While rabbits can make great emotional support, they shouldn’t be brought into the home as a pet for only this purpose, Martin said.
Just like cats and dogs, she said, rabbits have a wide range of personalities. Some enjoy their independence, and others might be more needy or affectionate.
“I would just want people to make sure that they would want the rabbit even if they felt like they weren’t medication,” she said.
Finn, who rose to college celebrity status over the past year, and Budgie, who has helped one woman live through Parkinson’s for more than a decade, have supported their owners through some of life’s biggest challenges.
Finn the big red bun
Erin Scannell said Finn, her 2-year-old Holland Lop, was her perfect match.
“He’s quite the character actually,” she said. “He’s also probably the most loving animal I’ve ever owned. … He’s just obsessed with me.”
Often his curiosity will get Finn into predicaments — like jumping into a box that is too big for him to get out of. When Scannell comes home, Finn loves running up to the door to “chin” her — which is the term describing the bump bunnies will give to something, or someone, they want to “claim.”
Finn has been an integral part of Scannell’s mental health journey, which began her freshman year of high school, when she was first diagnosed with major depressive disorder.
“I was super shy, like extremely shy, I didn’t talk to anyone,” she said. “And it was hard — really, really hard for a while.”
Now, Scannell has been in therapy for at least five years, and during that time she was able to work toward a point where she was able to open up more, especially during her first year at the University of Delaware.
“It’s a program that I couldn’t say no to, and it was always my dream,” she said. “And it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I thought it was going to be an easy transition, but the classwork here was insane.”
The transition brought on some intense symptoms of anxiety for Scannell, including panic attacks during the night.
Her therapist offered a possible solution: Adopt a furry friend. Scannell got Finn in February 2019 and her doctor helped her certify him as an emotional support animal — that allows him to live with her in places he might not otherwise be welcome.
“Finn was the perfect reason, I remember her saying, for me to always come home at night and not spend all day at the library, working myself crazy,” she said. “I was able to go home because there was someone who needed me at home.”
Taking care of each other — through Parkinson’s and arthritis
“Because I’ve got Parkinson’s disease, sometimes I’ll get into these pity parties, and I’ll just get on the floor and start crying and he’ll come over and kiss my face,” she said.
When Budgie was younger, he would often do what rabbit owners call a “binky” — when rabbits run, jump and twist in the air — what Mellano calls an expression of “pure joy.” With this move, Budgie has always been able to bring a smile to her face.
Now, Budgie, recently diagnosed with arthritis, is nearing the later years of his life at age 11. The binkies of his youth are expressed with a much more subtle movement — a head nod — as he is limited in mobility like his owner.
“I wake up in the morning to him and it is great, because I’m not alone,” she said.
Moved to tears, she reflected on the value Budgie has brought to her life. “He took care of me and now I’m taking care of him.”