Don’t worry, be hoppy

Bunny bringing joy to islanders

How does a real, live Easter Bunny celebrate Easter?

In the case of Oak Harbor’s very own Benjamin Bunny, he will spend Easter morning with his own family and then in the afternoon go to work bringing joy to another family.

The rabbit, a furry companion to Oak Harbor resident Lacey Winberry, is a regular fixture at local beaches and parks, interacting with young and old alike.

“Benjamin lives for the attention, and the treats that come with the pets,” Winberry said. “Whenever I bring him out, everyone goes crazy for him.”

During a time when so many are isolated from loved ones, she views these interactions as extremely positive for everyone.

“Kids get to pet and feed him, which always makes them smile,” she said. “The benefit for Benjamin is that he gets to play with them and have a lot of socializing time, which he loves. And for me, I get to see the joy that he brings to everyone who meets him.”

Noting how drawn people are to Benjamin and the happiness he brings to folks, Winberry has been coordinating meet-and-greets with individuals, families and small groups who want to get in on some Benjamin Bunny time. Community members can reserve time with Benjamin for outings and gatherings like birthday parties.

“We went to a birthday party for an older girl where her grandmother wanted to surprise her,” she said. “When we got there, I handed her the leash and Benjamin ran around her yard, meeting chickens for the first time. He was very curious about them.”

“Another time,” she continued, “we visited two 1-year-old babies who just adored Benjamin. While sharing snacks with him, they got banana on his back, but he didn’t even care. He is so sweet and was very patient with them as they played with him.”

Winberry adopted Benjamin after she and her niece, who has her own pet bunny, visited a pet store, and an employee put a rabbit in her arms. Soon after, she began researching rabbits as pets and, living in Renton at the time, found Benjamin, then 8 weeks old, at a bunny farm in Burien that was about to close.

From the moment she adopted Benjamin, whom she named after the movie character Benjamin Button, she noted how sociable he is. When she and her family moved to Oak Harbor last summer, she began taking the now 2-year-old bunny out to parks and beaches so he could spend time with others.

When not walking around with his harness on, Benjamin rides in his very own push stroller, peeking out at the world around him, or tucked in a sling pouch, with Benjamin nestled across the front of Winberry’s body, so he can look out as they walk together.

Benjamin currently shares a home with Winberry, her four daughters, her partner, three dogs, a bearded dragon and a leopard gecko.

An indoor bunny with a hutch in the middle of the family’s home, he also spends time out in the front yard. He saw snow for the first time this year, Winberry said, and Benjamin loved playing in it.

Benjamin eats bananas, carrot tops, clover, romaine lettuce and his favorite, dandelions. During outings, Winberry encourages people to feed the bunny. She said many people bring carrots to feed him, but that they are not a staple of his diet, just an occasional treat due to their high sugar content.

The average lifespan for a rabbit is about 15 years, so the 5-and-a-half-pound rabbit is very much still a youngster. His coloring is considered “blue otter,” unique to his breed, and as anyone who has petted him will attest, his fur is incredibly soft.

As a standard rex rabbit (as opposed to the min rex), Benjamin has a slightly broader head than other breeds, proportionately upright ears and proportionately smaller feet.

Benjamin isn’t shy about showing his feelings.

“Bunnies like things a certain way, so even though he has a really sweet personality, should I be late with breakfast or anything, he throws his dishes around his house to let me know how he feels about that,” she said. “And when I open the hutch lid in the morning, he gives me a kiss.”

For anyone considering getting a bunny for a pet, Winberry shared a few words of wisdom.

“Bunnies need to be handled every day because if they don’t get regular attention, they can get depressed and/or aggressive,” she said. “And, like bringing any other pet in to your home, having a bunny is a long-term commitment and all the things needed to start and upkeep are not inexpensive.”

Benjamin has his own Facebook page, “Birthday Breaks with Benjamin,” and on Instagram, dailyBenjaminBunny. Here people can connect to reserve time with him. Bunny lovers can book a photoshoot with a professional photographer or take their own photos.

Winberry suggests a donation of $25 for an hour with Benjamin, but shared that she generally leaves it up to the families booking him to determine what they want to pay.

All money brought in goes to buying his food, bedding, toys and treats.

“Benjamin is a very special bunny,” she said. “He brings joy to so many.”