Freya arrives for service.

Freshly primped in a pink collar and a purple stroller, Freya the rabbit and her owner Lacey Patterson make their rounds at Palm Garden of Pinellas Health and Rehabilitation Center. This Suncoast Hospice volunteer duo is specially trained to visit our patients, like Etta Metcalf, one of Freya’s biggest admirers.

“Good morning. How are you feeling today, Etta? I brought my friend, Freya, to see you,” greets Patterson.

Those were just the words needed to perk up Metcalf.

“You did? Oh good,” Metcalf replies.

Patterson lifts Freya out of the stroller, covers Metcalf’s lap with a pad and places Freya on her lap. Freya looks calm and cozy as she snuggles in closer to be pet.

“Hi honey. You are beautiful. I am so happy to see you,” Metcalf tells Freya.

The two share a special bond and comfort at the bedside.

“She likes you. She’s very relaxed with you. She could lay in bed all day,” Patterson tells Metcalf.

Lacey Patterson and Freya get ready to serve.


Patterson is set to soon become a nurse. She is in her final year at St. Petersburg College and graduates this December.

“It’s going well. I’m in the nursing case management stage. I’ve learned a lot about time management,” she notes.

Her Suncoast Hospice volunteer service began in 2011 when she was in high school. With her busy schedule, she still finds time to volunteer with Freya.

“I come from a family of nurses. I’m drawn to helping people. I like being a patient advocate with Suncoast Hospice, talking to patients and hearing their concerns. I turned 18 and wanted to continue this. I enjoy it. Our organization does so much for a lot of people in our community,” she explains.

Friendly Rabbit

In addition to her love for supporting patients, Patterson loves caring for animals. She rescued Freya, who was sick with respiratory issues, as well as cats and guinea pigs from the pound.

Freya is a standard American Chinchilla Rabbit named after the Norse goddess of love, beauty and fertility. She is two years old, weighs 11 pounds and is litter trained. Many people like to see and touch her soft, gray coat of fur. Her breed is generally bred for their meat and fur and they make good pets.

Freya greets Etta Metcalf.

“She stood out because she had such a mild temperament. She kind of became my best friend. She loves attention from humans. She also likes leafy greens, laying in her stroller and being pet,” Patterson shares.

Like most rabbits, Freya is highly curious and active at home.

“They (rabbits) are nosy and get into everything. It’s like having a child. She’s like the terrible two’s,” Patterson says.

Freya makes a nice impression going out to serve patients.

“I groom her really well with allergen wipes and trim her nails. They (patients) light up when they see a big, fluffy rabbit. Even some of our vets here go crazy over her,” she says.

Etta Metcalf and Freya enjoy their visit.

Metcalf shows Freya so much gentleness and praise. She used to be a nurse, like Patterson will soon be.

“Aw, look at that. She loves you. You are by far her favorite. She misses you,” Patterson tells Metcalf.

Metcalf replies, “Thank you for bringing her.”

Soon Freya gains the curiosity and interest of Metcalf’s roommate and healthcare worker in the room. So, Freya stops over to meet her new friends.

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