I got a call a few days ago from the shelter vet. She told me that Brynn, the new rabbit from West, was doing poorly after her spay surgery. This has happened before with other rabbits, so she wanted to know if I could foster her for a bit and try to bring around, a strategy we’ve had success with in the past. Rabbits can have a hard time with abdominal surgery and sometimes they need a little extra care afterwards; it especially helps to get away from the noisy shelter environment. I really liked Brynn, so of course I said yes.
Usually when I pick up after-surgery fosters, they’re a little lethargic or withdrawn, and they’ve lost their appetite. When I went to pick up Brynn that night, I was taken aback. The staff had given her hot water bottles to lie on, and she was lying there struggling to breathe. She hadn’t eaten all day, even when the staff tried to force-feed her, and by the time I got there, she couldn’t get up on her own.
Most tellingly, her eyes were dull.
I wanted to help Brynn – she was my favourite kind of rabbit personality-wise, and she was beautiful and young. But sometimes trying to help is crueller than it is kind. It seemed cruel to force her to go through the stress of transport all the way to my house, just for her to die slowly. We decided to euthanize her instead.
I have no problem with humane euthanasia. It’s better than a long, drawn-out death. I would stay with her, and the staff would be kind, and she could go quickly.
But most unfortunately, the shelter manager was away, and the remaining staff were not authorized to use the euthanasia drugs. We had to pack Brynn into one of the trucks and send her off to West region to be put down. Back to where she came from, she had to endure a car ride after all.
From what I hear, they checked her out after she’d been put out of her misery. Nothing had gone wrong from the surgery, but there was something wrong with her lungs. Perhaps she’d had something wrong all along, and the surgery had just pushed it past her tolerance level.
This is what I always think about when people surrender their animals. Sure, Brynn arrived as a stray, but somewhere, she had an owner. Maybe that owner thought she’d be safe in a shelter with such a high adoption rate. The truth is, you never know what will happen.
We’re lucky that stories like Brynn’s are the exception to the rule. We’re lucky that we’re able to save so many of the animals that come through the shelter doors, especially compared to some other shelters. But any animal can get sick, or stressed, or fall through the cracks. The shelter did nothing wrong – it just happened.
There’s nothing else we could have done for Brynn. Sometimes, you just can’t win.