Hiking for Healing
August 3, 2022
They say it flows in stages, but for me, it’s been a rollercoaster.
Denial. Anger. Denial. Bargaining. Anger. Acceptance. Denial.
I’m all over the place, bouncing like the heavy metal ball in a pinball machine from emotion to emotion. As time passes, one emotion will settle in and then bam! A tsunami of a different one comes crashing in.
Have you experienced this too? How do you get through it?
I’ve found something that helps me heal but first, let me share the backstory so you understand the source of my pain.
Moving away for college, I really missed having a furry animal companion around at school. But even the off campus apartments I lived in sophomore year didn’t allow pets.
Did this dissuade me?
I just had to get creative.
In middle school, I’d had a couple bunnies. They were great, but as I started getting busier in high school—AP classes, work, friends—I felt bad about the lack of attention they were getting and gave them up.
I felt so guilty but I knew it was for the best.
So enter this idea in college—I could get a rabbit!
They are small, easy, and don’t need to go outside so I could easily have one in the apartment. And bonus—I still had the cage and gear from middle school.
This idea stewed and brewed.
I wanted a tortoise colored one like my first bunny, Cinnabun.
I was going to name him Harley, like the motorcycle.
And I was never, ever, ever going to get rid of him. I’d correct my earlier failures and Harley and I would be together for his full life. All 7-12 years according to Google.
So January 2010, my mom drove me out to a breeder in Delano, MN and I was introduced to two male bunnies.
After an agonizing debate, I handed over my $35 and the tiny 8 week old brown fur ball became my Harley.
Boy did God lead me in the right direction that day.
Baby Dani and baby Harley
Harley loved to explore. Under the bed, in the living room, a little hop into the trash can. He wanted to see it all.
And he was cuddly too. We quickly established our routine snuggles and kisses. He’d put up with unnatural positions for photos as long as he got a carrot.
will do anything for carrots
he only tolerated this because he knew a carrot was coming
the best snuggles
We continued with these routines for years. Getting to know each other’s personalities better. Growing, maturing, bonding.
In 2013, I moved into my own apartment for the first time. Not having roommates, Harley became an even bigger part of my day.
The first life I’d talk to in the morning. The last I’d talk to at night. He was my companionship while at home. My buddy for cuddles. The other heart beat under my roof.
We weren’t often apart, but when I did travel he was pretty easy.
If I was gone for a few days, I could load up his food and water and he’d be okay. Longer than that and I could take him to a friend’s.
As I started to get more into hiking or a weekend backpacking trip, that flexibility was great.
Routine goodbyes before heading out for an overnight trip
Healthwise, Harley’s checkups went really well for years! “No concerns here” the vet would say.
Until one day in 2019. April 18th to be exact.
In my journal the following day I started the entry with “yesterday was not a good day.”
While doing my one allotted day of work from home for the week, I saw Harley have a seizure.
It was awful.
The vet ran some tests and didn’t find any concerns so we were sent home with instructions to monitor and keep a log of future seizures. He said rabbits respond well to meds, but they don’t like to start that until the seizures are more frequent.
So log we did.
Sometimes it’d be months between me seeing one.
Sometimes it’d be days.
But only working at home one day a week it was hard to know if I was just missing them.
And then COVID hit.
Suddenly I was in my apartment with my sweet baby Harley all day, every day.
Over a two day span in March, I saw three seizures.
I brought him to the vet the next day and we started him on zonisamide.
The meds helped to reduce the frequency of his seizures, but they didn’t fully go away. I’m convinced I slept lighter these last couple years, constantly listening for the sound of Harley having another one.
My Quarantine buddy
In addition to seizure meds every 12 hours, we also started Harley on pain meds that summer for arthritis which is another common issue in rabbits.
The seizure meds I had to bury in applesauce or spread on a lettuce leaf, but the pain meds—he’d lick the spoon clean!
With the increased care requirements, my overnight adventures were significantly reduced, but I was happy to do it. I loved Harley and I wanted to do whatever I could to support him.
And we made it a solid run from there. I’m so appreciative of the extra time I had with him due to the shift to work from home.
He did really well for the most part. We had one little lump removed in December 2021 to avoid future discomfort. And until May 2022, there were no personality changes. He was still eating regularly.
But toward the end of May I started to get worried.
I could tell his arthritis was impacting his mobility more. He was losing weight. Napping more.
But still so eager to cuddle and give kisses.
As we rolled into June, he took a turn for the worse.
He was having trouble walking. His weight continued to decline. His eating slowed.
And then he wouldn’t touch his pain meds.
I knew for sure at that point he was ready so I made an appointment for the next day.
We spent our remaining time cuddling. But does it ever feel like enough?
On June 10th we said goodbye.
And I’ve been on the grief roller coaster since.
How long does it take to heal from losing something you’ve loved for 12.5 years?
I’m not sure I will fully heal. I think the best I can hope for is to get it to a dull ache.
But I’ve found something that has helped. Something that has been a part of my life for 10 years but I’m now able to do with it’s original freedom—hiking.
I’m hiking for healing.
There’s something about being out in nature.
Admiring God’s landscapes. Breathing in the scent of pine trees, watching clouds dance and morph across the sky. Seeing the sky change colors as the sun rises and sets. Hearing the gentle trickle or crashing roar of flowing water.
There’s something healing about being in my body.
Physically present. Aware of the gentle burn in my legs. Feeling the sensation of air flowing into and out of my lungs. Feeling my heart beat, strong and fast in my chest. Feeling the wind blow across my skin and through my hair. Feeling the warmth of the sun on my face.
The combination of being in my body, present with what it’s feeling, and being in nature, soaking it in with all my senses—it’s healing.
So as I work to mend my heart, as I work to form new daily routines and habits, I’ll also be hiking.
Hiking for healing.
Interested in hiking Horn Peak? Check out the details here!
For some other healing hikes, check out Columbine Lake, Lewis Mine, Highland Mary Lakes, and Cross Mountain.