Posted: June 21, 2012, 9:45 p.m. EDT
Courtesy Nancy Laracy
Bunny Boy went solo on the Laracy's Christmas card one year.
“I rebelliously bought this bunny that ended up being the love of my life,” said Nancy Laracy. The story of Bunny Boy is as simple and as complicated as that, and it begins during what Laracy called a magical snowstorm in January 2001, when she and her two children stopped at a pet store to buy food for her son’s bearded dragon.
The store had a litter of red Satin rabbits, and her daughter asked for one for her birthday. The family had never owned a furry pet because Laracy’s husband, Ward, is allergic to dogs and cats. She was feeling rebellious because her husband didn’t want them to have another child due to concerns about her health. Because of her lupus and fibromyalgia, his concerns were understandable; but that didn’t stop her from making an impulse purchase of what they were told was a female rabbit, which her children named Fluffet. After his initial surprise, Ward Laracy quickly fell under the spell of Fluffet — and fortunately wasn’t allergic to rabbits.
The First Health Scares For Bunny Boy
All was well, until Fluffet developed an intestinal blockage around 8 months of age. The family then learned that Fluffet was actually a male rabbit. From then on, he was called various names, but Bunny Boy is the one that stuck and is on his medical records. It was first mentioned by their veterinarian, Dr. Cheryl Welch. Laracy liked it, and it stuck.
Laracy said that Welch told her Bunny Boy was born with maloccluded teeth and warned that this would set him up for a lot of problems. Laracy hadn’t read anything about pet rabbits or their care, but now her education began. Because of his maloccluded teeth, Bunny Boy couldn’t chew properly and wasn’t able to eat hay in its loose form. He also needed his teeth trimmed regularly.
The Laracys nursed Bunny Boy through the intestinal blockage and developed a strong bond with him. He was put on a strict schedule for dental care that required frequent trips to a groomer and the veterinarian.
Courtesy Nancy Laracy
After he was 9 months old, Bunny Boy enjoyed free-roam of the Laracy's two-story home.
Later in 2001, when Bunny Boy was about 9 months old, he developed an abscess on his jaw. Welch offered two options — to treat with antibiotics, which might allow Bunny Boy to live for about three months, or to do surgery to debride the abscess. The drawback to the surgery, in addition to the risks, was the 80-percent chance that the abscess would recur. The Laracys chose the surgery. It went well, and Bunny Boy recovered unbelievably — eating on his own within three days.
The bond between Bunny Boy and the Laracys grew along with the nursing duties. “That was the beautiful thing about Bunny Boy,” Laracy said. “It took the four of us to do everything.” The children picked out bandages, helped hold him and more. She or her husband administered shots, gave oral medication, bandaged paws, etc. “We all bonded so much with him because over the years we did so many things.”
Laracy put away Bunny Boy’s cage for good. He was now a free-roaming house rabbit with access to nearly every room in the Laracy’s two-story, Georgian Colonial home.
Courtesy Nancy Laracy
Bunny Boy was a true member of the family and was part of all celebrations, such as Julia Laracy's graduation.
A Pioneering Treatment Is Tried For Bunny Boy
Bunny Boy recovered, and for three more years, the routine continued. In November 2004, Bunny Boy developed another abscess on his jaw. This time, Welch sent the Laracys to the Animal Medical Center in New York City, which was pioneering a new treatment for abscesses that were deeply embedded. Surgery would remove the abscess, shave a bit of the jawbone and implant antibiotic beads that release medication slowly over three to six months. Bunny Boy was one of the first to receive this treatment.
Once again, Bunny Boy came through the surgery and recovered well, with plenty of nursing from his loving family. He was a part of their lives and frequently accompanied Laracy on errands or outings. Practically everyone who knew her had met Bunny Boy.
Bunny Boy's Sudden Setbacks
For three more years, Bunny Boy lived happily, but in November 2007 he fell from Laracy’s arms and broke his jaw. A visit to the veterinarian resulted in a sad prognosis — he wasn’t expected to live beyond 36 hours. Laracy did round-the-clock feedings and kept him on low activity. By the third day he stopped grinding his teeth. Within a week or two, he was almost back to himself, and his jaw healed after eight weeks.
The new year, 2008, brought new trouble for Bunny Boy with two abscesses, one on either side of his jaw. The doctors at the Animal Medical Center began surgery to remove a few teeth and then work on the abscesses. Unfortunately, the surgery didn’t go as planned. After removing some teeth, Bunny Boy went into cardiac arrest on the operating table. The doctors were able to revive him, which Laracy said is nearly unheard of for rabbits, but they had to close him up before removing the abscesses. That left oral antibiotics and penicillin shots as the only treatment option.
Once again, Bunny Boy was expected to live for only a few weeks. At his post-op follow-up eight weeks later, the abscesses couldn’t be found. “They went away without surgery, which is a miracle,” Laracy said. “Antibiotics never get rid of abscesses.”
Welch now called him Iron Bunny.
By March 2009, Bunny Boy was getting a penicillin shot every other day as a prophylactic. Arriving home around midnight one day with her husband and visiting brother, they realized Bunny Boy needed his shot. Ward Laracy put Bunny Boy on the kitchen counter and gave the injection as he had hundreds of times before. Bunny Boy collapsed and stopped breathing. Laracy’s brother, who runs a surgical unit in a hospital, immediately started rescue breathing while her husband did compressions. On the fifth breath, Bunny Boy revived. Another miracle, Laracy said.
Bunny Boy Waits For Mommy
The morning of November 18, 2009, Laracy’s husband woke her and said she needed to go downstairs to see Bunny Boy right away. The rabbit had been slowing down over the past few months, but nothing seemed seriously wrong.
She picked him up and saw that his nose wasn’t moist anymore. She knew it was time, and she told him, “You know what Bunny Boy, if you’ve had enough, Mommy’s ready.” He then made a little squeal she’d never heard before, then did it again 10 seconds later, and then he died in her arms.
“I looked up and said ‘Thank you, God.’ I wasn’t awake four minutes and he passed away in my arms.” With all that Bunny Boy had gone through in his life and how much he had helped her and brought joy to her family, Laracy had prayed that he would die in her arms instead of on an operating table or alone.
Courtesy Nancy Laracy
On days when Nancy Laracy wasn't feeling well, Bunny Boy was always ready to cuddle on the bed with her -- and he just liked to be on the bed in general.
Bunny Boy Saves The Day
Laracy said that the cause of some of Bunny Boy’s problems came from being immunosuppressed, which was interesting because she had a compromised immune system because of her ailments. She believes Bunny Boy saved her life, more than once.
In 2008, she noticed a small bubble on her gums and learned from the doctor that she had an infection deeply embedded in her jawbone stemming from the root of her tooth. That was the exact diagnosis Bunny Boy had in 2004, and the surgery to cure her included the antibiotic beads. “Bunny Boy’s cutting-edge treatment at the Animal Medical Center ended up saving my life.”
On another occasion, she was home alone awaiting delivery of medicine because of a major flare-up of her disease. Her husband had put the phone on the bed by her before leaving and Bunny Boy, as usual, was on the bed, too. He loved to be on the bed. As she lay in bed, she was overcome with paralyzing fatigue. It’s the only time that ever happened. She couldn’t reach the phone and started to panic. She called out to Bunny Boy several times to nudge the phone over to her … and he did. She was able to call for help.
He didn’t just save her life. “That rabbit kept me going,” she said. “He knew when I was sick.”
After returning home from a rough gamma-globulin treatment, she walked in the door and Bunny Boy binkied so high he landed in her arms. “It doesn’t get any better,” she said.
People would say, “They kept each other going. They’re the reason why they’re both alive,” Laracy said. “He needed me as much as I needed him.”
Courtesy Nancy Laracy
Bunny Boy lived a life that brought joy to others.
Bunny Boy's Life Filled With Love
She and Bunny Boy shared a special bond, but he had more to offer. “Bunny Boy had a bigger purpose other than just filling my family’s life with love.” When her mother lived at a rehab center in October 2008 and again April through August of 2009, he became an unofficial therapy bunny at the facility. Her mom would walk around telling people Bunny Boy was her grandson. And patients with Alzheimer’s, Down’s syndrome or other ailments, who Laracy never saw react before, would show a spark or positive reaction to Bunny Boy.
Throughout his life Bunny Boy played with her children and children in the neighborhood. Back then, “We were the only people to have an indoor bunny,” Laracy said. “Nobody had an indoor bunny.” He would greet people at the door and was much more like a lap dog than a bunny.
As much as Bunny Boy was there for them, the Laracys returned his devotion. His health issues probably cost more than $24,000 through the years. “That’s a lot of money, but it didn’t matter,” Laracy said. “My husband was so attached to him. Ward adored him, too. He’s the one who gave him a lot of his penicillin shots.”
Welch commented to Laracy that she’d had her veterinary practice for 17 years and there had never been a bunny so strong and so loved. She was the one who contacted the local newspaper about Bunny Boy’s story, which was then featured in the April 8, 2009, Suburban News.
The veterinarians at the Animal Medical Center recognized the bond, too. After his surgery, it was standard for pets to be kept overnight for observation, but when Bunny Boy saw her after his surgery, his response convinced the vets he would do better at home. “He vibrated and purred when he was with me,” Laracy said. “The vets in the city said they never saw such mutual admiration between a bunny and its owner.”
Bunny Boy's Legacy Of Love
A few years before Bunny Boy’s passing, Laracy began writing a book about him. It’s completed now and in the editing phase. There’s a lot more to tell about his life and what happened after his passing. Laracy said it’s a once-in-a-lifetime story. She’s tentatively title it Bunny Boy: A Love Story. She plans to dedicate it to Welch, who died suddenly in early 2011.
“I hope people can learn that bunnies can be just like any other pet. They can survive things like these operations,” Laracy said. “He truly was a remarkable animal, and it wasn’t just me that thought he was remarkable. He left his footprint on the medical community.” Laracy still gets phone calls from the Animal Medical Center requesting her permission to use his records for training other vets.
Laracy is in the final editing stages of her book and will be looking for a publisher. Keep up-to-date on her progress with Bunny Boy's story by visiting her website or emailing her.
Excerpt from the annual magazine Rabbits USA, 2012 issue, with permission from its publisher, Fancy Publications, a division of BowTie Inc. To purchase the current Rabbits USA annual, click here>>
Interested in rabbit health? See Dr. Karen Rosenthal's answers to questions about rabbit health, click here>>