I love travelling, there is little doubt about it. I enjoy the excitement, the journey, variety and cultural differences. With 15 years of nearly constant monthly trips abroad I’ve grown used to the stimulus of jetting off somewhere. Yet in spite of all this, there is a risk, a danger, something I am uncomfortable with. Yes, this relates to my worst fear of travelling and quite recently I had a very close call.
If you wish to read on with this article it is best that I let you know it is a very personal story and a sad story at that. Please accept my apologies if you shed a tear.
What is my worst fear of travelling?
So I guess you are wondering how somebody who travels as much as I do can have any travelling fears.
Well yes I do.
It is not to do with the safety of the transport, entrusting myself with people I don’t know. It is not cultural differences, language barriers or the risk of falling ill on the road. I don’t even worry too much about being mugged, unless of course I’m in a particular place (- with no personal incidents to report I do wonder if I’m being slightly irrational in my approach to that country?)
So what is my worst fear of travelling?
Well, I’ll tell you.
It is the fear that I will be away from home when a significant event happens.
Sad but true. These “significant events” more often than not can be of the negative kind. We tend to have more notice of the positive events happening so it is easier to plan to be there.
One of these unfortunate events happened recently to my bride and I.
I have deep gratitude that I just made it home in time to be there.
For those still reading at this point, you will be relieved to here that I am not going to talk about the loss of a loved person. Yet it is the loss of a loved one.
Talking of the loss of a person you know is maybe not something I should dwell on now. I’ve had a few experiences of this in life, as I’m sure you have too. I’ve lost friends, grand parents, aunts and uncles. I’ve even lost one of my siblings a number of years ago.
However the story of how I met this loved one begins back in early 2011. My bride and I weren’t married at that stage. We were however spending a lot of time together and the future looked very promising 🙂
Whilst on a wander through a nearby village we called into the local pet shop out of curiosity. The son of a friend of ours was about to celebrate his birthday and we browsed the shop for inspiration.
On entering the shop 2 adorable little rabbits (lop dwarves) caught my eye and I was quickly drawn to them. They were sisters. One was all black whilst another was black and white.
After drawing my future bride’s attention to them I started suggesting that we get one of the rabbits as a gift for our friend’s son.
I then suggested we keep the other one 🙂
To be honest I have little experience of having pets. As a child I had a goldfish or two. We also once had a family budgerigar, also known in the UK as a “budgie”. He was called Paddy, or as he used to tell us it was actually “Hello Paddy”.
As a child I guess I was protected to some degree. I came home one day and Paddy wasn’t there. When I asked where he was I was told that he’d escaped. Someone had foolishly left a window open and he got out and flew away. Boy was I angry with whoever left that window open!
I was particularly drawn to the black and white one. I suggested we keep her and call her “Snowie”. No specific reason other than her appearance made me think of that name. The idea was soon shot down by my bride to be. She thought it was a daft name for a rabbit.
As it turns out our friend declined our offer and suggested guinea pigs instead. This is what we bought for them in the end.
However we couldn’t resist these rabbits and had almost emotionally committed ourselves by this stage. Once we decided to buy, the shop owner said that we could have both of them for the price of one. They were around 6 months old now and as a result were more difficult to sell on. Yet for us we were delighted with his offer and took both adorable sisters home with us.
As we prepared the rabbits for home life the young girl who lives next door came around to help us and dote on the latest members of our family. I kept going on about the suggestion of “Snowie” to which my bride continued to rule it out.
We then turned to the girl from next door and asked her to suggest names. Almost immediately she suggested “Mollie” for the black and white rabbit. The name stuck.
From then on it was easy and the black one was soon called “Mille”.
Welcome to the family Mollie and Millie 🙂
They certainly did quickly become part of the family. We cared for them and tended to them everyday. We paid the respective vet bills and really became familiar with their personalities.
Mollie was clearly the more affectionate of the two. On approaching their hut or run she would often come up to us and “kiss” us on our outstretched hand. (We like to view it as a kiss, yet for them it is probably checking our scent by way of a sniff with a wet nose.)
Sometimes, when I lifted the lid to their hutch and leant down Mollie would stand on her hind legs, reach up and literally kiss me on the mouth. It was truly adorable. (I try to ignore the fact that it is normal for rabbits to eat their own poo.)
Millie on the other hand was the more reserved of the two. Physically she was the larger rabbit, more dominant but also quite moody. She’d greet you with a kiss on the fingers if it suited her. Otherwise she’d run away as you approached. However if you picked her up for a cuddle or some grooming then she was very happy to have your attention.
We not only had a hutch in the shed to keep them warm and cosy in the winter, we had a run on the lawn for them too. They spent most of the year in the garden inside the run. Hopping around, sniffing/kissing our fingers, grooming each other and generally just looking adorable.
We also have what we call a playpen. A green fold out octagon in which we place them if we want some “bun fun” by letting them play indoors with us.
If you are an animal lover or even a pet owner you’ll know how easy it is to form a bond with a furry friend. You give your love unconditionally and accept their moods as well as their affection.
As we planned trips away or I had another venture abroad the question of what do we do with the rabbits always arose. Do we leave them with my bride’s mother, ask a neighbour to look after them or put them in a rabbitery?
It was then on a most recent work trip away that I said goodbye to both rabbits. As usual they looked on, giving the occasional kiss of fingers and looking as adorable as ever.
I was to be away Sunday to Saturday so it was not a particularly long trip. My bride was staying at home so was able to check on the rabbits each day.
It was then on the Friday, my last full working day that I received a text in the morning:-
“Honey Mollie is poorly can you call me when you have a moment pls?”
This was not great news to hear and I could sense a moment of urgency. Mollie and Millie had both been fine the day before. I know because I always ask how the rabbits are.
Without hesitation I called home to get the news.
That morning my bride had found Mollie in the hutch of the run with her head at an angle and she was going around in circles. She was still going round and round and couldn’t straighten her head.
On hearing this I was very quickly relieved, certainly a lot more relaxed than my bride at home. I’d read about this a few years ago and it is known as “head tilt”. Many rabbits can suffer from it and most make significant recoveries. There are a whole host of factors which can cause this and very few are life threatening.
We exchanged messages throughout the day as Mollie was taken in by the vets for testing.
My bride at home was very worried and often texted me as we reassured each other. I must admit that even though I was far away I was fairly relaxed after reading about the head tilt condition in the past.
Later that evening my bride collected Mollie from the vets and was able to update me.
Tests indicated she was suffering from parasites. This is quite common in rabbits and can even be present from birth. Parasites can cause head tilt but it can be treated.
We had medication to give her and had to keep her separate from her sister until the course of medication had been completed.
We were very relieved rabbit owners.
I flew home as planned the next morning. On my flight’s arrival in the UK I was greeted with news by text that Mollie had received her medication and appeared to be doing well, athough head tilt was still very much present.
Then a little later on the taxi ride home I received another text.
My bride now thinks Mollie is not doing as well as we first thought at all. Plus Mollie appears to have blotches on her eyes.
Now my bride was becoming really worried.
Soon enough I arrived home and was able to give comforting cuddles. This included seeing Mollie who clearly had a head tilt. Her head was partially twisted to the right whilst she wandered around in circles to her left.
I picked her up and gave her lots of cuddles which she clearly appreciated.
I was then told that an appointment had already been made at the vets and we should make a move to get there.
Rabbit in carry case, we were off straight away to the wonderful people at Swanbridge Vetinary Surgery and Hospital.
We notified Reception on arrival then waited our turn in the waiting area.
It was during the drive here and whilst waiting that my bride tried to prepare me. She kept indicating that we should prepare for the worst whilst hoping for the best.
This was all new for me. I’d never taken a seriously ill pet to a vet before. All our previous visits were for minor conditions or routine check ups. I still remained confident that Mollie was okay. She maybe turning in circles in her carry case but head tilt is common. Rabbits recover.
After a while my bride passed the carry case to me so I could hold Mollie whilst we continued to wait.
It was during this time that I saw a noticeable change. Between turning circles Mollie would stop for a while, almost freeze. Then her eyes would flicker rapidly and it was clear she was having some form of seizure. Apparently she’d begun suffering these this morning.
I looked on hopelessly as these moments of fit like conditions became more and more rapid. She had maybe 5 or 6 of them whilst we waited for the vet.
Then the most senior vet, John Levison called us in.
He’d checked Mollie’s records and was aware of the tests yesterday. We also gave an update on her changing condition.
Then we took poor Mollie out of her carry case.
At this point it was clear that her behaviour was highly unusual.
Normally she hated the vets, desperately hated the vets. They say animals have a fight or flight mentality, well Mollie always had a flight mentality. She would scramble, scratch, wriggle, do absolutely anything she could to get away from the vets once inside the treatment room.
Not this time. Not at all.
We were astonished to see as we took her out of the carry case that she just laid there. Motionless on the inspection table. She breathed lightly and her eyes just looked out towards us.
“She’s not like this. She hates the vets.” I protested. “She’s normally desperate to get away.”
We looked on horrified.
She didn’t have the strength to sit up, never mind turn in circles.
Desperate for answers we turned to the vet and asked what we could do. He said that steroids might help her but there was no guarantee.
So we asked for his honest and professional opinion. To which he gave us.
He advised that it looked as though it would not end well.
He listened to Mollie’s heart and said that it was very weak. Little wonder she just laid there; she was slipping away from us….
Tears filled our eyes as we faced the harsh reality of the inevitable.
The vet advised us that if it was a person we would be painfully watching them slowly deteriorate further. Whilst Mollie was not actually in any pain, the outcome was bleak.
My bride and I cuddled each other facing up to this horrible reality of a decision we didn’t want to, yet had to make.
We had to say our final goodbyes to Mollie.
We stroked her ever so soft, gentle and sweet fur and kissed her goodbye.
John was wonderful and gently took her out of the room so he could administer her final treatment out of our sight.
Together the two of us sat, my bride and I. Cuddling each other, no longer fighting back tears.
This was all too sudden. Such a rapid deterioration in Mollie’s condition in 24 hours. It was horrible.
I’ve little doubt that we were witnessing her slipping away that Saturday morning. I often told myself that I know she would never have made it to Sunday evening. Looking back now I doubt she’d have made it through Saturday.
Feeling a terrible and painful loss we returned home. And I can tell you that Millie got so many hugs that day from us it was untrue.
We were so upset and yet felt so much for Millie. How do you explain to a rabbit that her sister is never coming back?
How do you comfort her, let her know that things will never be the same again?
In all honesty I think Millie coped better than we did. Well she’d never be able to tell us if she didn’t.
Yet as human beings we could communicate our sense of loss with each other.
Over the days since we lost the lovely Mollie we noticed that Millie’s behaviour changed a bit. She became more affectionate and would run up to us giving us kisses.
I wonder if she was really trying to get our attention to ask where her sister was?
Now Millie is back to her usual, moody self. She gives us kisses when she wants or runs away when she doesn’t want to be near us.
After some thought and a suggestion from a carer of rabbits we think that we need to find a new companion for Millie. Or a “bun friend” as my bride likes to call it.
No rabbit can ever replace Mollie. Yet we can fall in love all over again with a new pet.
We hope to have found a new companion for Millie very soon.
If you are still reading at this point then I hope you understand the point of this story.
To be honest I don’t care if nobody reads this. If there are no social shares and no comments from people who can relate to this story.
Some of you maybe thinking it is only a rabbit. Why all the drama, why such the fuss?
Well I can be honest with you. Yes “it is only a rabbit” but it was OUR rabbit. It was our Mollie and she was part of the family.
When you buy pets you do so in the knowledge that you are highly likely to out live them. These days of final goodbyes will come.
I knew this and always have. However I don’t relish these days; I fear them.
Yet one thing is for certain:
My greatest fear of travelling is this:-
Not being around for these moments to say that final goodbye.
Good night Mollie, we miss you.