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Not Just a Pet

Goodbye my friend.

Ran-chan <3

"It is just a rabbit, why are you so sad?" I heard in the previous days. "You can get another one, what's your problem?"

So I learned the lesson. When they ask me what happened to me, why am I so depressed, I tell them, "A family member passed away"—which is true. A precious family member I loved dearly.

There are people who never cared for animals particularly, but there are millions out there who share a bond with a pet, who respect life and know exactly what is certain. When you look into the eyes of your animal companion, no matter the size, the breed, the type... that living creature has a soul and knows how to love.

I used to spend long minutes just laying next to Ran-chan, looking into her deep black-brown eyes. When she noticed, she nuzzled her little head into my face and let me groom her in full relaxation and contentment.

More affectionate than a lot of people can be, that mix-breed rabbit changed my life and saved it. I have had and still have other pets in my life, but never ever have I developed such a bond as with this little furball.

Five and a half years ago, all of a sudden, I had to leave Japan due to unseen circumstances. I could have stayed, but it was my choice, there was something happening, and because of that, I decided to take the step and leave. Even though I was born in Europe, I couldn't and still cannot get used to living here.

I felt maybe if I get a pet companion, a friend, it will be bearable—and anyway, I love animals too much not to have one—so Ran-chan stepped into my life.

We adopted her when she was eight weeks old from a family who had too many bunnies and couldn't take care of that many. She had five siblings, but the second I saw her I knew, this is the rabbit I want to share my life with. I still can't describe the feeling I felt when I first saw her and I will never forget it.

I learned she was born to this world the same day I set my foot into the UK, so she started the adventure of life the exact same minute I started mine in a completely new country. And sometimes I wonder, was that fate? I believe everything happens for a reason, even if we don't realize what it is. I still thank fate, no matter how painful it is now, that I could raise her and be with her, love her as she deserved.

I am not someone who is a fan of the idea of keeping a rabbit in a cage. Yes, they chew wires. They chew furniture and they can harm the carpet, but I have a belief, that with care and time, you can make them stop doing these things. Would you like to be closed in a little square most of the time in your life? No, right? I wouldn't. For me, an animal's life and a person's life is the same. They don't differ even a bit. None is less than the other. Life, in any form, should be respected.

Ran-chan had a unique and extremely caring personality, but she learned what she can and can't do quickly, and she started to live with us as a full family member. We never had to toilet train her either. With Ran—who knew her name and listened to it—you only had to say what she cannot and what she can do. Of course, she was naughty several times, especially in the beginning, testing how much she could allow herself and believed in her early years after that doing something she shouldn't have, that the "I don't move so humans can't see me" tactic works. After she had chewed the internet cable—because she was clever enough to remove the so-called rabbit-proof protection from around it—she had to realize that the tactic didn't work at all. We definitely saw her. Don't worry we didn't scold her. She could get away with everything giving us that look, "What? It was in the way."

"How did you train her then?" people often ask, and I have to be honest... well, I didn't. I didn't try to lure her with treats, never hurt her either in anyway to lecture her. I just looked into her eyes every time she did something naughty and said, "Ran-chan, you can't do that. Please don't." After a short while, it worked. She stopped and didn't do it again.

Ran-chan, whose name can mean chaos in Japanese—believe me, she earned it—turned out to be a stubborn, naughty, witty, and extremely clever individual with an astonishing character. She brought a lot of laughter, good memories and as you can imagine I made several thousands of pictures of her. She quickly became a part of our everyday life which we couldn't live without. It was heartwarming to come home to a hyperactive happy rabbit that was jumping and running around overjoyed. She had a curious nature and caused us very entertaining minutes just by watching her.

She never got sugary treats and the hay and pellet food she was given were high quality, we always took care of reading ingredients and guidelines, but when she was two years old something very bad happened. During a health check, we discovered that there was a lump behind her cheek, right behind her back teeth. A visit to the vet made us face the sad news; it was an abscess in the teeth. Medications were prescribed and we had our hopes high that they would work.

Ran didn't seem to be suffering and was even eating normally, so we had our fingers crossed that it will be cured easily and quickly. The reality wasn't that nice to us. The lump got bigger every day, her body was unresponsive to the treatments and after the X-ray scans came back we had just one option: Surgery. I was anxious about that but had no other choice. The puss needed to get cleared out and opening the cheek under anesthetic was the only option so we agreed.

The operation was successful, however, she was getting worse and worse. Surgery after surgery and it broke our heart. After every operation, she was out of it, like a limp puppet in our hands, couldn't walk properly for hours, didn't have an appetite at all. The cheerful bunny who used to hop around greeting me every time I stepped into the house was no more.

I remember sitting next to her, scooping her into my arms and I was just holding her... begging her not to give up. Encouraging her, talking to her. That we love her and we need her and she makes a difference and deserves a miracle. The struggle continued. Every day we had to clear the puss out of the wound, I learned how to do it and did it at home, hoping that it will stop from reproducing in her little body. She was very brave. Pushing cotton earbuds into an open wound clearing it all out must have been painful but she let me. She stood still, just looking into my eyes, she trusted me. She didn't even try to bite at all even after I had to give her injections.

Long story short... I saw that minute she gave up momentarily. She went next to the wall, turned her back on me and laid down. All the pain and exhaustion which were mixing in her orbs... I thought I would go crazy seeing it. My tears were flowing uncontrollably. I knelt next to her and felt as if my heart was ripped out of its place. I was desperate and extremely sad "Ran-chan... please... don't give up, I know it is painful, I know it is bad, most likely I can't even understand how much, but we love you... more than the way it hurts."

I think I was crying for 10 minutes or more, just begging her continuously. Then something happened. She turned her head and for a few minutes, she was looking deep into my eyes. I couldn't say or do anything. As if time stopped, we were just gazing into each other's eyes. I saw the suffering; I saw she was weak but what she did the next second brought me to even more tears. I don't know what she saw in my eyes. Why she changed her mind about dying but I felt proud. She gathered all of her little strength, stood up and with unsure steps she went to her food bowl and did her best to try to eat hay. She made a decision... she didn't give up. She wanted to stay and at that point, I made sure I will fight for her with all of my might until the end.

I had to be delusional and even though life is not a fairy tale I had nothing else just to have faith and believe. That the power of an extremely strong bond can make a miracle happen. I picked a song and played it every day, just holding Ran close, imagining the sickness coming out of her body.

I don't know what helped. The vet was baffled and didn't understand it either. She told us very nicely that there most likely is no hope anymore but we refused to let her go. And weeks later there she was, Ran, who became better and better without any logical and scientific reason. After the last check at the vet, she was called a miracle rabbit. The nasty disease completely left her body and never came back again.

I was happy, so very much I can't even express it with words. Somehow these struggles made our bond even stronger and years passed by. It was difficult for me to be out of Ran's presence and the struggling of everyday life in a city I can't get used to got to me. I fell into a deep depression and anxiety.

I am lucky I know. My girlfriend, my friends, all of them supported me and there was Ran looking at me every day as if she wanted to convey, "I didn't give up, don't you dare to. I am here." Even if I was in a different room at home when I started to feel bad Ran was there out of nowhere, poking me, licking my hand. During the day she wasn't moving from next to me, following me everywhere. She was waiting by my bedside every night, sleeping next to me, guarding me. She was radiating courage, care and strength and I found my way out of the dark. Because of this, I became better and better. This time she healed me. I got a job interview and while thinking about Ran, I found the courage to go out and I got the job I like very much.

Everything was bright. I started to have self-confidence again, started to open myself to the world deciding that the darkness can't bring me down. Not until this lovable fluffball is so strong by my side.

I still don't acknowledge what happened. One night Ran stopped eating. She was still next to me, didn't hide as rabbits do when feeling unwell. Even like that she laid down and was looking after me. I covered her with a blanket, crying. She saw it and started eating a little bit but I felt it... I saw it... she was unwell. It was four am in the morning and I decided to rush her to the emergency vet. After the examination, the doctor told me I have to leave her there because something caused her digestive system to misbehave and most likely it will stop without medications. He reassured me she will be safer there. Ran was on the table, and she nuzzled her head into me as strongly as never before. I was caressing her little head telling her it will be okay. When the vet took her out of my arms, I could see the desperate look. She was shivering... looking at me as if she said: "Please don't go away."

I went away. Telling her to hang on and promised her that I will be back. It was a promise I was not able to keep.

That was the last time I had seen Ran. After a few days of battle and almost completely recovering—the vet kept me updated by phone every four hours, day and night—Ran-chan collapsed on the hospital floor and died due to sudden fatal bowel failure.

Have you ever felt regret munching on your very soul? Deep inside I felt that this will happen I just hoped I am not right. She was there next to me during my hardest time and I left her there. I was not with her when she died, I couldn't caress her and give her a peaceful death surrounded by loved ones. She died with strangers. Ran didn't deserve this. Does really everything happen with a reason? I don't know anymore.

The house seems to be huge and empty, and the darkness starts to grip its claw into my heart again. There is no Ran-chan hopping around. I will never be able to say how sorry I am, never be able to hold her and look into her deep orbs ever again. I feel—even if maybe I shouldn't—that I failed her.

I have a fever since then, nothing can bring it down. I spend my days crying a lot, and what do people say? "It was not even a dog. I can't understand you." Just a rabbit... I heard this more than enough times. Let me tell you, you are not right.

It is pouring rain outside as I write this... I hear the distant rumble of the thunder. Are these your tears Ran-chan? Are you worried about me? I have to be stronger. Much stronger than I am now. I have to live on because this is what she would have wanted... right?

Right. Strength, courage, and willingness to fight. I am never going to forget her and all the things she taught me. All the patience, love and the power of belief she made me feel. I am grateful to her, for every little thing she did.

I miss her, incredibly so but please Ran-chan... watch over me from now on until we meet again. Thank you for everything. I love you.

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