by Lee Juslin
Mongo, a Californian bunny, got a rough start in life. Abandoned by his owner at about six months of age, he had some significant health issues by the time the Georgia House Rabbit Society, a bunny rescue group, found him.
After tending to his health needs, the group set about finding him a permanent home. Enter Danielle. Mongo and Danielle proved to be a good match because Danielle had had a rabbit as a child and knew how to care for them, and also because Mongo gave Danielle one of his special hugs at their first meeting.
For all his early hardships, Mongo proved to be an unusually loving and cuddly bunny. “I knew he was the one when I first saw him, because he snuggled right into my arms and there was that hug that really got me. Now, he gets up on the bed and sleeps with me the entire night. If he gets hungry or needs to use his litter box, he gets down and then comes back to bed,” said Danielle.
Mongo, named for a character in the movie, Blazing Saddles, weighs in at ten pounds which is large for a rabbit, but that just means there is more Mongo to cuddle. With his sweet personality, he has proven to be the perfect therapy for Danielle when she comes home from a stressful day spent studying in pharmacy school.
“When I realized how much he loved people and how good he was at reducing my stress level, I started to think about pet therapy.” After some research, Danielle contacted a local pet therapy group called Happy Tails Pet Therapy in Atlanta, and they happily admitted Mongo.
Today, Danielle and Mongo make regular visits to Hillside Psychiatric Hospital which is a long term care facility for children, and Peachford, a long term psychiatric facility for adults. In addition, Mongo and Danielle are available for special callouts to other facilities when Mongo’s special hugs are needed.
At Hillside, in addition to visiting, Danielle does a lot of education, teaching the children about animals and how to treat them. They go out to the facility’s tennis courts where Danielle spreads out a blanket for Mongo and the kids take turns stroking and cuddling him. They also enjoy pushing him in his carriage which Mongo enjoys too, often riding with his paws up on the front bar so he gets a good view. During the visit, Danielle talks about bunnies and other animals and serves as a sounding board for the kids. It’s just good for these children to have someone else to talk to and share things with besides the nurses and staff.
At Peachford, Mongo sits in laps to be cuddled where he usually falls asleep. He can often be heard doing what Danielle calls tooth purring, which is rubbing his teeth together. It’s what bunnies do when they are happy, similar to purring with cats. Of course, he is also generous with his patented hugs. Aside from curling up in laps, Mongo loves to have his back and shoulders rubbed. But, Danielle is always careful to lift Mongo herself and not let any of the residents lift him, because bunnies are pretty fragile.
Aside from his tooth purring, Mongo has been known to snort and growl at other animals, like dogs, that get too close, but with people, Mongo is just a big bundle of love.
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