‘My daughter is an animal whisperer’: Anchorage family provides forever home for unlikely pet duo

A dog and a rabbit make an unlikely pair thanks to the generous heart of a little girl.
A dog and a rabbit make an unlikely pair thanks to the generous heart of a little girl.(Leah Campbell)
Published: Feb. 1, 2021 at 6:38 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Leah Campbell is a writer and a single mom, her daughter Josie loves animals, so they have, what Campbell describes as, a zoo.

“I was not somebody who had ever owned a pet in my entire adult life and did not want one. I like having nice things,” says Campbell, sitting with a dog on her lap and a cat on the couch behind her. “My daughter is an animal whisperer, and she has just brought all these animals into our lives and of course, you know you can’t help but love them once they’re there.”

Two of those animals have a special bond, with Josie and each other. Josie has a rare form of juvenile idiopathic arthritis and after visits with their health care provider, Josie and her mom would go out for sweets.

“We got to a point where we couldn’t go get doughnuts after every bad appointment because that was unreasonable; we had too many bad appointments for her,” says Campbell. “So we started doing animal control that was her reward, we would go to animal control, and she would get to visit with all the animals.”

On one of their visits, they ran into a litter of puppies who were suspected of developing arthritis.

“She immediately said, ‘Mom, they’re gonna have arthritis, they’re supposed to be with me, I can take care of them better than anyone,’” says Campbell.

The puppy they chose was named Gwenny, and Gwenny did develop arthritis, so bad she had to have a bone graph surgery that takes months to recover from.

Josie’s love of animals doesn’t end with dogs, she also wanted a bunny, but more specifically, a black and white bunny she would name Oreo. In an interesting coincidence, Anchorage Animal Care and Control had a bunny that needed a foster home, a black and white bunny named Oreo.

But Campbell was worried that with two dogs and a cat, a bunny might not fit into their menagerie. But instead of Gwenny’s predator instincts kicking in, she acted like a mother to the bunny, waiting outside his cage and even cuddling with him when he was let out under close supervision.

“They’re best friends and it’s the weirdest, weirdest thing in the world,” says Campbell. “But they love each other and he’s done a great job of keeping her calm too. She will just sit on that bed for hours and cuddle him and lick him and watch him play and the last month of recovery has been so much easier than the first couple months.”

But Oreo was a foster; Campbell got a call from AACC that someone was interested in adopting him.

“We’re driving to animal control and Josie’s telling Oreo, she’s holding him in the car and she’s like, ‘Go ahead just bite him, bite him, so you would come home with us,’ and I’m trying not to laugh because of course, we don’t want to encourage that.”

Campbell says they waited for the man to show up to adopt Oreo when she decided to take Oreo home.

“Ten minutes goes by, 15 minutes goes by and they call them and nobody answers and another 10 minutes goes by and they said, ‘Okay, we’re going to give it till 5:30′ and I was like ‘Can I have an adoption application? We’re not coming back with Oreo, he’s going home with us,’” says Campbell. “And that was how we got a bunny.”

Campbell is thinking of turning the story into a children’s book. She already has a children’s book geared for parents and kids about open adoption. She says it was the book she was looking for when she adopted Josie.

She also says no more animals until they get a house, hopefully, this summer.

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