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Boy's love of animals multiplies in Bell Acres

| Thursday, March 25, 2010

His father calls him Dr. Doolittle.

"From day one, he was a child with a special association with animals," said Norman Meanor of his 14-year-old son, Brock.

These days, the Quaker Valley eighth-grader runs his own rabbit business and farm from the family's Bell Acres home. On Saturday, Brock will speak at Fern Hollow Nature Center's Easter egg hunt.

He will bring along several of his English Lop-eared rabbits to show children and talk about his business, Windy Hill Rabbitry, named because his home is located in a well-known windy spot in Bell Acres.

In addition to rabbits, Brock has owned a large variety of other pets over the years, including chickens, hamsters, guinea pigs, snakes, frogs, turtles and dogs.

Rabbits are his latest venture, one he began a little less than a year ago. His interest was sparked by his grandmother, Susie Fleming, who raised rabbits in the 1970s. She had about 80 rabbits at one point, all of them in custom cages.

When Brock started raising rabbits, she gave him her cages. He has built his own cage/hutches and has many wire cages in a shed where he houses the English Lops.

"He gets up at 5 a.m. every day to feed, water and check the rabbits, then does the same thing when he gets home from school and then again before he goes to bed," his dad said.

The rabbits are kept in an outdoor shed, and Brock has plans to build a barn for the rabbits in the summer because the business has outgrown the shed.

He bought his first rabbits from a breeder in Derry, who became one of his mentors. Since then, he guesses, he has bought and sold about 80 rabbits, had three different breeds and bred 10 litters. Among the 32 rabbits he now has, most are English Lops.

Although he said he tries not to become too attached to the rabbits, "some of the English Lops ... I just love them to death."

"When we get babies, I pick out the ones I'm going to keep and give those ones names and play with them so they get used to humans," he said.

Brock is experimenting with the breeding process to try to produce the ultimate show quality rabbits judges are looking for.

Last fall, he won four blue ribbons and two red ribbons in his first show, in Ohio.

The English Lops are judged on ear width and length, which can be as long as 25 inches.

"If they have hair in their ears, they are disqualified. If they have any broken nails or lazy eyes, they are disqualified," Brock said.

There is no doubt in Brock's or his parents' minds that he will become a veterinarian, a choice he made as a young child partly because of the influence of a family friend.

Brock said he plans to follow in the footsteps of the late Jack Knockels, who owned Pittsburgh Animal Hospital and had a farm in the North Hills area.

Brock has his first veterinarian experience when he was about 5.

"We were walking in the woods and an injured baby squirrel fell out of a tree right onto Brock's shoulder," his dad said. "He took it home and nursed it back to health, and then released it back into the wild."

Additional Information:

On the hunt

What : Fern Hollow Nature Center's Easter egg hunt

When : 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday

Where : 1901 Glen Mitchell Road, Sewickley

Cost : $7 ($5 for nature center members)

To register: Call 412-741-6136

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