, the thoughts came up about how he was “just a rabbit,” but he wasn’t. He was part of my family and I loved him very much. Nothing will ever replace that. 

Many of us on campus have companion animals or have had them in the past. Many may have experienced a companion animal’s death. In my experience, it was helpful for my grief to hear stories of other’s experiences. It has helped me process the emotions associated with grief. When people grieve, they are expected to move on too quickly. However, I think processing the emotions someone needs to have is extremely important. 

Our animals are a huge part of our lives; it is okay to grieve their deaths—we need to—so we can accept the fact that they are physically gone, but not from our hearts and minds. Solidarity to those who have lost an animal friend. 

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