The Little Sweetheart
The telephone rang. It was the Fairfax County Animal
Shelter. I had just been there a couple of days before. I
had met the only rabbit there at the time. The shelter said
that this rabbit was going to be euthanized the following
day if he wasn’t adopted or we couldn’t take him. We didn’t
have any more room at the sanctuary. We had almost thirty
rabbits and Sandi had just been diagnosed with fibromyalgia.
Treatment would begin soon at the Georgetown University
Medical Center. She could not walk without a cane and there
were days that she was unable to drive. Still, I told her
that this rabbit was too sweet for us to allow for it to be
Sandi succumbed to my wishes. I called the shelter back
and told them that we would pick this rabbit up the
following day. The next day, July 23, 1997, was one I will
Sandi drove to the shelter and picked up this little
bunny. On the way home, he pressed against the front of the
carrier to get as close to Sandi as possible. I arrived home
from work soon afterwards. I held him when I got there and
proceeded to examine him. He was very tolerant of this
examination. He was a beautiful black and white Dutch rabbit
with a white tip on his right ear. He weighed about four
pounds, had a perfect round face and appeared to have the
biggest brown eyes I had ever seen. I checked everything.
The eyes, nose, mouth and ears all looked healthy. Upon
further examination, I discovered that part of his left
front foot was missing. There was no fur there, but the area
where part of his foot had been taken off had healed. I
guessed that he had been kept outside in a hutch with a wire
floor, and another animal had grabbed the foot and taken the
front of it. It was obviously still very sore, as he would
not let me touch it. I finished the examination. He appeared
to be healthy otherwise.
We had no bunny rooms available, so we decided to put him
in the kitchen. We set up a bed, litter box, bowls and toys
in the kitchen for him and I put up a baby gate to keep him
in there. I turned around and started walking away. I looked
down and he was beside me. I automatically thought that he
must have sneaked out when I was putting up the gate. I
picked him up and put him back in the kitchen. I made sure
he was still in there while I put the gate back up. I turned
around and started walking away again. I looked down and
there he was beside me. I picked him up again and put him
back in the kitchen. This time, after I put up the gate, I
backed away. He immediately hopped over the thirty-inch high
baby gate and ran up to me. I picked him up and held him
close to me. He immediately began licking me. It soon became
apparent that he wanted to be held. I eventually put him
back in the kitchen and put another baby gate over top of
the first one.
Sandi and I talked about this charming and personable
little rabbit the rest of the evening. We were both quite
taken in by him. Even though we had rescued over one hundred
rabbits, we had never met one quite like him. We would soon
find out how special he really was. We named him Domino.
The following day, Domino was taken to the veterinary
clinic. When he was picked up and taken to the front door to
leave he became extremely frightened and panicked. He
flailed about dramatically trying to get away from the door.
We would soon realize that he associated this exterior door
with some awful event in his past. This fright and panic
would continue for years whenever Domino would be taken
close to this door.
At the clinic Domino was given a thorough examination,
and blood samples were taken. He appeared to be in good
health except for his foot. He was given Albon, an
antibiotic, as a precautionary measure. His age was guessed
as being approximately three years. An appointment was made
for him to be neutered the following week.
After recovering from his surgery, Domino was no longer
confined to the kitchen. He was given full reign of the
first floor. He always wanted to be with Sandi or me. He
actually preferred to be held by Sandi or me at all times. I
was constantly walking around the house carrying Domino. He
would lick me and I would rub his head. No matter how much I
rubbed Domino’s head he would lick me afterwards. Sandi
would often compare the relationship between Domino and me
to the one in the book by Anita Jeram, “Guess How Much I
Love You”. There was one exception. Domino always had to
have the last lick, the last show of affection.
Several things soon became apparent. Even though his foot
became less and less sore, there were very deep mental and
emotional scars that affected Domino as demonstrated by his
fear of the exterior door. Domino was clinging very tightly
to both of us. We would have some serious thinking to do
before he was put up for adoption. These thought were
quickly put aside.
Domino was a perfect ambassador for the sanctuary.
Everyone that met him was taken in by his charm. People that
had never considered a rabbit as a companion adopted a
rabbit. We were constantly reminding people that all rabbits
were special but not to expect their rabbit to be like
Domino. Luckily, most people understood.
After only a couple of months, we realized that Domino
was very nervous and sometimes even frightened when one of
us was not with him. Domino wanted to be friendly with every
rabbit that was at the sanctuary. However, these either had
mates or were up for adoption. We decided that we would try
to match him up with the next female rabbit that we took in
that had health problems.
A dwarf rabbit that we named Lucy came into the
sanctuary. Lucy had intestinal problems, probably caused by
very poor diet. Needless to say, he loved Lucy right away.
She thrived on all the love and devotion she was getting.
Domino focused all of his attention on her when Sandi or I
could not be with him. Domino and Lucy were the perfect
Every day when I came home Domino would be waiting at the
edge of the foyer (eight feet from the front door) for me.
If I arrived home on time, he would stand on his hind feet
begging to be picked up and held. If I was a little late,
his tail would be facing the door and I’d have to ask for
his forgiveness. If I was very late, he would often be
pacing back and forth anxiously hoping I would get there
soon. I would always pick him up, and we would demonstrate
our love for each other.
At some point in time, Domino started sleeping in bed
with us. He often liked to lie on my pillow where he could
lick my face during the night and sometimes under my neck
between the pillow and my shoulder. When he had to use the
litter box, he would start digging on the bed to let us
know. One of us would pick him up and put him on the floor.
He would hop in the box and take care of business. Then
Domino would spend the rest of the night snuggled with Lucy.
Domino continued to amaze Sandi and me. He would make
various sounds while one of us would be holding him, which
was most of the time. He did not hop like other rabbits and
would often perform brief little dances in front of Lucy and
us. Domino had to have the biggest most beautiful brown eyes
I have ever seen. You would look into those eyes and see
right into his heart, right into his soul. I think I knew
exactly what he felt or what he was thinking at any given
time. There is no doubt that Domino always knew exactly what
I thought or what I said to him. Domino loved Sandi and me
as much if not more than we loved him. Domino would always
come running whenever his name or his nickname, “Little
Sweetheart”, was spoken.
Domino continued to be the perfect goodwill ambassador.
Domino and I went out together frequently. Domino taught
veterinary technicians at the Northern Virginia Community
College. Domino demonstrated to everyone that having a
rabbit was a wonderful habit. Domino’s personality and charm
mesmerized almost everyone he met. He had a positive impact,
everywhere he went. After a few years, Domino was even able
to go to the front door without being frightened. He
provided new homes for other rabbits and all of the
sanctuary rabbits benefited from his efforts. Domino was
The years passed. We felt that Domino had always been
with us. Sandi and I had continued the rescue of rabbits,
even though it was been limited somewhat by her illness.
Domino and Lucy lived happily together. Lucy learned to
tolerate the love that Domino felt for Sandi and me. There
was always plenty left over for her.
One day in February, the unthinkable happened. Lucy became
very ill. She was rushed to the clinic. Her temperature
dropped drastically. She could not breathe on her own and
was placed in an incubator. She stayed there overnight. The
next day was no better. Lucy had no chance at recovery. Once
taken off oxygen, she passed away.
Domino became very depressed. He clung to both of us. If
one of us could not hold him he would simply lie down in his
and Lucy’s favorite spot and not move. We let Domino and
Timmy interact. Timmy is a very gentle and older blind
rabbit that has lost a couple of mates over the years. Timmy
and Domino got along very well, but things were not the
same. After a short period of time, Domino’s depression
After only a couple of months, Domino developed glaucoma
in his right eye. The eye swelled drastically and the
pressure obviously caused him severe pain. Domino was given
medication and an injection to relieve the pressure. This
only helped for a short period of time. Arrangements were
made to have the eye removed.
Sandi and I were both very frightened. At this time,
Domino is probably near nine years of age. Any operation
would present some risk. We waited anxiously in the lobby
while the operation proceeded. After what seemed like years,
we were told that the eye had been removed and Domino was
apparently recovering nicely. We were very happy to see the
Little Sweetheart, even though he had lost one of the
windows to his heart. We gratefully took Domino home.
During the first few days, Domino ate a little bit a food
and appeared to be recovering slowly. Then he stopped eating
altogether. We tried to force feed him and give him fluid.
Domino soon stopped moving around. A short time later Domino
could not even stand up. While lying on the table at the
clinic Domino struggled to lift his head and licked my
cheek. We lost Domino on July 3, 2003. I know that part of
me died with him.
All rabbits are special. Domino was……. unbelievable. Many
rabbits were helped because of Domino. My life has been
forever changed because of Domino. I have been blessed by
having known and lived with him. Losing him was also the
most painful thing that has ever happened to me. I know
Sandi feels the same way. I also know that I will never
forget the Little Sweetheart or the love that he shared with
us. I will always love and miss our precious little Domino.