When the neighbor boy, whose family lives in the house behind our house (our backyards meet) was just a toddler, his grandfather gave him a pet rabbit. The boy named the rabbit Hoppy. For years, Hoppy lived with this family--they had a small outdoor hutch with a run about 2 feet long, and a small wooden box at one end. The floor of the hutch was a heavy metal mesh, about 1/2 inch squares, so he had no place (except inside the tiny wooden box) to put his feet down without his claws going through the wire
Hoppy was occasionally let out of this small living space to hop around in their yard, but if he refused to come back to the woman of the house when she called, she claimed he had "an attitude" and would scold him.
They fed him erratically. Usually he had a dish of rabbit food--plain pellets--and sometimes iceberg lettuce or a carrot or two.
Then came winter. They covered his hutch with a blue nylon cloth that sailed and billowed in the wind. The hutch was next to their house, so that was some protection. The next summer, they moved his hutch to the top of the hill, which was where our yard meets theirs. That's when Hoppy and I became--shall we say--involved. I began taking him various food treats--carrots, bits of darker green leafy vegetables, occasional Cheerios. And I took him fresh water.
When the next winter came, the hutch was still at the top of the hill, where lots of wind blows by. The blue cloth was still there--but that was all. So we (by now my husband knew of my concern) bought straw and stuffed it in the wooden box to give him some warmth. That winter, there were days when my footprints up the hill through the snow were the only evidence that anyone bothered to feed him. So I tried to go to Hoppy's hutch everyday to make sure he had food.
When the rabbit hutch began to fall apart, I offered our neighbor that we would buy a new rabbit hutch. Our neighbor's response--why don't you just take the rabbit. You pay more attention to him than we do.
That was all I needed--that evening Hoppy had a new home! We immediately bought him a new larger hutch, and a good supply of rabbit food and timothy. In a few days, we began assembling an outdoor play yard for him, which eventually became two circles of fencing each about 6 feet across, with an interlocking passageway--a much wider area for him to explore. Eventually, we figured out how to rig a cover for rainy or snowy days. Finally, we put plastic around the outside on the side where wind blew in, leaving the other side exposed.
The capstone touch was when we bought not one but TWO heating pads--one for in his hutch during winter, and one for in the play area. The play area now had straw everywhere, clumps of timothy here and there, several overturned boxes, as well as food and water every day. Every morning we got him out to play, and every evening we put him back in his hutch to sleep. He also got fresh food in the evening that by now included carrots, apples, arugula (a favorite), broccoli, cauliflower, and other tidbits that I would try.
Thus Hoppy became our accidental pet. I had no thought of ever having a rabbit, and do not plan to get another. I certainly would have preferred that his first owners had litter trained him--but since they hadn't and had kept him outside, his entire life was lived outside.
So, why the past tense verbs you may have noticed? About a month ago, it became clear that he was eating less. Hoppy also got very picky about food--some days eating one food enthusiastically and the next day rejecting it completely. He stopped eating arugula quite suddenly. He limited his fresh food choice to apples. Then, he began to not eat much at all. And then he stopped eating. I knew enough that any amount of time a rabbit goes without eating is not good. As Hoppy had never been to a vet, and was at the advanced age (for a rabbit) of 12 years, I suspected his life was nearing its end, so we chose not to try to prolong his living.
Tonight, when we went to get him from his outdoor play yard, he was lying on his side, still. Even so, we put him in his hutch for overnight, covered him with a towel.
Good night, sweet Hoppy. Thanks for being such a good "accidental" pet.