Longtime local journalist Bill Radford and his wife, Margaret, live on 5 acres in the Falcon area with chickens, rabbits, dogs, cats, two noisy parrots, goats and two horses. Contact Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lilly the rabbit is entering the new year as a solitary bunny.
She did have a companion, Lola. But when I went out one recent morning, I saw Lilly hanging out in her pen by the food bowl, but no Lola; I peeked inside their bunny house (an igloo-type doghouse) and found Lola dead. Cause is unknown, as was Lola's age; she was a rescue bunny.
Which leads us to the question: Does Lilly now live alone, do we get her a companion or do we find her a new home with other bunnies? We don't want her to be lonely, so the first option is easily discarded.
(The other question is, if we do get Lilly a companion, what "L" name will be used for it? Our tradition of beginning bunnies' names with "L" started with Lois and Lana, which should be familiar names to Superman fans –- as in Lois Lane and Lana Lang.)
We got Lilly from a breeder who had her rabbits for sale at the Critter Swap in Falcon; I don't remember her breed, but she's a gorgeous brown bunny. (My wife, Margaret, calls her Creamsicle.) Lilly replaced Lola's companion who had died, and they got along from the very beginning. There was not the scuffling you usually see for a day or two when you put two rabbits together.
So they made a good pair. But it seems like kind of an unending cycle; unless a bunny pair dies at the same time, we'll always be replacing one.
We don't raise bunnies to eat or as show animals; they're simply pets; for some reason, I've always had a soft spot for rabbits. But while the bunnies are low-maintenance, at some point we need to stop adding to the menagerie.
We have three goats, for example; two of them are rescues that stumbled into our lives, and we don't intend to replenish the mini-herd when we lose one. (If we're down to one, we figure the horses can be their companions.) But even as our pet population dwindles, we could have some animals outlive us.
We've talked with a neighbor –- and even put some money into an account –- about taking care of the critters if we were to both die suddenly. It's also a good idea to include your animals in your estate planning.
"What happens to my horse if I don't have an estate plan?," HodgsonRuss Attorneys asks on its website. "If owners do not take appropriate steps to provide for their horses, the consequences can be dire. Without a will, your horse will become the property of whoever is entitled to inherit from you in accordance with state law. … These family members may have no interest in inheriting your horses, and no knowledge of how to care for your horses or how to go about selling your horses in a fair sale."
You can also, the site states, create a trust for your horse. (Our agreement with our neighbor is sort of an informal trust.) "An increasing number of horse owners are opting for a horse trust," the site states. "A horse trust is a written declaration of how the horse owner wishes their horse to be cared for after the owner’s death. A horse trust ensures care for the horse if the owner gets sick or dies. A trust can be inter vivos (created during the lifetime of the horse owner) or created under your will after your death."
Petfinder.com offers these tips to keep the care of your pets uninterrupted in case of an accident or death:
- Find at least two responsible friends or relatives who agree to serve as temporary emergency caregivers in the event that something unexpected happens to you. Provide them with keys to your home; feeding and care instructions; the name of your veterinarian; and information about the permanent care provisions you have made for your pet
- Make sure your neighbors, friends and relatives know how many pets you have and the names and contact numbers of the individuals who have agreed to serve as emergency caregivers. Emergency caregivers should also know how to contact each other.
- Carry a wallet “alert card” that lists the names and phone numbers of your emergency pet caregivers.
Petfinder would not appear to be a fan of the arrangement we have with our neighbor; instead, it encourages something more official. “It’s not enough that long ago your friend verbally promised to take in your animal or even that you’ve decided to leave money to your friend for that purpose," Petfinder states. "Work with an attorney to draw up a special will, trust or other document to provide for the care and ownership of your pet as well as the money necessary to care for her."
Margaret has also had lengthy talks with our daughter, Hope, about the future of the animals –- especially on how to ensure the future of the horses doesn't offer any way for them to be sold to the slaughterhouse.
Still, with all the animals in mind, maybe we'll revisit our will in the new year. Meanwhile, we're still left with the question: new bunny or no bunny?
Lola (left) recently died, leaving Lilly all alone. Photo by Bill Radford