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austin_dern

July 2017

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And one more stray bit of business from March Hare Madness. One of [profile] bunny_hugger's friends from the bookstore, who'd had a job at the local cinema, donated to the cause of door prizes. This was a bunch of promotional movie posters. Most were in pretty good shape. Some looked appealing at first but then we realized they were for the Independence Day sequel. It added a nice bonus to what could be given away.

One of the posters was the advertising card for La La Land, and when he heard about this ADM declared he had to have it. This didn't strike us as the kind of movie he cared much about. That's what happens when you know a guy so much from one context you forget he has others. The movie is his girlfriend's favorite, and their first (or one of their first) dates was going to it.

The La La Land poster was among a couple of the largest, heaviest-stock prizes, so were going to be given out to the finalists, champion taking first pick, #2 second pick and so on. ADM figured he was a lock to be one of the finalists, surely, but to be safe asked the other likely-finalists to leave the poster for him. Easy enough to arrange. He wasn't one of the finalists, to everyone's surprise, his included. But he went on to deal-making anyway, offering to trade for it. He had a Game Of Thrones pinball backglass, for example, that he could offer. (He wouldn't accept assurances that we'd be happy to just give him the poster as a gesture of friendship.)

So, when we finally had the tournament done, CST came in first and didn't want or need another pinball backglass. So he picked some other poster. That left me picking, pro forma, the La La Land poster and discovering that it wasn't on the table downstairs where we'd left it. We panicked that the one door prize that someone specifically wanted had been stolen. A text to ADM confirmed he had taken it home, so, that was settled. The next time we saw ADM he had the backglass, rolled up in a poster tube, for us.

He had, we understand, framed the poster with the movie tickets from their date, and gave it to her on one of those new-relationship small anniversaries. Must say, that's well-done.

Trivia: An 1848 estimate counted some 233 boiler explosions in American river steamboats between 1816 and 1848, resulting in 2,563 deaths. 1838 alone witnessed 14 explosions causing 496 deaths. Source: The Railway Journey: The Industrialization of Time and Space in the 19th Century, Wolfgang Schivelbusch.

Currently Reading: Frozen Hell: The Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939-40, William R Trotter.

Oh, yes, right, the side tournament. I didn't have space to fit it in with the main discussion. The goal was a trio of closest-to-the-pin scores. We chose to do three closest-to-the-pin games, after the success of using Medieval Madness in such a format last year.

We picked three tables. Attack From Mars, which is basically the same game as Medieval Madness. Indiana Jones. Tales of the Arabian Nights. We thought they were the strongest picks for a game where there's skill in not letting your score run away. Attack From Mars has one strategy that builds scores rapidly, shooting the flying saucer. It's easy to go way past the score, though. Indiana Jones and Tales of the Arabian Nights are bonus-heavy games; you can easily score half your points on the bonus alone. The rules prohibit tilting your game (even by accident; that voids the attempt), but dropping your ball is fine ... if you've got a good sense of when your score plus your bonus will carry you close to but below the threshold.

Many people tried putting a couple scores up. I meant to, but never had the chance: I was staying alive in the main tournament. GRV, one of the state's all-time greats and a surprise early exit from the contest, put up solid scores on each of the games, coming shockingly close to the target score. I worried that people would give up, sure they wouldn't be able to match. But MWS, somehow finding the time, kept at it, and he and GRV began trading off the best scores.

And then MWS pulled it out: he got closest to the pin on all three games, thanks in part to a decision to go upstairs, to Tales of the Arabian Nights, and make one last attempt to get it in. So, he claimed all three of the prizes. That would be two coupons to the Klassic Arcade in Gobles, which is a tiny town in the outskirts of Kalamazoo, in the southwestern part of the lower peninsula, and a gift card to Schuler's, a bookstore with outlets in Lansing in the center of the lower peninsula, Grand Rapids on the west side, and Ann Arbor, in the lower east side. MWS is from Flint, in the center-northeast. Well, he gets to Lansing and to Grand Rapids often enough, and Ann Arbor sometimes. Kalamazoo, he was in last month. That's something.

So when we went to the Fleetwood diner, we weren't just celebrating my second-place finish. We were also celebrating his triple win in the closest-to-the-pin contests.

Trivia: The smallest plot of land buyable from the public domain in the (Old) Northwest was a half-section, 320 acres, in 1800. In 1804 this was reduced to a quarter-section, 160 acres, and in 1820 to a half-quarter section, 80 acres, at $1.25 per acre. Source: Measuring America: How the United States was Shaped by the Greatest Land Sale In History, Andro Linklater.

Currently Reading: Frozen Hell: The Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939-40, William R Trotter.

PS: How April 2017 Treated My Mathematics Blog, as I could hardly forget to talk about myself, could I?

Starting off March Hare Madness with [profile] bunny_hugger the first person knocked out was awful. It's demoralizing for her, of course, and it's none too good for me. I couldn't even offer much comfort: I was still in the running, and had to play games. Some of the games would be easy enough, relatively, to beat the minimum score, but I play worse when distressed and I got scared I was headed for elimination too. I floated just past it, though, several games in a row.

Her being knocked out right away had some good side. The main benefit is Amazing Race tournaments really need traffic control, and now she had nothing to do but tell people where they should go, and what scores they had to beat. I could step in and help and log scores and the like, of course, as could CST and MWS. But she didn't have anything to pull her away from tournament management.

There'd be surprises. GRV, who's been one of the state's top players for just ever, and who's already all but sewn up an invite to state finals for next year, was the fourth person eliminated. WVL, organizer of the Lansing Pinball League, would be knocked out on Medieval Madness, a game he has trouble not breaking fifty million points on. I was worried about that game myself; nobody had put up a particularly low score on it. The game lends itself to arbitrarily huge scores, if you keep control: just shoot the castle, in the far middle section of the table. Just catch the ball as it's returned to you, aim, and shoot. Sounds simple? It is, if you don't get to thinking about how if you bobble things the ball might go anywhere and you're gonna lose it. I'm able to keep my cool, though, and get past the unexpectedly tight gateway there.

The biggest surprise: after Iron Man, the last game on the lower level, there are four players left. The last four players go on to head-to-head play, for the finals. (The International Flipper Pinball Association requires some head-to-head play for a contest to earn rating points.) It's a rare finals appearance for me. It's possible I'll take back home one of the trophies [profile] bunny_hugger made.

The finals are three rounds of four-player games, scored by the Professional and Amateur Pinball Association rules. (Each match, the top scorer earns four points; second earns two; third earns three; last earns nothing.) The quartet: me, CST, MWS, and a Lansing league regulars, DC. The randomly-drawn first game: Lord of the Rings, upstairs where nobody's touched it since game testing.

Sometimes, in this sort of thing, you have a good ball. Sometimes it's a great ball. Sometimes it's an oppressively good ball. I put up an astounding performance, starting up all four of the game's normal multiballs and even starting the ``Destroy The Ring'' wizard mode. I don't finish it, but who cares? I've got a first-place finish and that against two people who can routinely clean my clock.

I forget what the second game was. It was similarly good for me, though. I go into the third and final game in an ideal position, sure to get a trophy. And the random number generator is most kind: it picks Austin Powers. CST and I are the only people in Lansing league who ever play it voluntarily; we've learned its important shots. We're all but certain to finish first and second, and given the way things go. As it is, the only possible way I won't get second is if MWS finishes first and I finish last.

So MWS finishes first and I finish last. I could not get anything together, which is a problem, since there's one really good shot in the game (the left ramp, for Fat Bastard Multiball) and one mediocre shot (up the center, for the Time Machine Multiball), and MWS has them and I don't. I'm not knocked into third place, though. We're tied, and so go to a one-game playoff that, to my amazement, I win. I get second place.

CST, taking home first place, offers to trade trophies with me. Why? Because the first-place trophy is the only one that has a picture of our lost Stephen on it. But [profile] bunny_hugger's goal in putting the picture of Stephen on it was to share his appearance with other people. And I'd feel dishonest about the record in ways I don't like to swap trophies this way. (I do like minor fibs in the record --- it's why I'll sign the wrong date if I have the chance --- but not this.) No; this was a gift of the view of our rabbit for CST. He remarked that now he had multiple souvenirs of other people's dead pets. I forget what the other was.

Afterwards [profile] bunny_hugger, MWS, and I went to eat at the Fleetwood diner in Lansing. It's the place that she and I, with her parents and brother, went that awful last full day of Stephen's life, after we got home from the airport. It had been a lousy meal, occupied with thoughts of whether our rabbit would be alive in a day. This was a much better meal, and after the memorial tournament to him. It resonated, closing the misery of that day. At the least, the Fleetwood in Lansing was no longer ruined for us.

Trivia: A mistaken report of the German surrender set off wild jubilation in New York City the 27th of April, 1945. Source: 1945: The War That Never Ended, Gregor Dallas.

Currently Reading: Frozen Hell: The Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939-40, William R Trotter.

We waddled in, with boxes of trophies and door prizes and cards and everything, to our hipster bar and found, mercifully, no disasters at the venue. I think there was just MWS puttering around testing the games again to see what was working. We'd gone through every game a few days before listed every serious play problem any game had. He asked what we had done to the games before understanding this was a serious pre-tournament inspection. On our inspection tour --- during a show, it happened, as that was when we were able to make it --- we also posted flyers for the event on every vertical surface in the bar.

There were a few machine glitches. Ghostbusters had a weird one: the left flipper would drop a tiny bit slow, compared to the right, when you get go of the button. We had enough games in the venue --- 24 of them! --- to do without. But to live is to live ironically: the lockdown bar had not been closed last time it was serviced. So we would be able to slide the glass cover off and free a stuck ball, something we can never do there. If we were going to play it. The lockdown bar would remain un-locked for a couple of weeks. I forgot to check last time were there to see if it was still merely a suggestion. It was still dropping the left flipper slower than the right.

We would start the course as we had last year, with Junk Yard, a mid-90s Williams table. And we'd make the course order, simple as before: move to the next table on the left. The venue's got so many tables now that they're split up, into four separate areas, and we had to set rules for which area was next. So we went posting index cards saying where to move when out of games in one area, and when to go upstairs. It turned out we didn't need to go upstairs, which says something amazing about how many games there are in just half the venue. Although we did our best to take the cards down after the tournament was over, we missed one of the ones upstairs which said where to go downstairs for the next game if needed. Last week it was still there and I'm curious if it'll ever be found by responsible parties. Or if anyone even notices it; it's on the Austin Powers backglass and that's already a visually busy, jumbled thing. It's easy to lose a game in it.

[profile] bunny_hugger worried about how many people would show up, given that it was a weekday tournament not in the comfortable hammock between Christmas and New Year's. And given the worry that the Amazing Race format would turn people off. And that some people did say they couldn't come, while many others never did more than commit to ``Interested'' on Facebook. Despite all these fears, people did turn out. 13 altogether, as many as we could have before the first round would eliminate the two lowest scorers. (Eliminating multiple people allows the tournament to finish faster; our hope was to get the main event done within three hours, and we just about hit it.)

The start! Junk Yard. Fun game with a classically 90s weird theme where you're building inventions to ... escape a junkyard ... and chase the owner down in space ... and you're guided by an angel and a devil and ... I don't know. It's fun, I promise. Everyone who's a Lansing League regular has played it and knows the basics and can expect around five million points or so, most days. Ten million points on a good day. Ten million points on a single ball on a really good day. [profile] bunny_hugger surprises herself, and me, by not quite cracking two million points, a terrible performance that puts her in the bottom, to be eliminated.

But. The loser of the first match is allowed to buy a second chance. She puts another five into the funds, and just has to beat the second-lowest score to carry on as if that didn't happen. (The second-lowest person would continue too.) We realize we haven't been keeping close track of every score: people who'd beat the lowest score went on without necessarily waiting for a tournament official to lot their score. But, if you break two million on this game, you can break 2.5 million, surely close enough.

Except she doesn't.

She has an even worse Junk Yard score, knocking her out as the first loser, and first eliminated, in her own tournament, held in honor of her own heart-rabbit.

Trivia: In the 15th century Bordeaux moved the earliest date foreign merchants could ship the year's wine from 11th of November to the 25th of December. French King Louis XI switched it to the 30th of November. Source: Gold and Spices: The Rise of Commerce in the Middle Ages, Jean Favier.

Currently Reading: The Container Principle: How A Box Changes The Way We Think, Alexander Klose. Translator Charles Marcrum II.

Two weeks after the Women's World Championship and the PinMasters tournament was ... another tournament. One of our own: [profile] bunny_hugger's second March Hare Madness. The stars aligned nicely for this one, as March had a fifth Wednesday --- meaning a week when neither Grand Rapids nor Lansing pinball leagues would be playing, giving us a slightly hungrier player pool --- and her school had off Thursday and Friday for no really clear reason. This used to be a two-day break at the end of term, and they moved it to the end of March, three weeks after Spring Break, for reasons that I suppose they have.

It would have new meaning this year. Our pet rabbit died the week before the last tournament, Silver Balls. This time we could be prepared. The poster would feature his gorgeous body, and the proceeds would go, rather than to the Capital Area Human Society, instead to the Rabbit and Small Animal Rescue of Westland. They're the agency from which [profile] bunny_hugger got Stephen.

Last year's March Hare Madness was done as an Amazing Race format and this raised planning questions, specifically: do it the same way, or try a different format? In favor of doing things the same way is that this is how you build traditions. In favor of a different format was some concern that people don't like the Amazing Race format. The basic Amazing Race format is, everyone plays a table. The person with the lowest score is knocked out. Everyone else goes on to the next table. What's good about it is that it's easy to pick up. It means everybody sticks around in groups near the current wave of tables, so they can hang out and socialize. It means once you've beaten the threshold score you can walk off the rest of the game, and walking-off a game is the best feeling in pinball.

What's bad about it is, first, if you have the lowest score so far you're stuck on a table watching for someone else to bomb worse than you did. It's a vulture-y sort of gameplay. Second, it really needs someone to traffic-manage because. Someone impatient will chance that their score will beat someone and then start playing ``provisional'' games on the next couple tables, games that count only if they turn out not to be knocked out. Someone else has to track that indeterminate state of the games. You can pay for a whole game --- a dollar on some of the new tables --- and play only part of your first ball. Emotionally fine if you have to beat a challenging enough score, but a waste if it turns out the threshold is something you can get by plunging without being unlucky. And, someone comes to the tournament, pays their money, and gets knocked out first round.

Despite suggestion/warnings that maybe a different format would be more popular, [profile] bunny_hugger chose the Amazing Race and I think it was wise to. I like having varied tournament formats and this is one of the few that isn't head-to-head play.

Also up for debate: the side tournament and how to run it. This would be a triple closest-to-the-pin contest: get as close as possible to a target score on several games, without going over. By making it three tables we could have up to three winners, and hopefully treble the side-contest entry fees. This meant we had to get prizes for all three tables. We had thought we had, in previous events, won or gotten three day passes to the Klassic Arcade in Gobles, in western Michigan. It's a fine spot with a good number of tables and the closest provider of Moxie Cola I know of; we just haven't had the chance to get there and use them. And it's cheap, so the prizes would be attractive but not too much for the side tournament's junior status. But we could only find two of them, so made up the difference with a gift card for Schuler's. Schuler's is a small local bookstore chain, with outlets in Lansing, Grand Rapids, and Ann Arbor, at least one of which would be near whoever won it. It was won by the guy from Flint, which is an hour away from the nearest of those. Well, you act on your estimate of what's most likely to happen.

And there'd be more. Several friends planned on bringing door prizes. [profile] bunny_hugger refitted several of GRV's donated old trophies to fit the theme, including hare figures got from Michael's and, for the first place, a head shot of Stephen. It looked just fine.

Trivia: At least one cameraman waiting for the arrival of the Hindenburg that 6th of May, 1937, grew tired of waiting for the ship and left early. Source: The American Newsreel 1911-1967, Raymond Fielding. (I concede this sounds like an urban legend cameramen would share about missing the big one.)

Currently Reading: The Container Principle: How A Box Changes The Way We Think, Alexander Klose. Translator Charles Marcrum II.

We took our pet rabbit to the vet's for his follow-up checkup on what turned out to be the windiest day Lansing's seen in ages. When I say ``windy'' I understate things. We were getting steady winds above thirty miles per hour and gusts above sixty. We didn't lose power, but many people did, all across the lower peninsula. The vet's office had power flickering, which meant that they weren't able to actually run the blood work on him. They had to call us back the next day and, by asking for ``Mister ([livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger's last name)'' made me suspect they were another of the creditor-we-assume calls that her starter husband still gets here on occasion. He turned out to be quite well, and the touch of anemia he'd had has cleared up, probably because we've got him eating a more varied diet. While he was none too happy at the start of the checkup he apparently understood when all the examining was done, as he was happy to prowl around the waiting room and charm other folks there.

The wind, though. The wind. It made for hazardous driving. It made for school closures, with some places sending students home as early as 11 am, and have you ever heard of that? Me neither. [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger was driving --- my car was waiting for new brake calipers --- and not at all happy driving on the highway with wind pushing her car, not to mention the 18-wheelers, around like paper airplanes.

Quite a bit of stuff got damaged or destroyed, including an evergreen tree up the block. Several billboards are listing dangerously. There were fears the front of an historical church opposite the capitol would cave in, but it looks like they'll be able to shore that up. And the (opposite us) fence of one of our neighbors' collapsed, so I guess they won't be letting their dogs run in the yard for a while.

And us? As has happened the last few times, we got out of it lucky. We had a storm window blown off and land in the back yard. I thought it was from the guest bedroom, meaning it fell from upstairs and didn't shatter. Which would be really astounding, but no: it fell from the breakfast nook instead. Less stupendous. A lot of leaves and some litter fell in the backyard pond, and since the ice on that had melted I just had to spend a half-hour skimming stuff out. But we didn't lose anything more than some minor branches. And it blasted all the leaves out of the side garden and between our hedges, as well as cleaning out the seed shells underneath the bird and squirrel feeders. Really, apart from it blowing all our squirrels over into Okemos, the windstorm was a great convenience.

Trivia: French astronomer Denis Petau appears to have been, in 1627, the first person to write dates with ``BC'' for the pre-Christian-Era. Source: The Calendar: The 5000-Year Struggle to Align the Clock and the Heavens --- and What Happened to the Missing Ten Days, David Ewing Duncan.

Currently Reading: Waging War: The Clash Between Presidents and Congress, 1776 to ISIS, David J Barron.

PS: Terrible and Less-Terrible Pi, my Pi Day contribution of whatnot.

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And then Tuesday was my last day in the office and last full day in New Jersey. I did consider briefly whether I could take the train back to New York and put in a Superleague appearance, but that was just that little bit too ridiculous. Mostly because the train would leave a few minutes too soon for me to feel comfortable getting from the office over to the Trenton Transit Center. If the train set out ten minutes later I might have done it yet.

It was also a weirdly quiet day; many of the people on-staff were taking their pre-Christmas breaks. The boss was in the office, but after a brief review of the project I'd put together he didn't have more for me to specifically do. We had talked about getting my database stuff hooked up with the enthusiastic/scary database guy's projects, but he was working from home Tuesday so there wasn't much for that. I got miscellaneous little chores cleaned up, mostly little projects that are a little sluggish done over a remote LogMeIn-based connection, and worked out my expense report.

Which was good, since when I checked my e-mail about noon [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger told me of our lost rabbit's GI stasis episode. She'd rushed him to the vet's and they were starting a course of nutrition and fluids and medications that he wouldn't finish. It was almost what I'd feared might happen, and I spent the rest of the day in a daze thinking: my pet rabbit is dying. But also that he'd rallied so many times in the past year that it wasn't possible he could die yet. I was still thinking about it a lot.

I was thinking of it the next morning, when I packed up, checked out, and went to a diner/family-restaurant that my father recommended for my last meal in the state. It was a good recommendation and I kept getting distracted by the pies they had on sale. I had plenty of room in my luggage, since I'd taken the Silver Behemoth suitcase, but then I had so much space that I couldn't put a pie in there, not without it rattling around far too loose. Maybe next time.

Nothing remarkable about the drive back to the airport or returning that. What was remarkable was an e-mail from [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger about how our rabbit was doing better: he'd eaten a lot the night before, and had the sort of bowel movement suggestive of a rabbit getting through a stasis episode. I could get on the plane much more confident that things would be all right.

Also that I wouldn't take the Flyer home. [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger's brother was also flying in to Detroit, for Christmas. He wasn't going to take the Flyer, which goes to Ann Arbor or to East Lansing, because ... I don't know. It's one of those weird little petty things people sometimes do. But he also managed to somehow miss his connecting flight and so get rebooked, and also to somehow have a non-direct flight between New York City and Detroit. The result was to put him in Detroit close to when I'd get in, so it was easier for [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger to pick us both up. This would have been a great time-saver except that every flight in the world, for some reason, was assigned to the same baggage carousel and we waited, and waited, and waited, and waited for the Silver Behemoth to arrive.

And it just never did, not until after they took my flight number off the carousel board. I went to the United agent and asked if there were any plans to unload baggage from my flight. She directed me to the next carousel over where, indeed, my luggage was sitting.

The ride back to our home was emotionally confused. On the good side were me and [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger's brother talking about where we'd been and what we were doing. On the bad side was that our rabbit had taken a turn for the much worse. [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger's parents were visiting, at our home, partly so they could pick up her brother and bring him home. Partly so we could all have dinner together. Partly so they could see our rabbit for a last time.

And he was in lousy shape. He'd not moved since [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger had left him, not even to notice [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger's mother. We went out to eat at a nearby diner and kept trying to not talk about how rough he looked. He didn't seem any better when we got back from dinner either.

After her parents and brother left we gave our rabbit his evening medications, including saline and the whole works. And we tried to set out some reasonable, non-emotionally-charged rules about when we might be confident he was suffering too much to keep living.

And the next day was the scheduled veterinarian's visit that he didn't come home from.

Trivia: In 1924 Melvil Dewey, of the Decimal System, complained that as one-seventh of English letters were unnecessary ``one tree of every seven made into pulp wood is wasted''. Source: The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance, Henry Petroski.

Currently Reading: Blood Royal: A True Tale of Crime and Detection In Medieval Paris, Eric Jager.

With the relatively clean bill of health for our pet rabbit we were able to consider something we had never done with our lost rabbit. We were going to leave him unsupervised overnight.

[livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger had done this with previous rabbits. But it takes some confidence. A rabbit can go from fine to endangered just by missing a day's worth of meals. We'd never consider that with our lost rabbit, especially once his decline got bad. But we weren't sure we could bring our new rabbit to [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger's parents, not without stressing him, and without several hours' diversion to her parents. (Not that it's a burden being at her parents', except that it does take time we might not have.)

What had us planning on letting him go unsupervised was the state pinball championship. It was schedule for last weekend, at MJS's near-legendary pole barn just outside Kalamazoo. That's only about 75 minutes away, not an unreasonable drive to set out in the morning ... except that we needed to be there by 10 am, and the earlier the better since that would let us get practice in, and add to that how much earlier we have to get up to get ready in the morning and you know what? Staying in a hotel near the tournament venue made sense.

It still felt illicit setting up our rabbit to go unsupervised overnight, though. We loaded him up on hay and water, of course. And a lot of pellets. He doesn't gulp down pellets so rapidly as our lost rabbit did at the same age. He'll eat, but he'll leave some around and then come back to it, and toss his food dish around until he's shown it who's boss. And then eat more. We also loaded a lot of vegetables in, which similarly, he'll eat but not voraciously.

We weren't seriously worried, but we were nevertheless relieved to get home and see him sitting up, alert and healthy and at the edge of his pen. (We didn't give him the unrestricted roam of the house.) As we had left we told him, as we often told our lost rabbit, to watch the house. Apparently he took his charge seriously. Good omen.

Trivia: Shortly before the New Madrid Earthquake of 1811 the United States had appropriated $50,000 to help Venezuelans recover from an earthquake which killed twenty thousand poeple in Caracas. Source: The Culture of Calamity: Disaster and the Making of Modern America, Kevin Rozario.

Currently Reading: The Complete Peanuts 1983-84, Charles Schulz. Editor Gary Groth.

How Much I Did Lose In Pinball, an update on last weekend. You'll be getting the fuller story here soon.

Last week we took our new pet rabbit to the vet's for the first time. We might have done that sooner, but we did have some schedule conflicts. Also we were debating whether to buy pet health insurance while we could still honestly attest to knowing of no existing conditions. It looks like it wouldn't be worth it, even if the new rabbit has the same health problems as our lost one has. (Pet health insurance still isn't very good.)

When we put our rabbit in his carrier he peed, making a mess we'd have to clean up at the vet's. Understandable nervousness? Perhaps, but he also peed in the vet's office, and when he was taken in back for a blood sample he piddled on at least one person there. And that after the vet had massaged his bladder to force him to pee on the table, providing a urine sample that let us know his kidneys are fine Also that apparently he's as much as 85 percent bladder by volume.

It was our first visit to the vet's since we picked up our lost rabbit's ashes. We'd wondered what they might think of our getting a new rabbit so soon. The staff seemed glad more than anything else. The main veterinarian greeted us with first a couple words about our poor lost rabbit. But then he took a look at the new an said ``what a well-socialized rabbit''. And it's so; he may not be as obviously energetic or mischievous as our lost rabbit, but he is inquisitive and exploring and fearless.

The health report: he's basically fine. His kidneys are in good shape, clearly. He's a little anemic, but apparently Flemish giants are prone to that and if he gets enough pellets and hay he should be good. He's a skilled hay-eater. He did have mites, explaining why he seemed to scratch his back a lot. He's on a monthly dose of Revolution --- the same stuff that knocked out our lost rabbit's fly strike remnants --- and a week's worth of eardrops. The eardrops are kind of a relief, honestly. It was weird having a rabbit with no particular medical needs. (We give him a joint support tablet, morning and night, but that's not a necessity. It's just a ward cast against arthritis later in life.)

The best part of the day was that T----, who'd given our lost rabbit his cold laser therapy, had the time free to meet our new one. If we should happen not to see her again then our last time will be her hugging the new rabbit, delighted, and not weeping at our loss.

Trivia: The Watt and Shand Department Store of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, still used a pneumatic tube system for collecting payment and returning change through to the 1950s, rather than cash registers. Source: Service and Style: How the American Department Store Fashioned The Middle Class, Jan Whitaker.

Currently Reading: The Complete Peanuts 1983-84, Charles Schulz. Editor Gary Groth.

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Happy Valentine's Day, my love.


We've had our new pet rabbit a month now and I wanted to share how he's doing.

The big change has been he's gotten comfortable with us, and with his setting. Probably he was depressed the first couple of days; he's gotten to be much more outgoing and more active. He's still not a mischievous rabbit; he doesn't chew wires or buttons or shoes or any of the other things that our lost rabbit would have demolished given the chance. He's made a few experimental nibbles on the coffee table, and this morning I saw him take a couple chews of a cardboard box we left for him. But otherwise, nothing. It's disconcerting that he's behaving this well.

He does patrols, though, hopping around the lower floor of the house and investigating. He'll poke his head into bags, into shoes, into anything that might look like it needs inspection. He's done a couple happy hops and a few clumsy binks, which is reassuring. He does a lot of following us around. Especially [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger. While he's still a large, heavy rabbit he can somehow switch into silent mode to vanish from halfway across the room ad turn up between your feet. He's learned that he can hop onto the sofa and that he can get a good head of speed running laps on it, although he's not so crazy about actually running that long. He lies down with his legs spread out to either side of his body, the way a dog might. It's regal; it just seems weird.

The important exception to his good behavior is peeing. He'd been peeing outside his litter bins (on puppy training pads, so the floor is safe). Online advice suggested that his being left to run around his whole pen at night somehow threw off his game. We tried closing him into his pen for a few nights and that seemed to do much to get his habits back under control. But then we had to leave him with free roam of the penned area overnight, so we could make it to the state pinball championship (more on that to come). When we got back he was sitting up by the edge of the pen, staring intently at us finally being back. But he'd also peed on the pads. He's had a couple little pees on the floor since then, too.

It's frustrating that he is doing this, and that the evidence so far suggests we have to close him in his pen at night if we don't want him having accidents. But if we must do that, then, fine. He's a charmer otherwise. And he's taken to licking [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger's hand and pants and clothes. It seems to be grooming; he does his best to tug the bracelet off her wrist, possibly because he figures it's something that shouldn't be there. He licks m some, too, and nudges my feet. But I think he has a favorite already.

Trivia: The trail on the west side of Mount Palomar was ultimately named the Nate Harrison Grade, for a black man brought to Palomar as a slave in 1848 to work a mining claim, and who called himself ``the first white man on the mountain''. He died in 1920 at the age of 107; it's unclear how he financially supported himself. Source: The Perfect Machine: Building the Palomar Telescoe, Ronald Florence.

Currently Reading: The Complete Peanuts 1983-84, Charles Schulz. Editor Gary Groth.

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So how was our first week with the new rabbit?

Fair enough, I think. We knew, intellectually, that the new rabbit wouldn't be like our lost one. We didn't realize that catching him in the corner of our eyes would be so much like seeing a ghost. Our new rabbit is a little larger than the lost one. A solid grey rather than brown. He hasn't got a dewlap. His tail is surprisingly thin, considering, if long. But at a quick glance it's still spooky.

Our new rabbit spent the first couple days reserved, if not ... boring. He sat still a lot, and didn't do more than chew indifferently at his toys, most of which were ones brought from his shelter. I think that was sadness. Being adopted as an animal has to be everything that's traumatic about moving without the ability to understand anyone's promise that it'll all be okay. After a couple days he started to get more active, and he's done a couple bits of running around and even one bink. He's active, on his schedule.

He's quite well-behaved. Almost unnervingly so. It's great to have a rabbit that doesn't show any interest in chewing on cords. Our lost rabbit was a great cord-chewer up to the last year of his life. And that's fine. But he also doesn't seem interested in chewing cardboard, which he's welcome to do. What kind of rabbit doesn't chew cardboard?

He's wary of taking anything from the hand. But after a couple days he started to accept papaya tablets, one of our lost rabbit's favorite things in the world. He's a prowler; let out of his pen, and there's little reason not to let him out of his pen, he pokes around the whole lower floor. He doesn't seem interested in hopping up the steps. But he has leapt onto the sofa a couple times, and tried but failed to twice.

They promised us he was litter-trained. We did try to find where he preferred to pee and set a litter box there. But he did pee in several other spots, too, on a fleece rug backed by puppy training pads that we left for this sort of contingency. Also once when on the sofa he was coaxed into lying across [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger's lap, only to pee on her Stitch kigurumi. But that also seems to have come to a stop; at least, we haven't spotted any new pee spots. (The fleece makes it easy to see, while wicking away and drying urine rapidly.) One hypothesis is that he felt the need to make the place smell more like him, to feel more comfortably home. We'll see what happens as we changed the litter and replaced the fleece and, presumably, messed up his scent-map of the place.

He's warming up to us, I think. He's a great one for sneaking up and turning out to be at your feet. And Thursday night he both hopped onto the couch and flopped over [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger's lap, which for a rabbit is abnormally sociable. Nothing untoward happened there. He also tried a gummi coke-bottle and didn't seem to hate it, which is a bit of a freakish thing to do. He follows people. More closely, if he thinks you've got food, but he seems to like being near where we are or where the action is. That he has a knack for just happening to be underfoot makes him seem all the more relentless an investigator.

It's a lot of little adjustments, such as just the wonder of having an ambulatory, able-bodied rabbit again, and having one that's not rambunctious for all that. He's quieter than our lost rabbit, but our lost rabbit was extremely loud. He was often sneezing. He snored. He woke himself up screaming from dreams several times. Our new rabbit is just quietly present. We haven't heard a thing, yet. It's an adjustment.

Trivia: The first English poetry composed in the New World appears to have been a translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses composed by George Sandys, treasurer of Jamestown, before 1631. Source: An Empire Of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power, John Steele Gordon.

Currently Reading: Barnaby, Volume 1, Crockett Johnson.

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OK, so, news.

After our pet rabbit died we knew that someday we'd get another. When we were done grieving, when we were feeling up to it. When we saw the right one.

Just in case [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger started looking at local rabbit shelters. They might have a nice large rabbit, maybe another Flemish Giant. Maybe something similarly large. She found one. A little larger than our lost pet. More metallic. Older than our pet was when [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger first got him. The shelter wasn't sure, but, somewhere between four and six years old. Four was still a bit young. Six was as old as our pet was when I moved in. Large breeds, legendarily, don't live as long; could we get a rabbit that was already maybe in the latter half of his life? But then who else would adopt a rabbit in the maybe latter half of his life, one who'd already been in a shelter for a year-plus?

Without needing to ask me [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger filled out the application and we set up a get-to-know-you date. The shelter would bring that rabbit and some others --- in case another would be a better fit for us --- to our house. They would save us the rather long drive out to Detroit and incidentally scope us out to see if we could be trusted to care for a rabbit. They e-mailed [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger the delightful message that ``we shall come bearing bunnies''.

We spent the days ahead of Saturday cleaning the house. Getting in order our pet rabbit's hutch, getting that cleaned. Bringing back out of the basement the things we had put down there because we had no rabbit that could need them.

Too soon to look at another rabbit? A good question. It's been barely more than three weeks. But then sometimes ... you never know, about grief. [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger and I became serious when she was still in the fresh shock of her divorce, and I was only a few months farther along my own grief. But that was an unquestionably right choice.

They brought a quartet of rabbits, the greatest number of rabbits ever assembled in our house so far as we know. One, Louise I believe, was an English checkered with they suspected a bit of something else. Very lively, after a few minutes looking suspiciously out of the opened carrier. Hopped out, found something, hopped back to the carrier, back out again, and so on. Her ``sister'' --- rescued about the same time from the same spot but probably not literally a sister --- Thelma was a big white rabbit with pink eyes. Quiet, very still, but comfortable nestling up to [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger and to a lesser extent me.

Then there was Moxie, surely a good-omened name. An agouti New Zealand, large. A large one, looking enough like our dead rabbit as to be unnerving. The moreso when he overcame his uncertainty about the area and started thundering his way around the living room. We suspect he's got some Flemish. And then the last, the one which had caught [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger's eye to start.

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They didn't take him home.

They've checked with the original surrenderer and are more sure now that he's four. He's a little heavier than our lost rabbit, but the resemblance is less unsettling than Moxie's was. We did ask if he got along with the other rabbits, as we might adopt a partner. They said he got along with others, but weren't bonded. He poked his head into Thelma's carrier, a tactical mistake; she, probably feeling threatened, smacked him and he hopped out of range. She probably felt menaced and unable to retreat.

He did pee on the floor, just as the rabbit rescuers were done telling us about his good litter habits. He'd been in the carrier a long while and maybe didn't know where to find the bin. We aren't worried about this yet.

They set us up with litter and the food he's been used to --- it's not a good idea to switch rabbit foods too suddenly --- and warned us he was picky about hay, as he chomped down the hay we had. Maybe he was nervous. They also showed us a trick we hadn't thought of, that of putting some of the rectangular-grid plastic light diffusers that you put under fluorescent bulbs. It lets them use the litter without sitting in it. Thus do we learn pro tips.

So far he's been a relaxed rabbit, not racing around, not chewing, not leaping onto things. Maybe he's trying to get his bearings. Maybe he's just more mellow than our old was at that age. And maybe he's trying to process that he's not with the people who've been caring for him a year now. I would be too.

Trivia: Advisors to (Avignon) Pope Clement VI in 1345 advised the lunar calendar used for Easter calculations could be rectified by dropping four days from 1349, which would conveniently be the next year after a leap yar and the start of a new 19-year Metonic cycle. Source: The Calendar: The 5000-Year Struggle To Align The Clock And The Heavens - And What Happened To The Missing Ten Days, David Ewing Duncan.

Currently Reading: The Values Of Precision, Editor M Norton Wise.

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We got our pet rabbit's ashes back today.

It was an ordinary call left on the answering machine and we'd get to the veterinary clinic as the center of our chores around town. Driving there we thought about how the place had gone from one of the spots around town that we kind of knew but never visited to somewhere we could drive while asleep and panicked. And we tried to estimate how many times we had gone there in 2016. The figure's surprisingly low for how much it looms in our memories of the year. Probably something like forty times, which isn't that many considering. He started going in weekly much more recently than feels like. It feels like it had been forever.

His ashes came in this lovely little wooden box. And were accompanied by a scroll with that Rainbow Bridge story on it. I had never heard of this before a couple yeas ago and now it's enough everywhere that the crematory they used is even named the Rainbow Bridge Pet Crematory. Also included were a receipt that noted our pet's breed and age, down to the half-year. We understand wanting to track as much information as possible to avoid, or at least identify, identity mixups. But who could tell the difference between a 10, 10 1/2, and an 11-year-old rabbit? I suppose they just take whatever the clinic tells them.

Most of the other chores were connected to him, it happens. [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger listed the various leftover things we aren't likely to use, or couldn't use before they expired, on a disabled-rabbits pet-owners site. We're sending out the leftover pain medicine, the baby blanket he had the last weeks of his life, the bunny diapers, all these things. We're keeping things that seem likely to be useful for when we're ready for another rabbit, like the food bowls and the fleece bedding and such. We can hope it does some rabbit some good.

On the way to the clinic we remembered we had empties, used syringes and the like, that we should have returned. We'd been bringing that sort of thing in with regular appointments so it could be safely disposed. I suppose I'll take them in next year, when there's time. There's always some little bit left unfinished.

Trivia: Frank Borman arrived at the San Antonio Aerospace Medical Center for screening on the 11th of July, 1962. James Lovell on the 13th. Source: Moon Bound: Choosing and Preparing NASA's Lunar Astronauts, Colin Burgess. (William Anders was selected in the third astronaut group; Borman and Lovell were part of the second set.)

Currently Reading: Beyond The Sealed World, Rena Vale.

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This may sound heartless. But after striking our pet rabbit's area and notifying the people who must know first about his death we went out. We had chores to do. We had cards to mail. We needed to eat, and I felt we'd be better off having someone else cook and clean for us. We needed to shop. I hadn't finished getting things for Christmas; I had always trusted I'd finish things off at the bookstore where [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger works in her spare time. When we had started out for the day we'd supposed we would do that and come back to give our rabbit attention on what would probably be his last night. Now it was something to do because ... Well, as someone wise has said, action is the antidote to despair.

And we had stuff to do. Presents to get. Pieces to get for Silver Balls, the pinball tournament [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger had scheduled for Tuesday. She'd dedicate the tournament to our pet rabbit, and it's now picked up his name as part of its official title. Between the appointment and recovery and eating and buying things we need we were out to the evening and dark and the time that, if we had made a different decision, would have seen him getting his evening medications shoved into his protesting face.

We're sure we did as best as we reasonably could for him. We were able to afford, in money and in time, all the care he got. We can think of things that we did wrong and for which we'll feel guilty, particularly in not starting from the trolley design rather than wasting time with the cart that didn't work. More exercise sooner might have helped him be more comfortable longer. But we can't tell. He had a heart flutter, his last emergency vet visit revealed. He had fluid in his lungs, his final quarter-hour revealed.

If we'd known what the 22nd would bring him we probably would not have bothered with the ear drops that tormented him and the eye drops he didn't much care for, that made his last month one of watching us to see what we were inflicting on him. Why make him suffer so? ... And the reason is the same one we ever have for inflicting this on an animal. It's because it's the right thing to do every time but one.

And now there's just that weird bundle of feelings. We knew this year would likely be his last, especially after his crash in May. But it's still hard, I suppose because after so many amazing recoveries and being so caught up in his ups and downs it's hard to have nothing there. And there's all this space that we've had to walk around because it was his for so long, that now is just free to use as if it were normal. I suppose at some point I'll stop thinking about what our rabbit needs, food or medicine or whatnot.

We had some thaws, making icicles drop off our roof. One falling icicle knocked the cover off my car's side view mirror, something to come home from the vet's to. They've been falling since as the temperature gets just warm enough. The thundering crash of the big things hitting the ground keeps giving me ghost haunts. It sounds enough like our rabbit crashing into something, the way he did when he was younger and healthy and a bit clumsy for his size but fearless about getting up high.

And we're still finding stuff of his around the house. Of course we will. Fur, particularly, and droppings. They just get into everything. We probably won't have them all cleaned out until we have a new rabbit and do the sorts of deep cleaning that holidays and big parties and the like demand, and we won't be able to tell whether they're pieces of our rabbit or his successor.

And surely someday we will have another. It's impossible to think our days of having a rabbit have ended. It's so hard to imagine having another this special, though, this wonderful. Everyone who met him remarked on it. They remembered him far longer, far better than they had reason to. What other rabbit could be that extraordinary? But then what were the chances we would know this one?

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He barely looked different. He wasn't wheezing. He wasn't shivering. Even his eye was more open, and the nictitating membrane in his eyes that had been covered over in pain for so long relaxed. He was curled out in a classic relaxed pose. The one rabbits do when they feel so very secure they can sprawl out on their sides, comfortable. It's known as the Dead Bunny Flop. Correctly, it turns out.

T said goodbye to him, promising that she'd see him again someday. Again it touched and broke our hearts. We don't believe in an afterlife, but it is sweet to imagine that there might be.

T asked if we wanted a cast made of his paws. We hadn't thought about that. But we did. [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger and her parents had made one before, at Christmas of 2009, and he'd hated it. We hang it on the tree each year. Even when making it [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger knew one day it would made her sad. This day, it turns out, and this season. This postmortem cast, though ... well, he had no complaints. T trimmed his front claws, to make a slightly better cast, and cut the quick a little so a few drops of blood came out on it too. There was just barely enough room in the cast for his hind foot too, and we took that. The ornament [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger and her mother made in 2009 needed to be fired in the oven. This one will cure with time alone, which makes it a heavy-handed metaphor for what we're going through.

We gave him the last touches we would have. His hindlegs were twitching a little bit yet, the muscles of his body giving up that organization which makes something alive. T folded the towel up and around him, and we exited the surgery room.

There would be stuff to settle yet. We chose to have him cremated. We could have gotten his whole body and taken it home, or had them keep it in storage until spring when the ground would thaw and we could bury him. We independently considered and rejected that. Awful as we felt today, to imagine some April day driving to the clinic and getting his frozen carcass back --- no. He'll be cremated, and we'll get back his ashes in a week or so. His ashes alone, they tell us. Not mixed with other animals.

And so ... that was it. We told T of how much we appreciated all her work, all her love, shared with our rabbit over this. And how one of the things that broke our hearts about this was that we wouldn't see her again. Not anytime soon. When we are ready to have a new rabbit, of course we'll come back to the clinic. They're just too good not to use. But we would expect to come in once, maybe twice a year, nothing like the weekly visits that gave us a relationship with her. And she knew and understood and told us how she liked knowing us and how much joy it was to know our rabbit. And that she hoped she'd see us when we were ready for a new pet. And we hugged and cried.

So that was all the work. There was some cleaning up of the final bills. The receptionist didn't offer condolences or anything and we're not sure what that signified. Maybe it reflects that we'd already gone through such a wringer that we had to do something in the way that we would if it were normal. We probably did.

We went home. [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger did the harder job, calling her parents to say what had happened and telling our friends online what had happened. Meanwhile I did the harder job, taking down his cage and cleaning out his area for the last time, and thinking how bizarre it was that after all this time we wouldn't need his cardboard-box house cave any more.

We could clean up the living room and put away the fleece and the puppy pads and all the other things we'd arranged to deal with his inabilities. After about a year of compensating for his problems to have the living room normal again was exotic and horrible.

Just before we had set out a package arrived. It was the last attempt at compensating for the things he couldn't do anymore: a set of rabbit diapers. Really more like short pants, with a cleanable liner. It would've been something we could put on him so he could putter around the living room without the risk of messing the hardwood floor. It would probably have been useful, if he'd had a few more months in him. We had lived for so long with his death being imminent that it no longer seemed something that could happen.

And now we just have the house and the strangeness that our rabbit isn't there. He doesn't need to be fed, doesn't need an increasing list of medications, doesn't need us to check that he should be taken to the litter bin, doesn't need balls made of banana mush and pellet dust, doesn't need the fresh basil we had figured to load him up on his last day and that he couldn't have because we did not realize his last day was quite so soon.

T had said once that knowing our rabbit and made her want to get a Flemish giant, but she knew it wouldn't be like ours. There'd never be one like ours. Everyone thinks their pet is outstanding. But so many people, so separate from each other, said that about ours. He did have that charisma, that strange presence. How can we have the rest of our lives when a superlative rabbit like that is gone?

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[livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger taking full care of our rabbit, without my help, for the first time in ages worried he was declining. I thought he might, because he would get depressed when he was left with [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger's parents. But his spirits recovered after a few days, every time in the past, and surely he'd recover faster since [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger was still with him and he was still home and in his comfortable spot.

And then he didn't. He stopped eating, and stopped excreting, the classic signs of a GI stasis. His stomach was badly swollen, rippling and looking pained. This is a major crisis; in about two days of not eating a rabbit's intestinal bacteria will die off and then the rabbit follows. She rushed him to the vet's. The doctor she saw said that we should think seriously about euthanizing him. Given his age and the pain he was in and the difficulty recovering from another stasis episode like this it would be astounding if he did recover. [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger didn't feel comfortable putting him down with me out of town. And he'd come back from so many incidents this year already. Why not one more? She took his medicines, and checked with me about how to best infuse the saline solution into his back.

And what do you know but this rabbit, so battered by age and illness, started getting better. In the evening he was eating greedily. In the morning he passed a huge lump of pellets. They weren't quite perfect, but they suggested good things. [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger sent me, at the airport, the optimistic news: he might just pull off yet another recovery.

And I flew home, and [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger's brother flew home, and we waited around forever for my luggage because they changed the baggage carousel it was coming out on and didn't bother to tell anyone on my flight. And meanwhile [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger warned, after the bright morning it was looking bad again. Our rabbit wasn't eating. He was looking exhausted, beaten. He wasn't even reliably taking the banana balls, mushed up banana and food pellets that he had up to the last few days inhaled.

Back home [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger's brother and her parents got their good, and last, look at him. He hadn't moved. He hadn't eaten. He just lay where he was, looking miserable. We gave him his afternoon-to-evening medicines and force-fed him some critical-care powder and he fought that off to his poor best. We went to dinner, and her brother and her parents went to her home. We set him in his trolley and instead of standing shakily he fell forward, face on the ground, looking up miserably until we took him out of the torture harness. And we thought out our options.

We had a cold laser treatment scheduled for Thursday. It's part of the care he's been getting. We were never sure the cold laser did anything positive for his arthritis; the mechanism by which it's supposed to work feels doubtful to us. The main benefit was we had him seen by a vet tech every week. Most often T----. She had good eyes. She spotted a bunch of problems. She started to give him treats, fresh vegetables from her garden, apples when the garden finally died after the long summer and gentle autumn. She touched and broke our hearts when she mentioned how each week she prayed she'd see our pet rabbit again. It made us think of the day we would have to call and say we didn't need any more appointments.

We decided to keep the appointment. If he was recovering then the cold laser would be good for whatever it was good for. If he wasn't then it could do him no harm. And it might be T's last chance to see our rabbit. And she might be able to say if he was recovering, or likely to recover. We resolved. If he seemed to be getting better Thursday morning we would continue treating him. If he seemed the same or worse we'd set an appointment for his euthanasia. For Friday, to be cancelled if he seemed better Thursday night or Friday morning. If they were open; we realized what holiday hours might do to them.

Thursday morning I cried in the shower, so loud that [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger heard me, under the noise of the shower and downstairs by him.

Normally we're happy at the vet's. Our rabbit normally was too. He liked the change of setting, all the attention he got. The way T would call him ``Superbunny'' in picking him up and moving him to the treatment table. It was because he couldn't pull his legs in, so he looked caught in mid-leap. She didn't call him that today. We told her, unless there were a dramatic change this would be the last cold laser treatment. Would they be open Friday?

She had an apple, sliced, for him. Of course she would. It almost broke us. She always gives him treats. He wasn't interested in eating anything, anything at all. Even a normal week he'd need time to warm up to the apples. This ...

T examined him. His infection wasn't better. His belly was bloating again. He was grinding his teeth. His eyes --- their nictitating membranes were folding over. It's a sign of enduring pain. She said he appeared to be in a lot of lasting pain. That she had never seen a rabbit recover from a GI stasis this severe. Did we really want to wait for tomorrow?

And that was it. We might fool each other. We might say one of the veterinarians was more pessimistic about his chances than fair. We might say one of the other technicians, the ones who would see him only occasionally, might judge him wrong. But if even T believed that he was in too much pain with so little chance of recovery to last another day then all was lost.

She gave us time, to think it over, to cry, to hold our rabbit again. And for her to cry too. She said he was her favorite rabbit. Maybe her favorite patient.

T warned us the doctors were out of the clinic and wouldn't be back for a half-hour. Or she could do it if we did not want to wait. She described the process and I didn't realize we would be allowed to be there. A decade-plus ago with another vet when [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger needed her rabbit euthanized they didn't let her see it. And for the reason she suspected. The rabbit might scream even though unconscious. We've heard our rabbit scream. He occasionally had nightmares that would wake him up. It's an unsettling sound, not least because it's a loud noise from a rabbit.

We told T that if she thought she could do it, then we would rather she did. Our rabbit knew T. He wouldn't be distressed at something a bit out of the ordinary happening. We could ease him into this as best we could. We had a last round of petting him, of holding him, of telling him how we loved him. T joined in.

We took him to the surgery room. T fit the gas mask over him. A cone, about the size of a styrofoam coffee cup, with a rubber gasket on the wide end so small animals of all sizes could fit in. He let this on, proof beyond measure that he had given up. T turned on the anaesthetic. We kept touching him. We pulled some plugs of tangled fur out from the parts of his body he could no longer groom, and wondered why we were doing such a pointless thing. Because we always tug out plugs of tangled fur when we're at the vet's. Why would we stop for this visit?

He breathed in for several minutes, getting slower, more steady, more near the end. He looked to be asleep at last.

And then he shook awake, and tried to push this foreign cone off his head. Because of course he would. That was who he was.

And for a moment I doubted and thought we should stop and take him out because if he was doing this then he wasn't yet gone. [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger had the same thought. But I knew it was futile. The last doubts you have before doing something irreversible. She knew it too.

T increased the anaesthetic. We waited a little more. T was sure that our rabbit was knocked out. She drew up the shot for the heart, the one that would finally kill him. She put the needle into his chest.

She found his lung. The lung had fluid in it. A sign of trouble. Likely pasteurella, which is what kills rabbits if nothing else kills them. Probably it was the infection he'd had the last month of his life. Probably he had always had it; he always had sniffled and coughed and snored more than normal for rabbits, but it had usually been well-controlled.

She tried again, and again once more before finding his heart. I wonder how she knew. I suppose it must be in the way the tissue feels as the needle comes into it.

She injected, and she waited. And she listened with the stethoscope. And she said, ``He's gone.''

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Let's see. How to talk about our pet rabbit's last days. After the flystrike in July that brought him so close to death things stabilized again. By October he was even doing tolerably well: alert, responsive, able to move a little bit. We had some dread suspicion this might be that ``final rally'', but after all, he'd come back from (last year) a GI stasis episode, (this year) arthritis, a bone cancer scare, ringworm, whatever his May crash was, a sinus infection, and the fly's terrible attentions. With nothing having gone wrong in a while, and with fresh pain medicine --- tramadol, applied daily to alternate ears --- why shouldn't he be doing better?

We had ambitions of doing better yet. We had been trying to build a wheelchair, a cart to hold him up so his useless hindlegs wouldn't keep him immobile. The first design didn't work at all; he fought to keep from getting put in it, and he could only make it roll backwards, as he tried that hard to get out of its harness. We tried to think of ways to modify the wheelchair a while, before finally giving up on that, without a clear idea what a good alternate plan would be. We tried putting baby socks on him, to give him better traction. That was adorable, but it didn't help his footing any. It did make it easier to keep his hindlegs clean, if we couldn't carry him to the litter box before he had to go. Everyone thought the bunny in socks the most adorable thing.

Come November we had an alternate plan in mind, that [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger dubbed a trolley. It's this four-wheeled thing, with a cross brace, and a hammock slung under it. Our rabbit was skeptical of this but came to accept it, especially after a little experimentation proved that he was able to move it. With help. We had set castor wheels on the base and they didn't turn quite so easily as we wanted. The trouble was that any floor smooth enough to let the wheels move freely on was too slick for his front legs to drag along. With a little nudge or a little lifting of the hindwheels he could overcome the friction and putter along. Or without he could shuffle sideways at least, moving three wheels at once. We tried to work out alternate ways of setting him or alternate wheels we might put in or other designs for the thing that might treat him better, and we did not work it out in time.

In November we realized he was sniffling again. And his eyes were moist. The vet suspected an ear infection, spreading to his eyes and nose. We started a fresh battery of medicines. This included two separate eyedrops and some ear drops. He would take the eyedrops in good order. The ear drops he hated, thoroughly, and resisted as he did little else. Once we put the five drops into his ears he would shake his head around, making this sloshing sound that was funny until you remembered he shook like that for how much he hated the experience.

And midway through this regimen I had to leave. My boss back in New Jersey wanted me in the office for a week or so. It seemed like a harmless enough week to go, conflicting with nothing essential around here and if it did chop up the Christmas season at least ... I don't know.

When I left town our rabbit was what we called all right, considering. He needed us to lift him into and out of his litter box, and he was getting all the more fussy and particular and fickle about eating. But he'd take his medicine, apart from the ear drops, all right. And if he were set up in his trolley he could move some, and seemed content to stand, which he hadn't been able to do unaided in so long. And if he was weak, he was at least still interested, watching, active.

I joked that he was excited to see me finally leaving, a throwback to the first days after I'd moved in, four and a half years ago, when I thought he gave me suspicious looks for intruding on his life with [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger. He wasn't excited, or if he was it was because he knew me bringing bags down implied we were going on vacation and he'd be brought to [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger's parents. Probably he was confused when that never happened.

But that morning when I left for the taxi I just assumed was arriving at the time I'd reserved for one was the last time I saw him in basically-all-right-for-him-anymore shape.

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Nov. 1st, 2016 12:10 am
austin_dern: Inspired by Krazy Kat, of kourse. (krazy koati)

So [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger and I didn't make finals. Neither did MWS. CST did, so he'd have to get up early Saturday to compete in the B Finals. That's fine; he likes that. A couple other folks from Michigan Pinball would make finals in their divisions. A small set but some folks, at least. My friend JIM had been banished the D Division for the second day; he wouldn't make finals there either. D Division it turns out had a bit of a mercy rule; whether you qualified for finals in that depended only on your Friday performance. Thursday's was washed clean. When we got up we'd hear some things about who was still playing and who wasn't and we'd be startled by the people who took off the minute they weren't up for anything more. I mean, even if you weren't playing for finals there was still a side tournament and there was still the whole ReplayFX convention going on. But maybe they had tighter work schedules, or were that bothered by separations from family, or things like that. Maybe they had obligations they could only put off a little bit.

We would not be heading home. We were getting updates on our pet rabbit's health and making, as we had agreed, a day-to-day decision about whether to leave early. The information we got was mixed, as ever, because these things are never quite easy, are they? But the news was that our pet rabbit wasn't moving around much. He was eating, although without enthusiasm. But he was finishing most of his vegetables and a good part of his pellets.

I thought, with what I hoped wasn't self-delusion, that this was basically all right. Our pet rabbit would always spend a day or two moping about being left at [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger's parents' house before he got to feeling himself. And eating most of his food is OK. A rabbit not eating is a disaster. But we do feed him as though he were hale and healthy and we've never seriously looked at how much he ought to eat considering his lowered activity level.

As it's turned out since July, he's gotten some weight back and even a surprising amount of energy and strength back. This past week he's even managed to push himself up to standing on all fours, which we'd imagined we would never see again. He's even managed to stabilize himself after attempting to hop, which again, astounds us. And once I set him in the kitchen sink, for a quick bath, and he managed to keep himself stable on that surface for a good four or five minutes. He's almost acting as if he weren't so arthritic as to make his hindlegs a mockery.

Yes, we worry about that because we can't just take good news. Everyone has stories of the terminally ill managing one last rally before the end. But for right now he's in much better shape than we could have imagined he'd be back at the end of July, back at Pinburgh. His mood, his energy level, his engagement with the world looks really good. We'll be content with that for now.

Back then, though, we thought about the data we had and we hoped we were making a decision more based on what he actually seemed to need than on how much we wanted to stay wrapped up in this grand pinbal convention. And we chose to stay at the convention. This proved to be right, or at least proved to be all right. We stayed the whole convention and a day after and our pet rabbit seemed fine for all that.

Saturday was going to be the day that our nice little pinball convention had the presidential election dropped on its head, though.

Trivia: The Cleveland American League team, cheated of the 1908 pennant, first made it to the World Series in 1920. They won then, but it was the year of the Black Sox scandal. Source: Crazy '08: How a Cast of Cranks, Rogues, Boneheads, and Magnates Created the Greatest Year in Baseball History, Cait Murphy.

Currently Reading: Pythagoras and the Pythagoreans: A Brief History, Charles H Kahn.

We bought tickets for Pinburgh late last year. We had to. The four-day tournament, running a Thursday through Sunday, is competitive pinball's biggest. It was held this year during the ReplayFX convention, in the same convention center that hosts Anthrocon. It would sell out its seven hundred ticket slots in something like twelve minutes after sales opened. We were getting good enough to at least think we wouldn't humiliate ourselves there. And everyone, everyone who had ever been there talked about how it was the greatest pinball competition.

And late last year we had no reason not to plan on going. Our pet rabbit was ageing, and he was no longer able to get to the top of his hutch the way he used to. He'd suffered a gastric stasis incident, where his intestines were briefly clogged. But we'd caught that and got him back to tolerably all right. He'd been doing all right if gradually worse through spring. Then he had the bone cancer scare. Then he had his complete collapse when we went to see my sister and her family in late May. Then the fly strike incident, which was barely two weeks before Pinburgh.

Could we risk going? If we did go, might he have another May-style collapse? Could going off for a week's recreation kill our rabbit? Did we have to cancel Pinburgh, to disappoint both ourselves and a remarkably wide swath of the Michigan pinball community? (What can I say, we're liked, especially [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger, who's extremely easy to like.) What if just one of us stayed behind to watch our rabbit? (I was ready to stay behind.)

We decided finally that if our pet rabbit seemed stable in the days before Pinburgh we would go. We'd leave him with [livejournal.com profile] bunny_hugger's parents, a reaffirmation that of course we trust them. But we would skip the carpooling with MWS or CST, as much as carpooling on the drive to Pittsburgh would make sense. We'd want to be able to leave in case of sudden horrible news. MWS and CST tried to coax us into carpooling again, pointing out that CST planned to leave midway through the event, if he didn't make finals after the first two days. And MWS could go early the Sunday or on Monday if necessary, though he hoped to stick around for Monday and a day at the Kennywood amusement park. We hoped so too. But we didn't feel comfortable making our contingency plans something that could screw up our friends' fun too.

So there we had it. We'd make the drive once more to Pittsburgh, and hope that there would be no sad e-mails from home.

Trivia: The sprayed-on ablative insulator on the X-15 rocket plane (and a version of what was used on the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo capsules) was naturally pink. It was covered with another, white, layer to protect it from liquid oxygen. Source: At The Edge Of Space: The X-15 Rocket Program, Milton O Thompson.

Currently Reading: The Complete Peanuts, 1973-74, Charles M Schulz. Editor Gary Groth. Boy, you forget how story-heavy the strip was in this era, and nearly all of them really solid stories.