A Rabbits Tale


This is a little bit different for me but I had to write about it.

Our lovely Cinnabon was my first pet. I say that because even though I had grown up with family pets I had chosen Cinnabon. I vividly remember meeting Cinnabon and how he became my pet because it was a chance adoption. I had been looking on the SPCA website to pass time, just looking at all the pets for adoption with no intention of actually adopting. I had just been diagnosed with kidney disease and was feeling really terrible about myself. I had been on high doses of steroids and my body was changing a lot. I was looking for comfort when I strolled into the Newtown SPCA  thinking that I could just hang out with some of the old punk cats and give them pats and head home. But instead that was when I saw Cinnabon for the first time. I had seen him on the website. He looked so cool and was the biggest bunny there.

Cinnabon was called Sunshine at the time and his timid hutch mate was called Moonshine. Moonshine bolted away from me immediately terrified with my presence as I approached their hutch. Sunshine gave me a  side ways glance and hunched his back momentarily clearly thinking of running away but he stayed put. I placed my hand down on his back and I was shocked at how soft he was. I had never touched anything so velvety. He relaxed as I petted his back and nose.

After I left the SPCA I couldn’t stop thinking about him. I went back again to visit and this time Moonshine had been transferred to SPCA Kapiti and Sunshine was solo. He seemed skittish and his new hutch made it difficult to give him a pat. He even pissed on the newspaper lining and went into the sheltered compartment.  It made me incredibly sad to see him even a little bit distressed. I left again but still couldn’t stop thinking about him.

The third time I went back I knew I was serious. I was a student at the time with limited income and flatting with 4 other girls. Nothing in life seemed stable apart from the fact that I had another year and half of uni. I took my then partner with me in the hope that they would encourage me to adopt him. I needed some backing and for someone to tell me that they thought it would be a good idea. It was a Saturday and the SPCA  staff told me that Sunshine was in a birthday party but they would get him for us. I had no idea that the SPCA makes money by hosting birthday parties for kids and that it includes kids cuddling the bunnies. Sunshine did not seemed amused by this in the slightest and the trauma on his face seemed evident. One look at his terrified face in the cage as the SPCA nurse brought him into the room was enough to convince me that he was coming home with us. I had no idea how old Cinnabon was, the SPCA were unable to tell me. All I knew was that he was an adult. Unfortunately we couldn’t take him home on the spot as we had to sort out housing and have an assessment done. Poor Sunshine had to return to the birthday party.

We hastily built a hutch drawn out of a sketch. My then partner was smart enough to think in 3d and an expensive trip to source plywood and chicken wire and 6 hours later we had a hutch. It was approved by the SPCA the next week and I picked up Sunshine a week later walking him through Newtown in a cardboard box. I immediately renamed him Cinnabon. He had the colouring of my favourite baked treat and he had a rump like a big round bun. I introduced him to the garden first. He didn’t seem keen. I introduced him to the hutch. He didn’t seem keen on that either. I took him inside and he pissed on the carpet. I felt bad about it because clearly he was just scared and I had moved him again to somewhere unfamiliar. He liked to eat though so we did a lot of that the first few days. He had carrots, celery, broccoli and silver beet. He really liked apples and one day I was eating a banana for breakfast and he basically punched me in the face with his paw for it. The entire flat fell in love with him and he slowly got used to the hutch and the garden and eventually stopped pissing inside. He would jump on my bed and play with the sheets every time I tried to make it. Slowly he got more confident around me and more comfortable with me picking him up. Everyday I would see him, we would play, sometimes he would binky other times he would just chill. I would have to traumatise him occasionally with a claw trim but hard feelings were forgiven with a few rabbit pellets and some pats. There were lots of cuddles and head rubs and he started to lick incessantly until he got petted back. I’m pretty sure he just started thinking that we were the other rabbits in his life and we groomed each other just like rabbits do. This went on for years, 5 years in fact.

Cinnabon and I eventually moved out of the flat to a place of our own and my partner Jack fell in love with both of us and moved in a year later. A couple times Cinnabon got sick. Once he stopped eating and was not moving. He had a big ball in his tummy and I assumed he ate something that he shouldn’t have. He occasionally would escape and go on freedom runs in the yard and would eat almost anything that was on the lawn.  He took the illness in his stride and after a trip to the vet he recovered well. He sometimes got really weird especially if a sound had been bothering him. I remember freaking out one day because I came home and he kept flopping over to the side and wouldn’t eat dinner and Cinnabon always ate. I thought he was going to die. It turned out that the wind had been banging around a aluminium can by his cage all day and it was keeping him up when he would have otherwise be sleeping. He was just tired and fed up.

Last Friday night we came home from work got Cinnabon out of his cage, gave him dinner, some carrot and bok-choy, and he just chilled with us on the sofa getting head rubs and kisses and licking us incessantly while we watched movies. The next morning I went to get him to bring him inside for breakfast and he was dead. He was slumped against the door of the hutch with his head pushed back unnaturally. As soon as I saw him I started screaming out for Jack and ran in the house screaming “Cinnabon’s died, cinnamons died!” I broke down into hysterical tears. I needed Jack to confirm it. I ran back outside and back inside screaming “ I don’t know what to do! I don’t understand” I went to the cage lid and started opening it. I vaguely heard jack saying “don’t ,don’t touch him” but think I said” I have to move him” I couldn’t leave him there on that unnatural angle. His head was ridged but his body was soft. I checked him for blood, anything that would give me a clue as to what happened but I found nothing. I brought him inside hysterically crying all over him as I knelt on the floor. I eventually put him down and wiped his eyes that were glazed over. He was still incredibly soft. Eventually I moved him to the sofa and demanded that his blanket from his hutch be washed so I could wrap him in it.

Jack was calling every one as I cried and patted him.  His vet, the SPCA, our friend in Queenstown who was a vet. We wanted to understand what the fuck just happened. As time passed we became acutely aware that we couldn’t keep him at the house no matter how much we wanted to. Everything happened so fast and we felt forced to make a decision quickly. I had always thought that because Cinnabon was so beautiful in the event of his death that I would get him taxidermied so I could continue to enjoy his handsomeness even though he had passed on. I knew then that it just wasn’t going to happen. There are three taxidermists in New Zealand and all of them are in the hunting and game animal league. I just couldn’t bear the thought of freezing him as an interim measure either. The next option was cremation. His vet closed at 12pm and it was too soon. I wanted my flatmate who had often bunny sat Cinnabon while we were away at weekends to have the opportunity to say good bye as well. While we waited I picked flowers from the garden and wrapped them in curly kale from his vegetable box. We eventually wrapped Cinnabon in his blanket and took him to the SPCA tears streaming down our faces the whole time. It was the worst timing. It was a Saturday, traditionally the SPCA’s busiest day. There was one fed up girl working the reception and was on the phone angrily explaining to someone why they need to tell someone to stop feeding ducks on their property. Jack filled out the form as I held Cinnabon in my arms awkwardly holding him under the blanket trying to protect him from public view. We eventually followed the receptionist to the assessment room. It was horrible leaving him on a cold stainless steel table with strangers but I tried to convince myself that it wasn’t Cinnabon anymore, it was just his body that was left behind. I kissed him one more time on his little furry face and stroked his hind paws that jutted out of the blanket. I mumbled something like “keep his blanket” chocking back tears and we left. On the way back down the hill I got Jack to pull over and we walked down a bush path adjacent to the SPCA in the pouring rain. We stopped by a mountain bike trail and watched a tui singing its heart out in a tree as we held hands and balled our eyes out. I decided it would be where we would scatter Cinnabon’s ashes when we received them in a “week to 10 days”.

I was so confused. I really couldn’t process what had just happened. We were so exhausted that when we got home we went back to sleep waking up several hours later at night. Grief is surprisingly tiring.  I called my mum and just cried and cried. The next day we went for a walk and tried not to think about it to much. When we got home I just couldn’t look at his things. I shifted the hutch he died in to the side of the house. I collected all his toys and put them his crate. I got unreasonably angry and had an overwhelming urge to kick something. As I was shifting the hutch a neighbours cat came over to see what the fuss was about. I threw a dust pan brush in its direction and told it to “fuck off”. I stormed inside and collapsed on my bed and sobbed my heart out.

In an effort to feel better Jack and I started putting together every single photo of Cinnabon that we could find. We made an album and notified everyone on Facebook of what happened. Everybody’s kind words helped us through the pain. All the photos reminded us what a lovely life we had together but that didn’t mean I still wasn’t angry and confused and hurt. A couple days later I started reading into sudden death in rabbits which was surprisingly common. Cinnabon wasn’t sick but rabbits also do a fantastic job at hiding illness. I’m starting to think that perhaps Cinnabon was a lot older than what I thought. This gave me an odd sense of reprieve in that maybe it wasn’t something I did, or somebody else did or that maybe I was just too stupid to notice that my baby was sick. What surprised me the most through all of this was just how much it affected me. I had no idea that I would feel the way I feel about loosing him. He was such a daily feature in my life and I had gotten so used to that. I now find myself in the evenings forlornly staring at his corner of the couch where his head rubs would take precedence above anything else. When I cook dinner I miss him running to the fridge every time I open it thinking he would be given a treat.

 A couple days after he died I thought maybe I could have a day of not crying. That night the kids from next door brought over flowers and a hand drawn card with a picture of Cinnabon on the front. In the middle it said ‘sorry for your loss, we will miss him too’. I completely lost it. I was grateful my flatmate had opened the door to them or else I would have cried in their faces.  I realised that he was a bunny that gave so much love not just to me but to so many others because he was just so fucking cool.  I had 5 years with him and we had an understanding of each other that words cannot explain. He gave so much love and he taught me how to care for another being. I felt blessed to be able to provide a home for him and will never understand how the ended up in the SPCA in the first place, other than his previous owners must have been complete fuckwits.

A week later we collected Cinnbons ashes in a rimu box from the SPCA. We took him home and surrounded the box with the flowers and the card from the kids next door. We sang him songs that we used to sing to him at home. Absolutely ridiculous songs that we made up at  Christmas, carols that just had the name Cinnabon replacing the real carol lyrics — ‘Oh Cinnabon’ (Oh Christmas tree) ‘Cinna-bon’ (Jingle – Bells) It was ridiculous but we sung them and laughed and remember the good times. We returned to Mt Victoria over the weekend to scatter his ashes where we cried and the tui sang to us. We kept a small amount of ashes to plant in our future garden, a bed of carrots would be most fitting. As we walked back down the bush path we thanked Cinnabon for coming into our lives and shared stories about the cables he chewed and freedom runs he had in our yard. We prayed he was at peace and that the tui’s would keep his spirit company.

He was a rabbit

He was so cute and so soft

He was Cinnabon


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