Thursday, October 21, 2010

How to Paint a Rock (and remember a bunny)

Bunny Foo-Foo's grave marker

Based on this picture, you may be expecting me to wax poetic on the loss of Bunny Foo-Foo. In reality, my main goal today is to brag about how well her grave marker came out.

I made a point of talking over the details of BFF's burial with Mom and Dad while she still had some time left. I didn't want to have to think about the details after she was gone. Among other things, I decided to paint a rock to use as a headstone. I suggested that we lay the rock on top of her grave, rather than trying to dig a hole for it so it would actually be in the ground and somewhat permanently placed. That way Dad can pick it up and move it when he mows the lawn.

I must say, I came up with a great solution. It was inexpensive to make (less than $7 for all the supplies), but still high quality and able to withstand the elements. It's definitely a noticeable landmark, but it doesn't overwhelm the yard. It's a respectful memorial, but it's got a little color and personality to it.

The rock came from Jules. He was always picking up rocks and seashells everywhere he went. It's driving me nuts now because I keep finding rocks and seashells all over my apartment. However, I'm glad he picked up this heart-shaped rock that was the perfect size for a grave marker. I was ready to get rid of it before Bunny Foo-Foo's diagnosis. Luckily, I never got around to it.

I did some research on rock painting and came across Pet A Rock, a site by Patty Donathan with some great advice and tutorials. Her tutorials are kind of like the patterns some knitters and crocheters sell. There's a few freebies on her site and some tutorials that can be downloaded for a small fee, as well as an e-Book with more tips on the craft. Rock painting is more popular than I realized. My project was very simple, but many rock painters do much more elaborate designs. Patty paints a lot of rocks with detailed pictures of dogs and cats.

Patty recommends "any craft, water-based, acrylic paint" for painting rocks. I went to Jo-Ann and got some two ounce bottles of Apple Barrel Paint for 89 cents each. I got the regular paint, not the gloss, the stuff with glitter, the stuff for wood, etc.

I had a hard time choosing colors. I ended up calling Mom and Dad from Jo-Ann. Dad thought of green because many of her favorite foods are green, and that seemed right to me. Mom suggested pink because it just somehow felt right, and I agreed with her too. But I couldn't find a shade of pink I liked. Dad also suggested other colors representing her favorite foods, like the light yellow tortilla chips he fed her* or orange carrots. I thought of red because she loved apples. I finally settled on "20598 Green Clover" and "20784 Red Apple." At first I didn't want to use Christmas colors, but I decided it didn't matter. And the names of the colors sold me, as it often happens when I buy yarn.

I bought some basic paintbrushes for less than $2. I considered using a paint pen instead of painting the letters, but the tips of the paint pens were too thin. The writing wouldn't have shown up.

For the varnish I settled on Delta Ceramcoat Protect Satin Exterior/Interior Varnish. It was an excellent choice. It wasn't stinky, it dried fairly quickly, and once it dried it wasn't the least bit sticky.

When I got home, I practiced painting on paper first. I realized pretty quickly that the paintbrushes I bought weren't going to cut it. I couldn't control them enough to write legibly. I ended up using Q-tips instead.

Then I got another one of Jules' rocks and made a test rock.

Test Rock

'Nuff said.

Then it was time for the real deal. I washed off the rock and let it dry. Then I applied two coats of the Green Clover paint with a sponge brush. I made sure the first coat was dry before I put on the second. That didn't take very long.

Once the second coat of green was dry, I penciled in the text. I was very careful and accounted for the fact that the paint would be thicker. I was able to erase and rewrite a couple of the letters that were a little wonky.

And then came the part that I'm especially proud of. My regular handwriting isn't very neat, so trying to write on the surface of a rock with paint and a Q-tip was especially challenging for me. I went very slowly, and for the most part used little dabbing motions. I basically did one coat with the Red Apple, although I made it thick, and did go back and touch up some of the letters.

Once the red dried, I applied three coats of varnish, because according to the bottle, you should use three coats minimum if the item is going to be outside. The varnish was the consistency of water, so I'd pour a little on, then spread it with the sponge brush. It dried quickly between coats.

Bunny Foo-Foo's grave

I'm very happy with the results, and I think it's going to hold up well.

We had a little memorial last week. The family got together and we took turns reading. I found The Parable of the Mustard Seeds, St. Francis Preaches to the Birds, The Velveteen Rabbit and, of course, Watership Down. I played "Bright Eyes" from the film adaptation of Watership Down. This was when I placed the marker and the Italian Parsley that I bought in lieu of a bouquet. (She loved that stuff, and it's sold in bunches that look like bouquets. Also, Mom surprised me that day with flowers in BFF's honor.) We ended with Dad reading a very sweet story he had written.

I'm going to leave you with a clip from Watership Down. It's the ending of the movie, so consider this your spoiler alert. (Although it doesn't really give away any of the rest of the plot.) And it's that strange combo of sad and uplifting that will make you cry. It's brought me a lot of comfort in these last few weeks.

*Disclaimer - You really shouldn't feed your rabbit tortilla chips or other "human" foods (Or many of the commercially available rabbit treats while we're at it.) More details here.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Bunny Foo-Foo: 2001 - October 6, 2010

Cilantro Nom

I meant to post about Bunny Foo-Foo a long time ago, but I'd been avoiding it. But I know it will help me move on to blog it.

We lost Bunny Foo-Foo yesterday.

A little more than a month ago, I noticed Bunny Foo-Foo had this strange bald spot on her left hind leg. When I picked her up to take a closer look, I realized there was a giant knot on her leg. I was worried it was broken, but I couldn't afford the after hours vet. She didn't seem to be in distress, so I waited until first thing in the morning.

The vet said it was tumor. Cancer.

At the point she was diagnosed it was possible leg amputation might have saved her. It depended on whether or not the cancer had spread. But I couldn't afford amputation surgery. (Still unemployed.) Even if I had the money, should I really put a nine year-old rabbit through amputation surgery? I know they adapt well after an amputation, so I might have made a last ditch effort to find the money if she were younger. But she already had a swollen lymph node and "quiet lungs," according to the vet. Because I couldn't afford surgery, I skipped the testing and x-rays that would have determined if the cancer had spread. But I suspect it was already too late.

We made the most of our time left together. We had a Bunniversary Party on Labor Day. My family came. I made Taco Soup for the humans and Bunny Biscuits for Bunny Foo-Foo. We talked and played board games and the bunny came out so we could all pet her. And we took "family pictures."

Katie, Dad, Mom, Me and Bunny Foo-Foo

(I don't know how to use the camera timer, so we took another picture with Aaron.)

It was right before Labor Day in 2001 when the Evil Roommates found Bunny Foo-Foo.

In 2001, I was getting back to college after taking a year off. I had just transferred to Texas State, and I had just moved into off-campus student housing in San Marcos. I ended up three people I would eventually dub The Evil Roommates.

One evening the Evil Roommates and a couple of people from a neighboring apartment came in with two baby rabbits with agouti colored fur. They proposed that each apartment take one of the rabbits.

At first I was concerned because I thought they might be wild rabbits. Eventually I heard that they had belonged to someone else in the apartment complex. He'd let them run around on his patio, and they'd escaped. He didn't care about getting them back because they "were only $5." (Sometimes I wonder if the Evil Roommates made this up so I'd shut up about the wild rabbit thing. Either way, she was domesticated pretty quickly.)

Baby Foo-Foo

For the record, I sort of named her. We had a big meeting on what to name her. Eventually they came up with "Akira." Nothing against fans of the anime, but I thought this wasn't a very good name for a rabbit, but it wasn't worth arguing about.

However, I never witnessed anyone call her Akira. Every time they passed her they would say "Hey Bunny Foo-Foo."

The Evil Roommates had intended to keep her in a storage tub with slats cut in the lid. I was the one that ordered a cage on eBay, read up on rabbit care, bought her proper rabbit food and got her spayed.

By the time I took her to the vet to get spayed, the Evil Roommates had lost interest. She was mine and she'd been Bunny Foo-Foo in my mind for a while. So I put it on her paperwork and made it official.

You can probably guess by my nickname that the Evil Roommates and I didn't get along. (Never go potluck roommates.) When the bunny went through her "teenage years", they were done with her, and wanted to release back into "the wild" (aka the grounds of our apartment complex.) I was done with them, so I told them if they'd help me get out of my lease we'd both be gone.

I have no idea what happened to Bunny Foo-Foo's sister.

Bunny Foo-Foo

I attempted to hide her in my dorm. That lasted less than 24 hours. She and the ginormous cage I built for her stayed with Mom and Dad until I graduated. I came home every weekend to see her and clean her cage.

She went to Florida with me by car. It was just the two of us. Every time Mom brought up something about how I'd be alone on the road, I'd tell I wasn't going to be alone. The bunny would be with me.

This is a picture of her in a Motel 6 on the way there. I think this was Tallahassee.

The Road to Florida

We had a lot of fun in Florida, but there were some tough periods, especially in 2006. I know I didn't always give her the attention she deserved or kept her cage as clean as it should have been. But she was always there. And she would lick away my tears.

Bunny Foo-Foo

Eventually we drove back to Texas together. I've talked a lot about my last few years with her on this blog.

Elsebeth Lavold Angora

(I'm glad she decided to stick her nose in this picture.)

Over the last few weeks I've watched her gradually deteriorate. The tumor got bigger. She got tired more often. She got more and more "sideways", since the tumor threw her balance off. She lost the use of her left hind leg completely. (I can see how bunnies can adapt to amputation now. Even when she wasn't using her bad leg, she still managed to get around.) She slept more. Eventually, I think she started falling asleep standing up.

Bunny Foo-Foo

Before the diagnosis, I had posted some pictures of her hanging out in her litter box on Facebook because I thought it was funny. Dad said she was in there because she wanted to lie on a soft surface. He bought her a pet bed. After the vet visit, I put towels in all her favorite bunny spots and over most of the cage floor. The vet said the tumor probably started to grow right before she started seeking soft surfaces.

Her pain medicine made her do weird things in her sleep. It scared me before other bunny owners and the vet explained that she was just dreaming. Some bunny owners told me their bunnies twitched in their sleep all the time.

I went to a House Rabbit Resource Network spa day, where I learned that Bunny Foo-Foo loved parsley and cilantro and that I could put diaper cream on her tumor to keep the skin from getting dry and flaky. It kept losing fur as it grew.

Eventually I had a routine at night where I turned her over in my arms, used one finger to rub Desitin on her tumor,used another finger to put Neosporin on the scabs on her tumor, made sure her butt was clean, gave her pain meds, put her back down and gave her a treat. Once we got the news, we quit worrying about her weight. It was nice because after she got mad at me for making her take her medicine, she would come back to me for her treat and some petting.

The last picture

The end wasn't what I had expected. I had braced my self for incontinence and loss of mobility. I watched her carefully to see how she felt. I had been looking at The Three A's, Appetite, Affection and Attitude. Yesterday, she was eating, pooping (that's important) and coming to see me when I passed the cage. But when she came to see me she started breathing really hard. She'd been gradually breathing harder and faster, but this was different. She would calm down, eat some hay, drink her water and lay around. She wasn't lying in her bed. I think she didn't have enough room to sprawl out.

It was the look on her face. She wasn't having fun anymore.

I find my self wondering if it was too soon. Although I wanted to keep her, I just wanted the whole thing to be over with. I don't think she was truly suffering yet. Then I remember the whole point of euthanasia was for her not to experience that suffering.

Mom picked me up and Dad met us at the vet. I wasn't quite sure if this was "it" until we got her on the vet table and we didn't try to struggle or hop away. The vet said he thought it was a good decision.

I'm not going to go into too much detail about the event itself. It took longer than I expected and there were a few effects I didn't expect. Mom, Dad and I stood with her and pet her during the whole process.

The staff at Westgate Pet and Bird Hospital is great. They made a point of giving us plenty of time, having us pay ahead of time so we didn't have to stop on the way out, letting me carry her into the back room and giving us a room where we could be alone with her for a while before we left.

This is weird, but I have to mention this. After it was over, I asked Mom and Dad to leave for a minute so I could be alone with her. They had swaddled her in a blanket, but I wanted to take her out of the blanket and hold her one last time.

Strange things happen to your body when you die. Everything relaxes. Including your bladder.

When I put her back down, I realized Bunny Foo-Foo had peed on me.

I was glad. You have to laugh. She made some trouble one last time.

Bunny Foo-Foo eats my purse

We buried Bunny Foo-Foo in the backyard at Mom and Dad's house, under the Pecan tree. I plan to put a small marker there and have more of a "memorial" for her later.

When I was growing up, I wanted a rabbit. I used to read The Little Rabbit over and over again. The book was about a white rabbit named Buttercup and her seven babies who were named after days of the week. I tried to convince my parents to get me a rabbit like Buttercup, but they said a bunny would be too much trouble, especially the large hutch the rabbit would require.

I got my Buttercup, and it was worth all the trouble.

The Empty Cage