The Cadbury Bunny has gone to the dogs.
Since 2019, the world-renowned chocolate company behind these creme-filled eggs has been holding an annual contest to find a new Cadbury Bunny, and the first two winners were canines.
Henri the English Bulldog, the inaugural winner, graced TV screens as the Cadbury Bunny for the season, and in 2020, he passed the reins over to Lieutenant Dan. Although Lieutenant Dan was not the first dog to wear the famous bunny ears, he was the first special needs animal to step into the role. In addition to serving as the outgoing Bunny, Lieutenant Dan will also have the honor of judging this year’s search for his successor.
We had a chance to speak to the Treeing Walker Coonhound’s hooman about caring for a special needs pup, the life-changing impact of being the Cadbury Bunny, and what they’ll be looking for when judging finalists for 2021’s new Bunny.
Parenting a Special Needs Dog
PetPlace: We know Lieutenant Dan is a special needs pup because he is missing his back legs. Can you tell us a little bit about his birth defect and how he lost his legs?
Lieutenant Dan’s Hooman: Lieutenant Dan was born with severely deformed hind limbs that were constricted up against his body. He had no ability to move them and when we attempted to manipulate them (like to get him in his wheels), it was extremely painful. His tail was deformed in a stiff upward position with no ability to move it and no feeling. After evaluation by a board-certified veterinary surgeon and a board-certified veterinary neurologist and multiple tests (including an MRI of his spine), we could not find an exact cause to why he was born the way he was. The assumption is that maybe the litter was large and he basically didn’t have enough room. It was recommended at 6 months of age to amputate his legs due to the pain he was already experiencing, the thinning of the skin around his joints that could lead to sores later on, and to help keep the weight off the rest of his spine since he was already so mobile. Even with his disfigured hind limbs, Lieutenant Dan was already running around on two legs and from what we know from the rescue he had been doing that since he could walk.
PP: Knowing that Lieutenant Dan was a special needs pup, you chose to adopt him at 5 months old and help him through his surgery. Many people might not have made that choice–what was it about him that made you know you couldn’t walk away?
LDH: I always say my dogs find me, they tend to fall into my lap. All of our dogs are rescues and the majority of them needed medical care or extra special attention, which is what made me want to adopt and help each of them. Some of this comes with the territory when you work in both veterinary medicine and the rescue/shelter industry. We follow multiple Coonhound rescues and sites on social media and when we first saw Lieutenant Dan on social media, we were drawn in by his infectious joy for life and go go go personality. Once we saw that he was in need of a forever home, I knew I had to learn more about him. I remember telling my husband, “I’m just going to call to ask some questions.” Initially, it was my veterinary background that made me want to get more medical information and just learn what they were doing for him. All it took was one phone call and I knew I wanted to bring him home to Ohio. My original hope was maybe we could help him regain use of his hind legs, but even if we couldn’t, I knew we would at least be able to do everything in our power to give him the best life possible.
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PP: What misconceptions do people have about special needs dogs that you’d want to challenge?
LDH: The biggest misconception that people have about many special needs dogs, including Lieutenant Dan, is that they are suffering or have no quality of life. That is just not the case, especially with him. Though special needs pets may need some lifestyle changes (on their humans’ part) and some extra care, they can live a perfectly happy, comfortable life. Many of these pets don’t know they are different, especially Lieutenant Dan. This is all he has ever known, for him it is normal and he doesn’t let it slow him down one bit. He holds his own playing with every dog he meets. Animals are amazing in the way that they can continue to live life to the fullest despite setbacks. And it has been amazing to see how other dogs interact with him. They let him jump right in and accept him just like any other dog. If you have the means, ability, and the heart to do it, I highly recommend giving a pet who is a little different a chance. You will definitely be surprised at how much they can bring to your life.
From Inspiring Dog to Celebrity Bunny
PP: Lieutenant Dan became the 2020 Cadbury Bunny last Easter. What made you think that Lieutenant Dan would make a great Cadbury Bunny when you entered him into last year’s contest?
LDH: We love sharing Lieutenant Dan’s personality! He is such a joyful, happy-go-lucky pup. I feel like his infectious joy is exactly what made him perfect to be the 2020 Cadbury Bunny! We also love continuing to help spread awareness for our special needs pets.
PP: Once Lieutenant Dan won the role of honorary Cadbury Bunny, how did his life change?
LDH: He definitely has a little more work on his plate since then! His followers who helped him win the role of Cadbury Bunny love to continue to see his regular posts with his day-to-day activities. He also sometimes gets stopped in public for a quick photo op. He is definitely a hometown favorite in New Richmond, Ohio. We also love to continue to spread joy and promote the Cadbury brand and their yummy goodies (for humans only, of course!)
PP: Lieutenant Dan is serving as a judge in this year’s search for the next honorary Cadbury Bunny. What will Lieutenant Dan be looking for in this year’s winner?
LDH: Lieutenant Dan will be looking for contestants who also love to spread joy and bring positivity to those around them! He also is very excited to see the creativity put into the entries this year!
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PP: What piece of advice would Lieutenant Dan give to the next Cadbury Bunny?
LDH: Have fun with it! And always be ready for that photo op (make sure you have plenty of cute bows and bandanas) or a pawtograph!
PP: What’s next for Lieutenant Dan?
LDH: After Lieutenant Dan passes off his bunny ears, he will be continuing his training and work towards becoming a certified therapy dog with the hopes of being able to visit humans like him and spread some joy in their day!