After completing the Pet Partners Course (at UNC Greensboro) and successfully completing the Pet Partners Evaluation, my bunny Cheerio is going to become the first Delta Society Pet Partner bunny in the area!
Of course, I cannot take credit for everything. As the handbook says, success reflects what happens at both ends of the leash. Some people may be curious about how this process works with a bunny. I was a little nervous myself. The Delta Society has strict guidelines which apply to all animals that become Pet Partners. Considering that most partners are cats or dogs, I wasn't sure if a bunny would be able to remain calm in a therapeutic setting.
It was a coincidence that my final evaluation was scheduled in a rehab/therapy setting. Upon entering the facility, Cheerio was surrounded at once by residents, some of whom had never seen a pet rabbit. The director of the facility greeted me and introduced me to a resident who has severe mental and physical disabilities. He was friendly and wanted to know if he could pet my bunny. I said yes and I helped him use his hand to rub the top of Cheerio's head. Surprisingly, Cheerio was calm and accepting. I expected this would cause stress, but it did not. The director explained to me that this resident had been in the facility for over 20 years and had never seen a rabbit in person. She assured me that this was an unforgettable experience for him, and he would be talking about it for weeks.
I encountered several residents as I made my way toward the evaluation room. Everyone was excited and enthusiastic about meeting Cheerio. Even the evaluators were happy to have a different type of animal to evaluate. Cheerio passed each test "with flying colors." I was also able to tell the evaluator a few facts about rabbits that she did not already know.
It will be several weeks until I get my official badge and can practice as a Pet Partner Team. I may be given a vest for Cheerio, but I doubt he will let me put it on him. He is a bunny with a unique personality. He actually thumps at me when I annoy him! I am always amazed at the effect animals have on people. Cheerio makes me happy every day. I cannot wait to share him with others as a Pet Partner Team.