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‘It’s turned into something so much bigger’ bunny rescued in Kodiak wins the hearts of students

Published: Nov. 26, 2021 at 5:00 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Separated from mainland Alaska by the Shelikof Strait, Kodiak Island has a subpolar oceanic climate with heavy precipitation year-round. On a seemingly normal windy and rainy day, Ani Thomas was out walking her dog when she came across a strange sight—a little black bunny lying in a mud puddle.

“I thought, we’ll that’s strange it can’t be real, but the closer I got I saw that he was alive,” Thomas said. “So I went closer and he tried to hop away but I could see that his back legs didn’t work, he was dragging them.”

Picking up the young paraplegic rabbit, she took the bunny home and warmed him up.

“I thought, he’s not going to last long, but I can make him comfortable,” Thomas said.

Hotwheels warming up inside the day he was rescued.
Hotwheels warming up inside the day he was rescued.(Ani Thompson)

To Thomas’ surprise, the bunny was determined to live. When he regained some strength and was able, Thomas fashioned a temporary wheelchair made of an oatmeal container, a Hot Wheels car, and some duct tape. It was from then on that the bunny was fondly referred to as Hot Wheels.

One day, Thomas decided to bring him to Kodiak Island Borough Elementary School where she reads to students.

“The kids became super attached to him,” Thomas said, “He would get love letters from the kids.”

Students send Hotwheels love letters
Students send Hotwheels love letters(Ani Thompson)

Hot Wheels has now been adopted in spirit by the second grade class at the school. Thanks to the 7th and 8th graders of Kodiak Middle School, he will soon have some pretty sweet new wheels. Thomas reached out to Amanda Johnson, one of the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) teachers at the school and asked if her student’s would be interested in creating a couple different wheelchairs for Hot Wheels.

“She thought this would be a fun project for my STEAM classes in which engineering is a very big aspect of my STEAM classes. We focus a lot on the engineering design process, and how engineers go through the engineering design process to design and test prototypes,” said Johnson. “I thought this would be a really fun design challenge project for them.”

STEAM student fitting Hotwheels to a wheelchair prototype
STEAM student fitting Hotwheels to a wheelchair prototype(K.Knight | Kodiak Island Borough School District)

Right now, the students are about halfway done with their projects, but soon enough, Hot Wheels will be zipping around the Kodiak School District visiting his friends a little bit faster than before. Unbeknownst to him, this wheelchair project could eventually help other animals across the nation who are just like him.

“I’m hoping this could even be a catalyst for building the perfect design for bunnies worldwide,” Thomas said.

Until then, Hot Wheels will continue his visits to the school and assist Thomas with her reading sessions.

“You know animals are non-judgmental, and kids are growing up in a really judgmental world,” Thomas said. “Animals are just a safe place and who doesn’t love a fuzzy, baby bunny.”

Ani reading to students with Hotwheels
Ani reading to students with Hotwheels(Kodiak Island Borough School District)

Going from immobilized in a mud puddle to having a whole school district fall in love with him: it’s safe to say Hot Wheels is now living his best life.

“I had no idea, when I just picked up the little bunny in the puddle, I was just trying to offer some comfort, and now, it’s something so much bigger,” Thomas said.

Hotwheels the bunny
Hotwheels the bunny(Ani Thompson)

Editor’s note: This article has corrected Thomas’ name from Thompson to Thomas.

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