On a recent visit to Los Robles Hospital & Medical Center, Henry had a long list of patients to visit.
It would take some time getting to them, though, because hospital visitors stopped Henry’s stroller every couple of steps to take photos.
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That’s because Henry is 2½ feet long and weighs more than 20 pounds.
And he’s a rabbit.
A Flemish Giant rabbit, to be exact, and his owner, Candy Apple, has turned him into a therapy animal. She brings him to the hospital every couple of weeks, and he brings smiles to everyone who sees him.
ike patient Diana Metzgus.
“Oh, God, you’re beautiful!” she said to Henry as Apple placed him on her hospital bed.
Metzgus was a little girl when her father got her a bunny she named Puca. It turned out Puca was a Flemish Giant rabbit.
“It grew and grew and grew and grew,” she said.
Puca went swimming with her, and she pushed him in a stroller. So seeing Henry made her day, she said.
It was the same story with Robert Moss. The minute Henry entered his room, Moss lit up and exclaimed, “Oh, my God! You’re a big guy.”
Apple placed him in Moss’ bed.
“Awww, you’re like a big plush toy,” Moss told the animal. “You’re a sweet, cute guy.”
Then it was on to Arnole Levine, who once owned a pet store.
“I want one,” mouthed Levine, who was not able to speak. He was content to pet Henry while the rabbit lay quietly beside him.
Apple, who lives in Newbury Park, said it takes a special temperament to be a therapy animal. In fact, it was not something she began on purpose.
She ended up with Henry when a friend’s daughter realized she didn’t have enough time to take care of him properly. Apple adopted him when he was 8 weeks old and took him to Home Goods, a local home furnishing store, two days a week to socialize him.
“He would sit with children, and parents would take pictures,” Apple recalled. “People would hold him and fuss over him so he was used to everybody. Flemish Giants don’t normally like to be held a lot.”
When Henry was about 8 months old, a woman who did pet therapy at Los Robles Hospital & Medical Center approached Apple at Home Goods.
“She said, ‘Henry has to be a therapy rabbit,’” Apple said. “I had never thought about it. I went home and looked up Pet Partners, which is one of the most involved therapy organizations in the States.”
Both Apple and Henry took the necessary tests. Apple’s was a written examination and Henry’s was a hospital simulation.
“You go into a room and they do everything that could happen in a hospital,” Apple said. “They throw things and scream and bump into you and bring in dogs like therapy dogs.”
Henry passed with flying colors.
“Henry is very special,” Apple explained. “Flemish Giants are known for their docile personalities anyway, but Henry is like a dog. Henry follows me around. He scratches at the door to go outside. He goes potty in a litter box. He has the run of the entire house. He sleeps with the dog on the dog bed. The cats all lay around him.”
Henry has nearly 15,000 followers on his Instagram page, where many say he’s a unique animal.
But even after Henry was certified, it took a couple of tries at Los Robles. At first, the staff said the hospital only accepted therapy dogs because of disease control.
“Two months later, I got a call: ‘Henry’s in!’ They did all their homework and found out that Henry’s one of the cleanest animals,” Apple said.
It turns out Henry’s a superstar.
Lucille Porter-Chapman expressly requested visits, and Henry stopped by her hospital room about 12 times before the Newbury Park woman passed away Feb. 19.
“God’s love comes in animals and nature,” Porter-Chapman said during one of the visits. “He makes me feel so good.”
Apple can’t imagine her life without Henry.
“He is a miracle rabbit. He’s my therapy rabbit. He helps me a lot, too,” Apple said. “The cuddles I give him and he gives me … I was crying one day and he ran right up to me and sniffed my tears and cuddled me.”