We like to joke in our house that the ultimate example of true love can be found in an enclosure in our laundry room: within the bond of our rabbits.
We got our first rabbit three years ago, when she was only eight weeks old. She was a black and white Holland Lop we called Dash, and she was bold and curious. A few months later, we brought her home a mate—another eight-week-old, coffee-colored rabbit named Latte.
At first, they were in the power struggle phase, with Latte (who, honestly, wasn’t as smart or daring as Dash) unable to accept Dash’s dominance. But Dash kept at it, and after Latte was neutered, he warmed up to the idea.
Their approaches to life complimented one another. Dash was the instigator, the one with the vision. Latte was more of a homebody, a nurturer. It was Dash’s idea to plant herself below my son’s high chair and sample the morsels he dropped. Latte sat a few steps behind, never quite confident enough to join her.
Dash initiated jaunts to the bedroom, where she and Latte hid under the bed, gnawing at the legs of the headboard. She also took him on a tour of the Christmas tree, hopping around the back, sniffing the presents and the lights.
It wasn’t just Latte following Dash around. One of their outings provided Latte with his favorite resting spot. Dash loved to go under my son’s train table, and one day while accompanying her, Latte instead chose to jump on top. He found great pleasure in watching out of the window and cutting his teeth on the wooden train tracks.
When Dash was tired and lay sprawled out with her paws stretched out in front of her, Latte stood over her, licking her ears and grooming her fur. Latte took good care of her, letting her have the first bite of banana, and cuddling up to her no matter where in the cage she chose to lie.
They were always side by side, completely at ease in each other’s presence.
Their absolute favorite activity was to wait until the dogs were let out at night and hop across the kitchen floor to the dog food bowl. Dash would start, making sure the coast was clear, and Latte would soon follow, delighted with his secret treat.
When we tried to bring in a third rabbit, it was a disaster. The new male rabbit escaped from his enclosure and made a beeline for Dash. He chased her and tried to bite her. Latte came to her defense, taking a bite on the ear as Dash got to higher ground. Later that night, Dash lay next to him with her nose in his ear. Needless to say, we had to give the new male to our neighbor so he could be an “only” rabbit.
Two weeks ago, when we woke up and came downstairs, Latte was on top of Dash, pointing his nose into her repeatedly. Something wasn’t right. I got him off, but Dash didn’t move. Her eyes were open and she was breathing, but she seemed paralyzed. She died shortly after. We think it was a seizure, as she had experienced one before, when she was younger.
Since that day, Latte hasn’t ventured out of his enclosure. He spends his days eating and watching the household goings-on from a corner. My daughter reads to him in the evenings, trying to ease his grief. But without Dash to organize their adventures, he has lost his joy and purpose.
Some partnerships make us better; they call upon our best selves. They ask us to step outside of our comfort zones and trust our partner to lead us to life’s hidden treasures. Without them, we retreat.
Will Latte recover? Will he find happiness, either alone or with another rabbit? We aren’t sure. All we know is that Dash is already so very missed.