This week, we lost Henry. He was a rabbit. He was our friend. There has been so much sadness in our little zoo of a house, but also a lot of remembrance.
Anyone who’s ever loved a “pet” (a term I dislike) for some time knows that they have a unique personality and tendency to do particular, oftentimes funny, things. In spite of his small size of 2.5 lbs for most of his life, Henry had one of the biggest spirits I’ve encountered in an animal. And he regularly left a mark on people who met him.
So in celebration, rather than sadness, I with Stephanie’s help put together a brief list of facts about Hen Hen. (Oh, and like most companion animals, he ended up with many nicknames over the years.)
That said, Henry was . . .
1. In double digits
We first brought Henry home in January 2011, but he’d had another home before that for about a year. So we estimate he was born sometime in 2009, and had likely turned 10 years old in recent days. We were always commenting about what a spry little guy he remained, even in his later days, running around and jumping and nudging us to pay attention.
One memory that came to mind last night: Every week after we’d clean the bunny cage, he’d hop in and do an inspection, looking under the platform in particular to make sure everything was just right and sometimes kicking bedding out into the main area.
2. Originally called Frodo
Yeah — that had to change. At his first house, he had the unfortunate experience of being named after a hobbit, and even though he ate like one, it didn’t fit him. At that time, I’d been misguidedly reading a lot of Thoreau in search of enlightenment. The one lasting effect was that I had the perfect name for our little buddy.
3. In a relationship
None of us animals are meant to be alone, right? So, half a year after we brought home Henry, Harper followed in July 2011. The two took to each other immediately. Which isn’t always the case with rabbits, and some pairs bond only after exceptionally difficulty and effort from their humans. And that remained unchanged even as Harpie (again, the nicknames) grew from being half his size to twice his size. I don’t care if it’s anthropomorphizing: These two loved each other. Insert quote about love and how it relates to hating the absence of someone. And his loss has been just as hard on her.
4. A true pal
When I was sick, Henry hopped on the bed to make sure I was all right. When a friend needed a wingman, Henry posed for a Tinder profile pic (you know who you are!). When you were down, he’d come up an nudge you with his nose, then rub his chin on you to mark you as part of his crew. Indeed he was a true pal.
5. A movie star
His debut performance was in “Animaux à Paris” — a grade-A film written, directed, and produced by yours truly for French 201. He starred as Monsieur Lapin, with Harper performing as sa femme, Mademoiselle Lapin. From these humble beginnings, he rose to play the role of Rabbit Friend in a short called “Jamie Snodgrass: Class-C Mulberry Scout” from the Indianapolis-based artist collective Know No Stranger.
6. And a model
Henry and Harper worked the angles for an article about rabbit care. And yeah, maybe I took the photos, and wrote the article, so there might’ve been some nepotism, but look at the top-tier smizing. If you meet bunny people, you know that they could talk forever about rabbits and their unique dietary and health concerns. This piece allowed me to sum it up in a way that was hopefully helpful to others (with serious SEO value, right fellow AL newsies?). One of the vets interviewed commented: “The rabbit patients I have share a very strong human-animal bond.” An understatement.
7. An adventurous eater
Although rabbit diets consist largely of timothy hay and pellets — not carrots and iceberg lettuce as sometimes thought — they can enjoy a number of other foods. And enjoy Hen did. A non-exhaustive list of things he tried and liked includes apple, watermelon, blueberries, strawberries, various lettuces and spinach, celery, parsley, carrot and radish greens, dill, basil, spinach, collard greens, rose petals, grapes, and so on. His favorites were cilantro and banana (as evidenced in this video). Some mornings, I would make him a plate of greens so that we could eat breakfast together. The only things he didn’t seem to care for were mango and mint, go figure.
(The House Rabbit Society offers a list of fruits and veggies approved that are good for bunnies.)
8. A too-adventurous eater
Listen, no shame here — bunnies have to chew on things to keep their teeth from growing too long. Which leads to serious health issues and costly remedies. But Henny Hen would on occasion eat some unapproved snacks too, including homework and a senior portfolio, shoes in the closet and pants even while they were being worn (leaving a hole in the butt), a chunk of Nutrigrain bar right from Stephanie’s hand.
9. A bun of the world
Counting the place where he was born and his first house where we picked him up from in 2011, Henry lived in 10 homes during his life, as Stephanie and I moved during college in Indy and then during and after grad school in Minnesota. He was a trooper, though, typically taking to new digs quicker than Harp or any of his cat sibs.
The entire crew (at the time two buns and two cats) even stayed in a hotel for a week as we waited for our first Mankato apartment to be finished. We convinced the company to give us two rooms, considering the size of our group. One day, however, the bunnies whom I’d let out a little earlier to exercise in the second room, were nowhere to be found. I thought housekeeping might have come in and taken them away, but then I looked under the bed and saw something moving around in the box spring. “I don’t know how to tell you this,” I reported to Stephanie, “but the bunnies are inside the bed.”
10. A little guy with a big personality
Henry was never afraid of new people. He played with dogs and cats during his life, and oftentimes pushed them around. He was a boss, but the kind you like to have. Henry was so involved in our daily life — the fun, silly chaos of living with five wild dingi — that we have been experiencing many first times doing this or that without him.
In true Libra fashion, I rang in my birthday last night with tears. “Animals break your heart,” a friend recently told me. It’s true, but only if they take up significant space in it to begin with. So although this post is supposed to contain facts about Hen, here are a few about us: 1. We miss Henry very much. 2. We hope we gave him the best life a bun could have. 3. We are very sad for his loss. 4. We don’t see that changing anytime soon. 5. We know it’s because we so enormously loved and were loved by that little guy.