Quality of Life

July 10, 2011 by House Rabbit Society founder Marinell Harriman

Confusion exists in people’s minds when dealing with crippled, deformed, or less than “perfect” animals. Is the suffering on the part of the animal or is it in the eyes of the viewer? I am privileged to have the insight of a very dear human friend who has multiple sclerosis and can say in human language that disability does not automatically remove one’s reason to be alive. Having known Lyndy Alston, I was unwilling to conclude, when my rabbit Phoebe became paraplegic, that her life must be ended. Yet, I felt compelled to keep this wonderful animal from public view-the disapproving, long, sad faces and “Oooooh! Poor thing! Is it really worth it?”

Is what worth it? My time? Her life? I usually remained silent.

“People act like I’m a ghoul,” I told Lyndy, “for not putting this animal out of her misery.” Lyndy laughed, “Some people would like to put me out of my `misery,’ too.”

Appalled by such an idea, I was reminded that much of the suffering of a “handicapped” person is imposed by other people. Lyndy told me of a time when she was tooling down the street in her motorized wheelchair enjoying a drizzly day. But her pleasure was not perceived by an onlooker, who wondered aloud, “Why did they let her out on a day like this?”

Misery cannot be assumed. If you are facing the decision of prolonging or ending a life that you’re not sure offers more pleasure than pain, here are the guidelines that we use:

  • Appetite: Does she still like to eat?
  • Affection: Does she exchange affection with you or any other companion?
  • Attitude: Is she interested? Does she like to watch, sniff, and listen to the things going on around her? Does she still show pride and try to groom herself?

If you can answer yes to these questions most of the time but still doubt your rabbit’s quality of life, think quantitatively. Do the good days (when you answer yes) outnumber the bad days? You may find that you will appreciate the good days with a new awareness.

I don’t remember the hardship. I remember only the joy.

When you keep an invalid rabbit, people will think you’re a little crazy, a “bleeding heart.” So, for all the effort, what’s in it for the human caregiver? Invariably these animals give far more than they take.