About four weeks ago I noticed a lump on Oliver's leg. We immediately took him to the Vet who told us that he had an infection that required surgery. During surgery a solid mass tumor was found on Oliver’s lower left leg that a biopsy later proved to be cancer. The surgeon had removed all of the tumor, so we waited to see if the cancer would come back. One week later our local Vet removed the bandages and the surgery site was healing just fine, with no sign of cancer. Just five days later, however, when the new bandages were removed, we were shocked to see that the tumor had returned, and was growing rapidly. It was an aggressive sarcoma. On Thursday, August 29, Nancy called our local Vet and arranged to have her come to the house where she put Oliver to sleep on Friday, August 30, while I held him in my arms.
We adopted Oliver from Jill on March 8, 2003, as a full grown adult, and he has been with us ever since. He became a centerpiece of our household because of his personality and cuteness. Oliver had spunk. He would let Nancy and I know in no uncertain terms when something displeased him. He thought that our home was his, and we were there just to serve him. He liked being in charge. At first Oliver would not eat any greens at all, surviving on rabbit chow and hay. After several years, however, Oliver started eating the green tops of carrots, his favorite food. A few years later he started eating the green tops of radishes, and in the last year he has started to nibble on kale. His favorite snacks are bananas, Shredded Wheat, and Cheerios.
Oliver was often in poor health, especially when he was young. All rabbits like to chew on just about anything, but Oliver would chew and swallow. He ate the carpet and baseboards, and managed to completely block his gastrointestinal track (GI stasis) in 2003. It is often fatal, but Oliver recovered fully following major abdominal surgery. He suffered from nearly complete GI stasis two more times, but recovered thanks to good medical care. He has had cancer twice, easily beating the first one with a simple surgery that removed a basal cell carcinoma from his skin. Frankly, I did not expect Oliver to live past 5 years, but he proved to be a real survivor.
Oliver understood more words than the average bunny. When I asked him if he wanted to go outside, he would say “YES” or “NO” using body language. He disliked bad weather, and preferred to stay inside when it was cold. Oliver had complete backyard privileges for many years. He loved to sun bathe, while the other bunnies kept to the shade. In the photo below, Oliver can be seen catching the last rays of the late afternoon sun. Along with extreme old age, his love of the sun may have contributed to his cancers. Oliver never voluntarily came back inside. I always had to chase him and catch him. He seemed to enjoy the “catch me if you can” game, and he liked to make it as hard as possible for me to catch him. He got lots of exercise this way, and I always thought that helped him live as long as he did. He was free from all signs of GI stasis for the last six years of his life.
Simon was a rescue bunny who came to live with us in August, 2003. At first, Oliver and Simon did not like each other at all. In fact, we had to keep them separated for several years. But by 2008 they had become friends, and would spend time close to each other while outdoors. Soon after that Simon started copying Oliver's body language, but he never seemed to understand the significance of his actions.
Oliver was a loner for most of his life. The exception came when Mollie arrived at our home. During the time she was with us, before she was adopted, Oliver and Simon were fascinated by her. Oliver really enjoyed playing with her in the backyard. They would run and jump and seemed to be very happy. Later, when Maddie came to us, Oliver and Simon would run away from her whenever all three were in the backyard at the same time. Maddie is aggressive, and in rabbits, females dominate males about half of the time.
Oliver was always Nancy’s bunny. When she was in the kitchen, he almost always followed her with his eyes. Unlike the other bunnies, Oliver seemed to be always aware of when we were home and when we were gone. Nancy liked to hold him on his back like a human baby, and he soon became comfortable lying this way as a result. She also liked to sing to him while holding him. Surprisingly, he loved it. He would close his eyes and squeak with pleasure. The other bunnies would not tolerate being on their backs and did not care for her songs one way or the other. Oliver liked to touch us, and would often place his front paws on Nancy’s and my face while being held. As a youngster he would reach up with his front paws asking to be picked up, and occasionally, would try to jump into our arms. In the last year Oliver learned to trust me enough to allow me to rub his belly, which he also loved.
Oliver was about 12 years old when he died. This is extreme old age for a rabbit. He was a very important pet and beloved family member. He brought immense joy to our lives, and will be remembered always. Oliver is survived by Nancy, Ken, Rebekah, Simon, Maddie, and Sunny. - Ken