Roman + PomPom

Child finds Friendship and Creative Voice Thanks to a New Furry Friend

every gift saves lives

every gift saves lives

Roman + PomPom

Roman is autistic. He never asked for presents, and he wasn’t interested in birthday parties. We had to beg Roman to open gifts with us on Christmas each year. Then three years ago, Roman declared he wanted a “white bunny” for Christmas – and a stuffed toy would not do. How could we say no?

"While most parents are bombarded daily with requests from their kids, my son was seven-years-old before he ever asked us for anything."

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I began my reluctant search for a bunny with East Bay Rabbit Rescue who suggested we look for a large bunny who could handle Roman’s extra strong hugs and who would seek out affection from him. The Green Acres theme song played in my head as I envisioned a big white rabbit joining our lizard, dog, cat, and fish. But it was replaced by the thought of Roman finally anticipating a holiday and how thrilled he would be to receive this bunny.

The rescue group had the perfect bunny, PomPom. She had been living at a public shelter for nearly a year. The volunteers all loved her, but big, white bunnies with red eyes, despite their sweet temperament, are difficult to place.

The moment I saw them together, I knew it was right. PomPom ran up to Roman and touched her nose to his, and before I could stop him, Roman had scooped her up in his arms.

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PomPom loves Roman to the moon and back. She runs right up to him like she has not seen him in weeks, even though it was just five minutes ago. Her body language is so different with him than with the rest of us. She picks Roman to be with before anyone else. She lies down next to him and melts into the carpet when he pets her. I think bunnies must sense the pure heart of a spectrum child.

Big changes happened after Christmas. Roman entered a mainstream classroom, and I attended the remaining portion of second grade with him as his aide.

During this amazing year of firsts, he also started writing stories. This may not sound like much, but autistic children have a hard time with creativity. All his stories feature PomPom. In one story, the house floods, and PomPom swims from room to room. My son’s world revolves around PomPom and through her, he has discovered his imagination.

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Roman is attending fifth grade and is accepted at school for who he is. His progress took work, courage, and determination from all of us, and we are so happy that PomPom has been a part of his journey.

I never expected to be a special needs mom nor love a big white bunny so much, but the most beautiful moments in life are often unexpected. Roman and PomPom are perfect exactly as they are and we are lucky to get to love them.

Each year, the Petco Foundation invites adopters to share the story of how their adopted pet changed their lives during the annual Holiday Wishes campaign, giving the organization that they adopted from a chance to receive a grant award. This story by Crystal Pelayo won East Bay Rabbit Rescue in Dublin, California a 2016 Holiday Wishes award.