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Community helps replace boy's bunny

Bobby Dickinson was asleep when someone killed his rabbit. Since then, he has received an outpouring of kindness.

By BRIDGET HALL GRUMET, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 4, 2003

[Times photo: Dan McDuffie]
Bobby Dickinson, 12, holds his new bunny, Susie, donated to him by a sympathetic community member. The new bunny is named after his old rabbit, Susie, who was killed last week.
ZEPHYRHILLS -- The cage didn't stay empty long.

As newspaper readers last week learned the story of Susie, a brown-and-white bunny who was snatched from her cage and beheaded, dozens of offers poured in from people wanting to give Bobby Dickinson a new rabbit.

When it came time to choose one, the 12-year-old boy made the obvious pick: a gray lop-eared giant whose mother is also named Susie.

The new bunny is just 4 weeks old, too young to tell whether it's a boy or a girl. No matter.

"Bobby says he's going to name it Susie either way," said his grandmother Ruth Bjornholm, 67, who raises the boy as her son.

Bobby got the original Susie about a year and a half ago after moving to the Sandalwood Mobile Home Park in Zephyrhills. He named the rabbit after the cat he left behind with relatives in Iowa.

Susie was all snug in her cage on the carport as Bobby went to bed the night of Feb. 24. When the sixth-grader checked on her the next morning, she was gone.

That afternoon Bobby discovered Susie's head in a field on Aster Avenue a block from his house on Coleus Avenue. Then he found Susie's body on Ryals Road, her chest stabbed, one of her legs removed.

That night, after they both went to bed, Bjornholm could hear Bobby sniffling in his room.

As the story spread through news accounts, the sympathy poured in. One family sent him a condolence card. About 30 more offered him new rabbits.

"I just felt like it was so unkind of people to do what they did to his rabbit," said Fran Smith, a central Pasco retiree who offered the bunny that Bobby picked. "I just wanted to make him a little happier."

Sheriff's spokesman Jon Powers said the office is still investigating the incident.

The new Susie is in the same wire-frame cage on the carport, but Bobby has made a few changes.

A black combination lock now secures the cage door. At night, Bobby takes the cage into a utility room, where Bjornholm added a tiny orange night light.

Bobby then locks the utility room door.

"He's taking no chances of something happening to her," Bjornholm said.

-- Bridget Hall Grumet covers crime in east Pasco. She can be reached at 352-521-5757 ext. 23 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6108, then 23. Her e-mail address is .

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