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A new lease on life

Photo: Maple Park resident Luke Thompson’s pet rabbit, Lola, was named 4-H Grand Champion during the 2013 Kane County Fair. Lola was previously rescued from a truck set to deliver him to a meat market. Courtesy Photo

Bunny saved from meat market ends up 4-H Grand Champion
MAPLE PARK—It was a few weeks before the Kane County Fair last summer, and Maple Park 4-H participant Luke Thompson was very sad. Luke had hoped to show his rabbit in the 4-H competition, but the animal was very ill and would likely die.

Luke’s mom Jennifer was driving home from DeKalb to rural Maple Park when she happened to notice a truck ahead of her with a crate full of rabbits. She couldn’t believe her eyes at first, and she began following the truck. Flashing her lights, she followed the man to Sycamore, but he didn’t notice her at first. When the man finally stopped, Jennifer found out that he was taking the rabbits to a market in Chicago, would be sold and slaughtered for meat.

She asked him if she could buy one of the rabbits, and the man told her she could have one for $10.

“Pick one out,” he said.

Jennifer said she hesitated for a moment, thinking that her son should be the one to pick the bunny, but the man was getting impatient. She settled on a small one, and Luke showed the rabbit, “Lola,” at the 2012 Kane County Fair.

According to Jennifer, the judge really liked the mini-lop rabbit, but she was small. Lola won a blue ribbon, but a lot of the animals do, Jennifer said.

Since then, Luke has taken good care of Lola, and created an arena out of hay bales for her, so she can safely jump around and exercise.

“Exercise builds muscle,” he said.

Jennifer said Luke would bring the rabbit into the house with him, and Lola would lie down on Luke’s chest while he watched movies on TV.

“She would just lie there for the entire two hours with him,” she said.

When the Thompson family arrived at this year’s Kane County fair with Lola and their other animals, Luke received a bit of a surprise. The judge advised him that Lola was a boy, and they switched the rabbit from the doe category so he could compete against the other bucks.

When judging for rabbits took place last Thursday, Lola ending up winning the Grand Champion in both the mini-lop breed and small breed categories.

“Lola was perfect to me, but I didn’t know he’d be perfect to a judge,” Luke said.

The judge told Luke that Lola had a nice coat, and good muscles, especially around his neck. Also, the bunny’s teeth were perfect; not too long or curling.

“Here the rabbit had been headed for what I would call an ‘unfortunate incident,’ and he (ends up winning) Grand Champion,” Jennifer said. “We’ve been calling it the rescue rabbit.”

Jennifer said that when an animal is awarded the Grand Champion, you’re supposed to sell it. When Luke realized this, he was devastated. According to Jennifer, some animals, such as the steers, can get a couple thousand dollars at auction. Lola, the $10 bunny, ended up going for $375, with Luke’s dad as the buyer.

So Lola, the boy rabbit, went home with Luke. Even though now he knows it’s a boy, Luke thinks he might still call the rabbit Lola.

Before the Thompson family left the fair, Pam Sorenson, owner of the Grand Champion mini-lop from last year’s fair, approached Jennifer about the possibility of mating her daughter’s rabbit with Lola. The Sorensons live in Sugar Grove, and Pam’s daughter Rachel belongs to the Kaneville Classics 4-H Club.

“Luke’s rabbit is a perfect example of what a mini-lop should look like,” Pam said. “Rachel’s rabbit Delilah is broken gray. She’s beautiful, so they could have some pretty babies; very promising. Hopefully, we’ll get a baby Grand Champion.”

Jennifer said her family and the Sorensons will split the resulting litter. Luke’s little sister, Nora, will be 8 years old next year, so she will be able to show the bunnies at next year’s Kane County Fair.

In the meantime, Lola is back at home with Luke, not only a celebrity in the world of Kane County 4-H, but also one lucky rabbit.