Thursday, April 22, 2010

In Memory of an Internet Superstar

Two years ago today, the internet lost a superstar and I lost one of the best rabbits I've ever had.

In August of 2001, the rabbit I owned at that time passed away unexpectedly. I was absolutely miserable; the sight of the empty cage made matters even worse. I wanted another rabbit, but had no idea where I was going to get one.

Two days later, my family and I were swimming at our private swimming hole on the Green River. The property is owned by a member of my family, and is only open to family members, their guests and the few neighbors who live along the property. My husband was talking to one of these neighbors who happened to be there on that day. He mentioned how my rabbit had just died the other day and how upset I was.

The neighbor said, "What a coincidence--one of our rabbits had babies a couple of months ago, and we're trying to find homes for them."

I still had my rabbit carrier in my car, so I got it out and the neighbor and I walked back to his house. Along the way, I got the story; he and his wife had gotten two rabbits from a friend, not knowing that the female was already pregnant until she gave birth to seven babies shortly thereafter--"on Father's Day, no less. Nice gift, huh?"

The rabbits were in three outdoor hutches; mother in one, father in another, babies in a third. The mother was large and a light silvery-grey, the father equally large and a solid jet-black. No idea as to breeds, but I assume they were mainly mixed. The babies were assorted colors; two had the Californian markings (white with black ears, nose and tail), and I was told that the neighbor's children had already claimed those; one was black like the father, three were a solid medium gray...and then there was Karnage.

His fur was silvered like his mother, but he was a darker gray than she was. You could see the black nose, ears and tail under the silvering, just a shade darker than the rest of him. His eyes were an odd green-brown, a shade I'd never seen in a rabbit. Out of all the babies, he was the only one bold enough to come over to the hutch door as we approached.

It was love at first sight. I knew then and there that I had to have him.

I named him Karnage after a character I had been using in my writing, because like his namesake, the rabbit Karnage loved to eat and generally created chaos wherever he went. He also had an indescribable appeal, even to people who didn't like rabbits. Even my husband (who generally tolerates my passion and ignores my pets unless they get in his way) liked Karnage. I'm not exactly sure why; Karnage wasn't an affectionate fellow, I was the only person he allowed to hold him for any period of time, and even then it was for a short time at best. He occasionally allowed people to pet him, but even then, it was only a very select few. The best thing I can come up with was that there was something in his eyes, something in his aloof personality that drew people like magnets. Even his pictures drew lots of interest...and that's how the "internet superstar" tag came about.

I had been regaling my online friends with stories and pics of Karnage since I got him. The response had been so positive that as a lark, I made a webpage and a LiveJournal account for him. The webpage was (and is) called "Karnage, the Life and Times of an Internet Superstar" because of the running joke between my friends and I that Karnage was the first rabbit internet superstar. On the LJ account, I wrote in Karnage's "voice"; he was opinionated, generally cranky, and occasionally known to use impolite language. He was neither fluffy nor cutesy, and he had little tolerance for the foibles of the people he lived with--or humans in general, for that matter. That pretty much summed up Karnage in real life; if he loved you, you knew it, but otherwise, he didn't have much use for you.

He did love me, that much I know. He would hop around my feet and grunt his little love grunts whenever he was out for exercise. If I sat down on the floor, he would come over and stretch out next to me so I could pet him. As I said, I was the only person he allowed to hold him for anything more than a minute. He would press himself up against my neck and completely go limp while I would massage his ears; it was like having a 5-lb. barbell on my neck sometimes. He didn't lick my face or hands like Mickey does, but he would occasionally toothpurr (chatter his teeth together very rapidly as a sign of happiness) or make other little noises of contentment when I was petting him.

In March 2008, we returned from a vacation trip to Florida, and I began noticing something was off with Karnage. The rabbit who never turned down a meal wasn't eating as much as he used to, and he didn't seem like his usual self. At first, I thought perhaps he was reacting to us having been gone; granted, he had never reacted like this on previous trips, but he was going to be 7 that June, which is approaching senior citizen territory for rabbits. Perhaps he was just being a little more cranky than usual. However, when his appetite decreased even further, I knew something was wrong and made an appointment with a local vet.

I was very lucky to find a good rabbit-savvy vet. She looked him over and said that his back teeth were starting to become overgrown, which is common in older rabbits. We made arrangements to have him put under so they could be ground down, but she said she didn't want to assume that was the only reason for his lack of appetite. She palpitated his abdomen, but didn't find anything at the time, and said that once he was under anesthesia, she'd check again to be sure that he wasn't hiding anything.

I brought Karnage in a few days later for his tooth filing. They called me later that afternoon. Under anesthesia, Karnage's relaxed abdominal muscles revealed a tumor in his intestinal wall, which had been gradually blocking his intestine. Had I waited any longer, he probably would have died of starvation. I was asked how I wanted to proceed; there were no guarantees with his age that the surgery would be successful, and recovery would be dodgy as well. If it was successful, though, he could still live a good life. I decided it was worth giving him that one chance, and told them to go ahead with the surgery.

The surgery was a success; I brought him home a few days later. You had to see how excited he was to be home and to be able to eat again; he was eating everything in sight and wanting more. I still wonder if perhaps I gave him too much food on that first day; I was trying to hold back, but he seemed so hungry, so I tried to give stuff to him as gradually as possible, but it still may have been more than his taxed intestines could take. The next day, he was looking pretty bad, and I callrd the vet in a panic. They gave me painkillers for him, but it didn't seem to help much, so I brought him back in. Because we were going to be away visiting family for part of the weekend, I asked that they keep him over the weekend so I wouldn't have to worry about him being alone while I was gone. That Monday, they called and said that he had shown improvement, but they wanted to keep him one more day to be sure and I could pick him up on Tuesday. I was so relieved that the crisis had passed.

It was not to be; Tuesday morning, as I was getting ready to go to a doctor's appointment and planning to pick up Karnage afterwards, the vet called. Karnage had passed away at some point in the night and the techs had found him in the morning. She was as shocked as I was; he had been showing signs of recovery, passing poop, eating and drinking--she'd had every intention of sending him home with me that day, and finding out he had died was unexpected and upsetting.

She asked if I wanted to see him before they wrapped him up for burial, and I said no--I would have lost it on the spot if I had. As is, my doctor had a near-hysterical patient to deal with that day. When I got to the vet's, they had Karnage completely wrapped up in a beautiful white baby blanket. I put his body in his carrier for one last trip home, then sealed him up in a plastic box (so the local critters couldn't smell him and dig him up) and my husband buried him in our backyard. His grave is marked with a garden stone that my mother gave me a few years beforehand.

To say I was devastated was an understatement. I'd had Karnage for almost seven years, from the time he was old enough to leave his mother. I'd become more attached to him than any other rabbit I'd ever had. Even though I love Mickey dearly, there isn't a day that I don't think of Karnage. He is with me even now--I'd planned to have a picture of him tattooed on my arm before he died; it didn't get done until after he was gone, but it's a perfect tribute:

I also made a slideshow of pictures of him that I'd taken over the years. The original site where I had it is gone, but I recreated it for this post. I was going to embed it, but since it seems the music plays automatically, I'm just going to link it here instead: Karnage's Slideshow 

I still haven't gotten around to updating the webpage to mention his passing. I had updated the LJ, but for some reason forgot to do the webpage. I'll be taking care of that later; two years is a little long to leave that hanging.


Michelle May said...

Oh I feel your pain with this story. What a sweet baby he was. Rabbits have this magical way of touching our hearts and staying there forever. I still miss my precious Chloe every single day. June will be a year since I lost her. She was only 4.

Jade said...

So sorry to hear about Chloe; it's always rough when they're that young. The rabbit I lost before Karnage was only 3 years old when he passed; it was a shock to lose him, but he had nearly died once before, so it wasn't a comple surprise. I'll be writing about him at some point in the future, because I do want to remember all my rabbits on here--and yes, they really do touch our lives in amazing ways.

Lori said...

I'm going to cry a bit now. What a sweet tribute to a sweet friend. It's so hard when they leave us. Well, the body leaves, but the spirit stays with us forever. Hugs to you ~ Lori

Jade said...

Thank you, Lori--it is so very hard to lose them, but I cannot imagine life without one anymore. It just would not be the same without a bunny under my feet or in my arms. :)

Clovie Boy said...

Beautiful rabbit - sad story...