Carla completed her training with Bunnies in Baskets out of Portland, Oregon, and has now become a regular volunteer at seniors' homes across Chatham-Kent. (Photo courtesy of Margaret Gough.)

Local Therapy Rabbit Brings Companionship To Seniors

Carla knows how to hop her way into your heart.

The friendly and furry four-legged companion has become a regular volunteer at seniors’ homes across Chatham-Kent.

That’s because she’s a therapy rabbit.

“Carla just has a wonderful personality,” says Margaret Gough, adding Carla actually belongs to her daughter Lauren. The two were united at the 4-H Rabbit Club.

Lauren, also being in high school, is required to have a number of community service hours in order to graduate. Looking for a way to marry her required volunteering with Carla’s calm, the mother-daughter duo from Chatham-Kent decided to train their family member into a therapy pet.

Carla now goes out into the community a couple of times a month for therapy visits. She went to the Blenheim Community Village on Thursday, but will enjoy the Easter long weekend at home.

Photo courtesy of Margaret Gough.

Photo courtesy of Margaret Gough.

“She is a rabbit and rabbits can get stressed pretty easily,” Margaret says. “We watch her body language when we’re doing visits, so if she’s showing any signs of stress we cut the visit short and we give her a break.”

Carla also participates in the Reading Buddies program at the Wallaceburg Library, where the power of pet therapy is beyond doubt.

“Carla will go and sit in her basket and listen to the kids read,” Margaret says. “There’s been studies done that they feel more confident reading to a rabbit than to an actual adult.”

As tempting as it is not to be inspired by Carla, rabbits are not Easter gifts, Margaret maintains.

“We provide the therapy and companionship for seniors, but we also teach about proper care of rabbits,” she says. “We don’t want to promote animals as gifts because kids think they’re cute for the first few days and then they realize it’s a lot of work.”