On May 23, my daughter Kacee came home from school, raced up the stairs and into my bedroom and was carrying the biggest smile on her face. “Why are you so happy?” I asked, already knowing the answer… “Today’s my birthday” she replied looking almost baffled as to how I could have forgotten. I smiled, kissed her and smirked “I know what today is…what would you like to do for your birthday?” Very few words shock me anymore as a parent, but I was not prepared for the following syllables. “ I want to go to Outback for dinner and I would like to get a Bunny.” The Outback response was not surprising as she loves a fine steak and a baked potato, but the bunny request was hard to swallow. My immediate thought was a firm “no”, but I had yet to buy her anything else, and I had no other ideas. I had to convince myself, if I could raise 4 kids, I can raise a bunny. So after a junior steak and a blooming onion we went bunny shopping and found a beautiful long-haired white rabbit at the Anderson’s.
Kacee Mae turned 9 years old and received the “only thing” she wanted for her birthday, a bunny she named Quinn FurRabbit in honor of her favorite “Glee” character.
Memorial Day weekend was upon us and Kacee instantly proved she could be responsible for her new gift. Kacee did everything that was needed to be done, from cleaning out the cage to refilling food bowls, she made sure Quinn got her exercise by overlooking her roaming time in the house away from her cage. Kacee had become the perfect pet owner … Kacee fell in love with Quinn.
Like many divorced families, I have a 50/50 shared custody agreement with my ex-wife, and Monday is a transitional day, it also happened to be Memorial Day. As I was dropping my children off and saying my goodbyes, Kacee made me promise that I would take care of Quinn until she returned. Idling in the driveway she was giving me a quick to-do list, like she was dropping off a newborn with a babysitter for the first time. Her estimated time away from Quinn was 50 hours. I reassured her that she would be fine, half laughing at our conversation and as my minivan’s sliding door was closing she made me promise one final time that Quinn would be OK. “I promise that she will be fine, I love you, I’ll see you in two days” were my parting words to her.
Wednesday morning came, some 40 hours had went and I mistakenly double-dosed myself with my ADD medicine. That’s the problem with getting up at 2:30 a.m. and having ADD, I occasionally forget if I took my medicine or not, so just to be safe for my work I took another pill. Within an hour my suspicions were confirmed, my brain was working in overdrive, so I must have over-medicated myself. By 7 a.m., I had such clarity that I headed straight away to Lowe’s. I was going to prove that I was beyond a good rabbit-sitter, I was going to embrace this new responsibility. I decided to build an outdoor pen for Quinn, to allow her to feel the grass underneath her paws. I bought fencing and posts and by 8 a.m., Quinn FurRabbit’s life was gong to get incredibly better: She could experience the outside once again.
The pride I had by 10 a.m. was remarkable, even for an occasional narcissist like myself. Quinn the bunny was in her newly built outside pen, loving life. I just had introduced her to my small dog and they were kissing each other through the fencing, it could not be any better, I was taking pictures to document the moment. I called my girlfriend Miss Jenn, I was giving her the play-by-play of my morning and the success of my bunny project while I walked into my house. Seconds later as our conversation continued, I heard a weird long screech almost cry. I hung up the phone, raced outside screaming my dog’s name, and the only thing my eyes could find was an empty pen, the very same I just built … Quinn FurRabbit was gone.
Heartbreak, shock, disbelief, and sadness instantly filled my world. The haunting thought of my last conversation with Kacee filled my heart, I lost her birthday present a week to the day after she received it; I just failed her as a parent. I frantically searched my yard, my neighbor’s yard, my neighborhood … every square inch, no rock left unturned and I did not find her anywhere. My neighbor looked at me like I was insane, so I informed of the situation and asked him to keep an eye out. In my mind, I had two plausible scenarios: Quinn was either hiding, or a hawk had carried her away. I had posted an update on Facebook for a local search party, I later created a missing poster in hopes it might go viral. I was determined by any means necessary not to break Kacee’s heart.
My search shifted from finding Quinn, to finding a secret replacement of Quinn. I found out more information about bunnies over the next couple of hours than I ever needed to know. I discovered Quinn was a rare Lionhead rabbit. I called every pet store, googled every rabbit breeding farm, and spoke to numerous rabbit experts who all tried the very best to help a desperate father in his hour of need. I was able to track down Doug from Kendra’s Rabbitry, who supplies most of the area stores with their bunnies … he felt my pain but could not help. Doug informed me about a special rabbit he just dropped off a few hours before and said it would be a perfect fit for us, just not a replacement one.
The day moved along with my search, at 2:35 the phone rings, the caller ID says it’s Kacee’s school. “Dad, would you bring Quinn up to school for the walk home, so my friends can meet her?” and I could hear the smile in her voice as she asked. My heart sunk and I told her I would be there, mumbled some nonsensical words, hung up the phone, then hung my head. In 20 minutes my children will be informed of the day’s events and subsequent disappearance of Quinn, the birthday bunny.
Kacee knew right away that something was wrong. I decided the truth would set me free. I recapped the previous six plus hours, including my thoughts of secretly replacing the bunny. Her reaction was exactly what you think it would be, disappointment, heartbreak and sadness. My youngest daughter Joeli, took it the hardest; she cried. They walked around the backyard like a scene out of “CSI,” reconstructing the crime scene and retracing the rabbit’s final known steps. I then told them of my earlier conversation with Doug from Kendra’s Rabbitry, that there could be another special bunny we could adopt. I promised to continue the search for Quinn as we piled into the car to go meet this other bunny. If we liked this other bunny, we could get him, and if I found Quinn she could have two. “We can become bunny breeders,” I joked.
Needless to say that Doug’s words could not be any truer, Kacee met and instantly fell in love again with a lop-eared black and white baby boy bunny, whom she named Finn Hutch, another homage to “Glee.” From Quinn to Finn in exactly one week.
The long day, like any other day had to continue as life does in the suburbs. My son had a baseball game and we were on the move again. Finn was placed in the very same cage that Quinn called home for the previous six nights. I had not eaten a thing that entire day, I did not take my normal nap, this was obvious on our way home from the game. As we were all getting ready for bed, a knock at my front door was heard, and then I heard another unforgettable screech. It was Kacee. My neighbor was holding a familiar white creature in his hands: Quinn the bunny.
Kacee is now the proud owner of two bunnies, Quinn and Finn.
In a millisecond I went from being an over-compensating father to an unintentional bunny breeder.
Happy birthday, Kacee Mae.
To see pictures of Quinn and Finn, or to follow his crazy life, Jeremy Baumhower is on Facebook and Twitter @JeremyTheProduc.
Tags: animals, Family, Jeremy Baumhower