Tuesday, July 26 , 2016, 6:35 am | Fog/Mist 62º

  • Follow Noozhawk on LinkedIn
  • Follow Noozhawk on Pinterest
  • Follow Noozhawk on YouTube
 
 
 
 

Therapy Bunny Brings a Soft Touch to Local Nursing Home Residents

Axel Rose, a certified pet volunteer for Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care, makes the rounds in Santa Barbara and Goleta

Easter came a bit early for residents of local nursing homes in Santa Barbara and Goleta when they got a chance last week to spend time with a therapy bunny that is a certified pet volunteer for Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care of Santa Barbara.

Tucked inside a wicker basket, dwarf bunny Axel Rose made the rounds at several places, including Heritage House, where he was cuddled by residents.  

Axel's owner, hospice volunteer and animal trainer Andrea Bratt, carried him around to say hello to residents, who each got a chance to pet the small bunny and hold him.

"At first they're a little hesitant. Sometimes people even ask me if he's real," Bratt said of the bunny, who has black rings around his eyes, making them look almost cartoonish.  

Heritage House resident Martha Riel was glowing after getting a chance to hold Axel on the residence's patio.

"I love all little bunnies," she said. "It was wonderful to hold him."

Axel is a rescue bunny from Bunnies Urgently Needing Shelter, and is a certified therapy pet. Bratt, who has even trained Axel to do a dance routine, said sometimes Axel is able to connect with hard-to-reach people in ways no one else could.

Bratt became a volunteer while visiting the organization's loan closet, where people in the community can borrow things such as wheelchairs and crutches at no cost.

She was borrowing a wheelchair to help train her dogs when a volunteer for Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care told her about the program. Bratt went through the volunteer training and her animals, already certified as therapy pets, come with her on visits.

Arlene Stepputat, VNHC's manager of volunteer services, owns a certified therapy cat named Angel who also visits hospice clients and said animals often make an instant connection.

"Part of that is because animals are unconditionally loving," she said, adding that people also benefit from the kinesthetic experience of petting an animal like Axel. "They have a lot to teach us about being present and being still and listening."

She said the organization has four pet therapy dogs, but Axel is the only bunny.

Volunteers with hospice go through extensive training, she said, and the organization has about 120 people who currently volunteer.

Animal volunteers must be certified through an outside organization — dogs through Therapy Dog International and non-canines through Love on a Leash — and also be certified by their veterinarians that they are up to date on their vaccinations and have the appropriate disposition, Stepputat said.

To learn more about volunteering with VNHC, click here to visit its volunteer webpage.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Reader Comments

Noozhawk's intent is not to limit the discussion of our stories but to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and must be free of profanity and abusive language and attacks.

By posting on Noozhawk, you:

» Agree to be respectful. Noozhawk encourages intelligent and impassioned discussion and debate, but now has a zero-tolerance policy for those who cannot express their opinions in a civil manner.

» Agree not to use Noozhawk’s forums for personal attacks. This includes any sort of personal attack — including, but not limited to, the people in our stories, the journalists who create these stories, fellow readers who comment on our stories, or anyone else in our community.

» Agree not to post on Noozhawk any comments that can be construed as libelous, defamatory, obscene, profane, vulgar, harmful, threatening, tortious, harassing, abusive, hateful, sexist, racially or ethnically objectionable, or that are invasive of another’s privacy.

» Agree not to post in a manner than emulates, purports or pretends to be someone else. Under no circumstances are readers posting to Noozhawk to knowingly use the name or identity of another person, whether that is another reader on this site, a public figure, celebrity, elected official or fictitious character. This also means readers will not knowingly give out any personal information of other members of these forums.

» Agree not to solicit others. You agree you will not use Noozhawk’s forums to solicit and/or advertise for personal blogs and websites, without Noozhawk’s express written approval.

Noozhawk’s management and editors, in our sole discretion, retain the right to remove individual posts or to revoke the access privileges of anyone who we believe has violated any of these terms or any other term of this agreement; however, we are under no obligation to do so.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.



Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >