Sep 17, 2017 Children enjoy new school pet
Photos and story
by Sonja J. Keith
Students at the Grace Learning Center have a new furry friend.
A couple of months ago, a young rabbit named Thor joined the preschool facility, located at Grace United Methodist Church in West Conway. When the center is open, Thor makes his home in the church prayer garden, according to Brandy Hansberry, children’s minister and GLC director. When the preschool is not in session, at night and on weekends, Brandy transports the rabbit in a carrier to her home.
Deanna Shaw, a member of Grace, gave the rabbit – given a strong superhero name – to the GLC after he was used to help train a family dog not to over-react when rabbits were in the yard at home. “He was such a gentle rabbit,” Deanna said, adding that she thought he would find a good home at the learning center.
According to Brandy, Thor has found a home, where he is loved by children and staff. “I kept the name,” said Brandy, adding that Thor is very social and seems to respond to his name.
The students are fascinated by their furry friend and Thor has been a big help. As an example, Brandy said one boy was a little uncertain of his new class and became upset. The two went into the prayer garden to spend some time with Thor. “He instantly stopped crying,” she said, adding that children can pet the rabbit. “He just calmed the little boy down and he returned to class.”
Thor appears to have adapted quite well to his new surroundings in the prayer garden, hopping among the benches and water fountain. He leaves the landscaping alone and eats only the weeds. The location is open but secure, surrounded by the walls of the church. “It’s a nice fit,” Brandy said. “We don’t have to worry about predators or him getting out.”
Brandy said Thor is litter box trained and does not go to the bathroom in his carrier or while inside the church or her home. In addition, she said his cage is very easy to clean out. “It’s amazing to me how smart they are,” she said. “They are such clean animals.”
Thor is also being trained to wear a harness and be on a leash.
Brandy describes Thor’s demeanor as “very calm” and “gentle.” She said he is very social and curious, and enjoys being held. More than one person has commented that when they sat on a bench in the prayer garden, Thor came up to them to check them out.
In addition to Thor, one GLC class has a room pet – a hamster named Hamburger. “Thor is our first, school-wide pet,” Brandy said, adding that the children weren’t quite sure what to expect when the rabbit made the center its home but he has been widely accepted.
Thor is a nice addition to the learning center, according to Brandy, because children have an opportunity to care for a pet and learn responsibility. “I think it’s important to learn to care for something other than yourself,” she said, adding that students learn responsibility by helping with Thor’s water and food.
Since he made the GLC his home, Brandy has researched his care and learned a lot about rabbits. “Yes, I’ve become quite the expert,” she said with a smile. His care includes annual trips to a veterinarian for shots and to have his teeth checked. Brandy would like to see another male rabbit added, to help keep Thor company.
Brandy said she is happy with the new addition to the learning center and the preschool children are too. “I think Thor brings joy because the kids love to see him.”