EDITOR DANIEL CLIFTON
When Debra Tamez and her 6½-year-old daughter, Victoria, arrived at the family’s Granite Shoals lakehouse Jan. 21 after spending time at Robin Hood Park, someone was missing.
A gray and white stuffed rabbit that traveled with Victoria pretty much everywhere she went wasn’t in the car. The bunny, which Debra had given her daughter on the girl’s first Easter in 2013 probably didn’t look like much to others, but, to Victoria, it was her world.
“She brought Bunny everywhere. He comforted her when she got upset,” Debra said. “She even had a favorite ear on him.”
Debra rushed back to Robin Hood Park and frantically searched. Her dad arrived a few minutes later and helped comb the park. But they didn’t find Bunny. The family regrouped, trying to comfort Victoria, who was beside herself by this time. In an effort to settle Victoria down, the family went to Blue Bonnet Cafe in Marble Falls for pie before one more search of Robin Hood Park.
Still, they couldn’t find Bunny.
Debra and Victoria live in San Antonio, but the family visits Granite Shoals on most weekends. After a long search, they had to return to the Alamo City. Before giving up on Bunny, Debra sent a message to the Granite Shoals Police Department through its Facebook page.
“When I sent the message, I was expecting them to just make a post about it and leave it at that,” Debra said.
On the other end, however, Capt. Chris Decker read the mother’s message.
Decker connected instantly with the little girl’s plight. When he was about Victoria’s age, he had a stuffed rabbit as well. It was a brown one that shared the same name as Victoria’s.
“I took it everywhere,” Decker said. “But one time, I dropped him, in a Walgreen’s I think. It’s your best friend. When you realize your best friend is gone, your world is crushed.”
Decker’s dad hustled back to the store, which was closed by this time, but he was able to get a store employee’s attention, who helped him find Bunny. Decker still recalled how he felt when his Bunny went missing, and how relieved he was when it was back in his arms.
He knew what Victoria was going through.
So Decker put out the word on the missing Bunny to the Granite Shoals officers on duty. Yes, the captain said, the department responds to criminal activity, traffic accidents, and typical police calls, but they also have time to help little girls who lose their stuffed rabbit.
“One of the things Chief (Gary) Boshears really emphasized when he became chief was service,” Decker said. “And that’s something we believe in. Whether it’s going up to the school to have lunch with kids or something like this. It’s about service to the community. We all have hearts, we’re all human.”
While he wasn’t on duty, Boshears was in the area of Robin Hood Park and headed over to look for Bunny. He scoured the park but didn’t find any sign of the wayward rabbit. Not even a fiber to go on.
“I didn’t find out until later that Chief Boshears went out to look,” Debra said. “It made Victoria really, really happy to know that people cared that much. It warmed my heart, too.”
With really nothing else to go on, and hope fading that they might find Bunny, Decker turned to the police department’s social media following for assistance. Though social media can get a bad rap, it can also serve a good purpose. While GSPD uses several social media forums, Facebook remains its best method for getting information out to the public and receiving feedback from residents.
A few days after posting about Bunny and Victoria, the story had reached more than 21,000 people with hundreds of shares, just from Facebook. Victoria’s plight spread well beyond Granite Shoals and the Highland Lakes, Decker said.
“There was a lot of support,” the captain said. “We didn’t get any negative feedback about what we were doing.”
Despite GSPD efforts and social media shares, Bunny was still missing.
Decker, Boshears, and the Granite Shoals officers couldn’t let things end like that. The officers were determined to find a solution.
A common practice by law enforcement agencies is to have stuffed animals on hand to give to children who have undergone some type of trauma, whether a car accident or worse.
As Bunny’s trail grew cold, Decker decided to dig around the department’s stuffed animal collection. He came across a pink and white rabbit.
It wasn’t Bunny, but would it do?
Decker called Debra to tell her about the stuffed rabbit. The mom was elated and said she and Victoria would stop by the police department the next time they were in Granite Shoals.
On Feb. 3, Decker and Granite Shoals Sgt. John Ortis gave Victoria the pink rabbit, which she quickly named Bunny.
“Oh, she absolutely loved it,” Debra said of Victoria’s reaction to the new Bunny. “She got to see the police station, and she was given a patch and (challenge) coin. It made her feel important.”
The challenge coin bears the Granite Shoals Police Department insignia and tenets. It’s part of each officer’s uniform, and it’s a special thing for officers to present one to someone.
“I’m thankful for the quick reaction of Granite Shoals PD,” Debra added. “They’ve been wonderful.”
Finding Victoria’s original Bunny might have been a long shot, but it was one Decker, Boshears, and the Granite Shoals Police Department took. The officers are serious about getting drugs off the street, but Decker said that’s only part of serving the community.
“Chief Boshears and myself, we want our officers, and ourselves, to be very community-minded. So we tell our officers, if you find an event or something that speaks to you, do it,” he said. “The small things matter.”
As for this particular case, GSPD hasn’t closed the book on it. On Feb. 5, Decker learned that the dispatch received a call from an Austin resident who heard about Victoria and Bunny. The caller had a lead, not on Bunny, but a stuffed rabbit of the same style and color. If the caller could track down this particular rabbit, they were hoping to get it to Victoria.
“So, this story isn’t done yet,” Decker said. “You might say it’s ‘to be continued.’”