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Therapy bunnies bringing comfort and joy to Florida seniors this holiday season

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Posted at 2:01 PM, Nov 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-24 16:49:30-05

PINELLAS PARK, Fla. — Some of the residents at Grand Villa Senior Living Community in Pinellas Park, Florida, are a little more frolicky than others.

"They like to be snuggled," said Lorna Peterson, a resident.

"They" are Buns and Lilly, two therapy bunnies who live at the facility.

"You put the bunny on them and they hold it and they just decompress," said Max Piasecki, the leasing coordinator and bunny trainer for Grand Villa.

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Piasecki says it all started when the company's COO took his daughter and her new bunny to visit her grandmother at one of the facilities.

"The next thing they knew, they were surrounded by residents. They wanted to see the baby bunny, they wanted to hold the baby bunny," said Piasecki. "And there was one resident there who had not spoken in a long time, and once she held the bunny, she started telling stories about how her dad used to build bunny cages, and how much of a joy and comfort this baby bunny that she was holding was for her."

He says the COO saw what a breakthrough moment it was and ordered bunnies for all 18 locations. Piasecki raises each bunny from a baby and litter box trains them before they come to live at each facility. The company has a total of 40 bunnies throughout their communities that are cared for by the staff.

"It helped with the staff trying to calm a resident down that’s upset. If they’re looking for their spouse or a family member, they hand them the bunny and say, 'Can you help me with the bunny?' And now they have a little bunny that they’re focused on," said Piasecki.

The little bunnies bring a lot of comfort and joy to residents this holiday season.

"It's amazing to see how such a small animal can make such a big impact on a human being like that," said Piasecki.

This story was originally published by Wendi Lane at WFTS.