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Senior center holds rabbit wedding

TUCKER - Singer Billy Idol had a famous song about a white wedding, but he probably never envisioned anything like a rabbit wedding. But that's what took place Thursday afternoon to the delight of about 20 residents of the Arbor Terrace Assisted Living and Memory Care Center for Seniors.

Part of a pet therapy program, Compassionate Care Hospice teamed up with Arbor Terrace to see the nuptials tied between Zoe the English Angora rabbit and Buddy, a dwarf floppy-eared rabbit. Their flower rabbit was Mattie.

"Pet therapy has been around for a long time but it's normally with dogs or parrots," said Compassionate Care Hospice liaison Janet Arrington. "But the use of a rabbit is unusual. But Zoe brings a lot of stimulation because she's soft to the touch and a lot of folks and patients want to hold her because they get texture. And that in turn stimulates the mind and can help with providing conversation."

Arrington said Zoe, who donned a long wedding dress complete with a veil, had been doing this type of work for about a year-and-a-half and was accustomed to being on her back and passed around a lot. Her beau, Buddy, wore a black tuxedo and a top hat. It was the first marriage for both and they'll honeymoon together at the Compassionate Care Hospice facility.

"Zoe brings a lot of compassion and is a companion," Arrington said. "She'll bring a lot of joy and a lot of smiles to situations where there might not be a lot of joy at that time."

Arrington said Zoe gets requests all the time from families and is used to laying on her back while bedridden patients hold her and pet her soft fur.

Jonathan Spencer, a chaplain with Compassionate Care, told those in attendance at the ceremony that "These rabbits help us do what we try to do and that's to bring joy, comfort and dignity to people in their lives."

By the smiles visible across everyone's faces, it appeared that the strategy worked.

According to Arbor Terrace's Director Krishnan Kalyanasundaram - K as he liked to be called - the senior facility often has unique activities for its residents. The rabbit wedding was one of them. And that night they were preparing a Thanksgiving dinner for residents and their families, and in the month of November alone they had Bingo, wine and cheese socials, movie nights and multiple musical guests visit the home to provide entertainment. In December, they'll have Santa and carolers visit. K said the facility is also accepting donations for its Holiday Outreach program to help a young military family of four that recently relocated to Georgia and had fallen on hard times.

For Marc and Sara Welliber, residents of Arbor Terrace whose daughter lived in Lilburn, they attended the rabbit wedding and were found afterwards celebrating with the happy couple by sipping on champagne while eating wedding cake.

"Nobody told us what was going on but it was wonderful," Marc said. "It's probably the first of many."