A Story of Flash – In Memory

Apr. 17, 2003 – Nov. 3, 2012

A small white Hotot dwarf rabbit with black around his eyes and speckles of black on his tall ears – this was Flash. I’ve had pets before (fish, 2 mice), but Flash was the first pet I ever felt a real emotional connection to.

I picked up Flash from the Wisconsin Humane Society in Milwaukee in March 2006. It was my senior year of college at UW-Milwaukee and I went to adopt a rabbit with the intention of doing it for Elizabeth who had just lost her previous rabbit Jasmine.

Elizabeth and Andy came with me after looking at pictures of the rabbits on the WHS website. Flash immediately caught Elizabeth’s and my eye and was the first choice in rabbit for us.

We sat in a back room when a WHS volunteer brought Flash out to meet us. We sat on the floor and watched Flash bounce around. He was 3 years old at the time. Initially it didn’t appear that Flash was very fond of us. He kind of ignored us and didn’t really seem to want to be pet.

Elizabeth and I decided to wait until we returned from Spring Break vacation in Colorado. We crossed our fingers and hoped that Flash would still be available for adoption when we returned.

Luckily when we went back to the WHS after our vacation, Flash was still there and we asked if we could spend a bit more time with him. After the volunteer brought him into the same room as our previous trip, Flash immediately warmed up to us and seemed to honestly remember us. He was happy, hopping and coming to us for pets.

Needless to say, we adopted him immediately. We took Flash back to my apartment that I shared with Andy and Colin. We setup a small kennel we purchased, got the necessary food supplies and a few toys, and let Flash get the lay of the land in my room and his new home.

It’s here that I really got to know the little guy. He would happily jump on my bed and layout to relax while I was at class. If I was working on my computer, he’d do the same, or lay under the bed like it was his own rabbit burrow. I would lie on the floor and he’d hop and walk all over me. It was such a unique experience to have a small animal that reacted to me like this. When he was really happy, he’d run in tiny circles and do bunny hops around the room. It was hilarious and adorable all at the same time.

After graduating, Elizabeth and I moved into a small apartment together. Flash loved the new digs. The bedroom had two doors on it that we would leave open and Flash would run laps at full speed. He would jump on the bed in the mornings, crawl onto our chests and lick our foreheads to wake us up. It was such a cute and loving feeling to wake up and see a tiny four-pound rabbit on your chest clicking his teeth and looking at you. I’ll never forget it.

Shortly after being in the apartment, we decided that Flash deserved a bunny friend to keep him occupied while we were at work. We took him back to the WHS to go on a “bunny date” as rabbits are notorious for picking a companion. They fight, bite and could even kill another rabbit if they didn’t pair well.

Flash had three dates before we settled on Piper, a slightly larger Hottot rabbit. She looks virtually the same as Flash, but with a black racing stripe that runs down her back. While they didn’t seem like the perfect match at first (sometimes she would bite clumps of fur off him), they eventually warmed up to each other after a stay at Cathy & Charlie’s over a short trip while Elizabeth and I were gone.

In the time with Flash, he saw us move into 7 apartments and 1 house in 6 years. He adapted to every location as long as Piper was with him. They loved each other, it was clear when you watched them groom each other, cuddle and eat together. We introduced Ziggy into the mix in 2006, and while they never had a lot of time out together, Ziggy loved Flash too. He would often give Flash kisses through the fence on his nose, which would make Flash shake his head and jump away – not angry, but just surprised or maybe even happy.

Flash’s last 7 months were spent in our new house in Denver. At this point, the rabbits had experienced massive upgrades in living. They had a huge “bunny condo” and a nice sized area at the foot of the cage and opening where they could run whenever they wanted to. For the last year and a half, my office desk has been located right next to their cage.

I was able to see them, pet them and say hello everyday. But in the last week of October 2012, Flash seemed to slow down. He stayed in the same spot for long periods of time and looked lethargic. On November 1, I had to travel to Chicago for work. Elizabeth called to tell me she was worried about him on the night of the 1st and I suggested feeding him veggies in hopes he would eat. On the 2nd, his conditions didn’t improve and Elizabeth took him to an animal hospital. The veterinarian suggested that Flash stay overnight so they could get him an IV and keep him warm, as his temperature had dropped.

Elizabeth received a call later in the evening that his temp had gone up, he’d drank some water and had even eaten a bit of food. It felt encouraging. However, on the morning of the 3rd, she received a call that Flash had died of liver failure early that morning. Heartbroken and crying, Elizabeth called to tell me the terrible news. I was working at Open House for Columbia College Chicago and could barely process what I had just heard.

Not being able to feel as if I had said goodbye properly to Flash before I left, I felt horrible. I wasn’t able to be there and cry with Elizabeth and I wasn’t able to see Flash and put my hand on him. Being away and not being able to cope with the loss because I had to be a public resource for the school was incredibly hard. The day crawled by and I had a sleepless night waiting for my flight home the following day.

I sat on the airplane, writing this story as a means of coping with the loss of my first real pet. Having spent the previous 24 hours thinking sadly of Flash not being there when I get home, I had been filled with sadness. But as I wrote this story and thought about the history of Elizabeth and my time with Flash, it felt better, and my love for him felt stronger.

On Sunday, November 4th, Elizabeth and I buried Flash in our garden. Elizabeth got him a small basket and a nice blanket to wrap him in. We marked his resting spot with a nice and colorful, but small boulder, a small rabbit lawn ornament and a “Flutterby” plant that will grow in his honor next to him. On Monday the 5th, we landscaped the area around him and added nearly 20 spring flower bulbs (Tulips, Daffodils, Allinums) that will blossom throughout the spring around him.

I miss him terribly but I know that I wouldn’t have wanted him to suffer and that it was his time. I also want to believe that his spirit lives on in another animal born shortly after his passing on the 3rd. He was a happy and playful spirit. To imagine that it is the end isn’t something I can possibly do. I choose to believe that somewhere Flash is experiencing a new life and will hopefully bring the joy to someone new like he did for Elizabeth, Piper, Ziggy and I.

I will never forget Flash thanks to the countless pictures and videos I took to preserve our memories. As I think back about what a pet means to a human, I’m remarkably shaken by my emotional attachments. Even though I know that I will see my other pets pass, and I’ll be just as shaken, I don’t choose to look at the loss. I sincerely think that having pets as companions makes me healthier. Whenever I was stressed, sad or frustrated, they were always there for Elizabeth and I. They never were mad at us. They gave us unconditional love back and it was especially clear with Flash.

It’s a strange concept to grow attached to something you know can’t last forever, and in many cases only for a few years. But it’s the years of love that make these hard days worth it.

I love you Flash, as does Elizabeth and everyone that got to know you. You will never be forgotten and we’ll think of you daily with love in our hearts and wonderful memories. Thank you for choosing us and for being amazing. Rest in Peace my little friend.

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