VIPER —- A national television network crew will soon be making its way to a hollow in Viper, but not for the reasons most might expect. No, this story won’t be the usual fare that seems to interest the world beyond the mountains — coal, drugs, abject poverty. No, the interest this time is more of the … well, furry kind.
The crew will be filming for a show that, according to its website, offers a fun-filled look at the stunning bonds animals form with other species, and even prey.
The two stars are a 70 pound Golden Doodle dog (a poodle and Golden Retriever mix) named Ellie, and Petey, a rabbit purchased at the flea market as a gift for a child on Easter. Tiffany Combs, owner of the animals, said that the show’s producer was intrigued by the strange connection between Ellie and Petey.
“Ellie has a YouTube channel called ‘The Exciting Adventures of Ellie Mae,’” Combs said.
Combs said she had posted videos of Ellie and Petey playing together.
“One day, I received a message from a producer, saying that they were interested in their story,” she said. “So, I sent an e-mail back, telling them a little bit more, and received a call the next day.”
The friendship between the two animals is really quite unusual. Combs said, at first, she and her husband were concerned that Ellie would end up harming the rabbit, which had taken up residence in their barn.
“We didn’t want them to get too close,” Combs said.
Then, one day, while she was away from home, her husband called her to tell her about something that had happened between Ellie and Petey.
“He said that Ellie had chased Petey, and Petey had turned around and chased her back,” she said. “And that was the start of their friendship.”
Since then, Combs said the two have been inseparable. She said that no matter what the two of them are doing or where they might be, they always have to be close to each other.
“They spend hours outside playing,” said Combs. “They’ve played in the rain, the snow, hail, and when it’s dark outside. They don’t care. They just have fun with it.”
Like all relationships, though, the friendship between the two has had its challenges. Combs said that Petey has bitten Ellie a few times, which led to a day or so of the two staying away from each other. The biggest threat to their friendship, though, according to Combs, was when Petey chose another rabbit, Darla, as his mate.
“Ellie thinks that his babies are her babies,” Combs said. “So, maybe there was some jealousy between Ellie and Darla. I don’t know. It’s the weirdest thing.”
After Darla passed away, things got back to “normal” for Ellie and Petey. Combs said they continue to take walks together around Eddington Lane, up to the mailboxes and down to the creek.
“Ellie will go and take a bath,” Combs added, “and Petey will wait by the creek bank for her. It’s odd. It’s an odd relationship.”
Combs said they all had a scare recently when Petey suddenly became very ill.
“My husband saw them down in the field,” she said. “They had been running around, but then, Petey was flipped over on his back.”
Thinking that the rabbit had died, Combs’s husband, Daniel, went to check things out.
“But Ellie got super-protective and growled at him,” said Combs. “She didn’t want him coming near Petey. She was definitely watching out for him.”
Luckily, Combs said the little rabbit was only dehydrated. But the thought of Ellie permanently losing her best friend has stayed on Combs’s mind. She said she doesn’t expect Petey to live much longer, but she’s happy to see that Ellie seems to have a similar connection to Petey’s offspring.
“One of the baby rabbits will actually stand still and let Ellie come up to it. Ellie will just lay her head on it, protecting it, I guess. It’s really cute,” she said.
She said when Petey is gone, she hopes one of the baby rabbits will take his place.
As to when this heartwarming, unlikely story of friendship will air on national television, Combs said she expects the television crew to film sometime next week.
Mindy Miller can be reached at 606-436-5771, or on Twitter @HazardHerald.