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O.C.'s Fletcher the dog a finalist in Cadbury Bunny Tryouts

Fletcher the dog on a couch wears bunny ears and a bow tie.
Fletcher, a 2-year-old golden retriever from Huntington Beach, is a finalist in the Cadbury Bunny Tryouts.
(Raul Roa / Times Community News)

Fletcher, a 2-year-old golden retriever, is a constant source of joy for Huntington Beach resident Ellen Kuhnert and the people in her life.

Kuhnert, the chief nursing officer at Orange County Global Medical Center in Santa Ana, brings her dog to work on Fridays. They call it “Fletcher Friday.”

People come into her office to visit with Fletcher. Recently, he’s spent time being a cheerful presence for people who are getting their COVID-19 vaccinations.

The pandemic “has been psychologically and emotionally and physically so draining,” Kuhnert said. “Everybody’s so exhausted, so we try to do things to keep each other’s spirits up. Having him there is definitely one of those things.”

Fletcher was a great comfort to Kuhnert a year ago when her father, Robert, passed away just as the pandemic was beginning.

Now Kuhnert hopes he will be on television screens across the country.

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Fletcher is one of 10 national finalists in this year’s Cadbury Bunny Tryouts. He’s vying against two other dogs, a cat, an alpaca, a goat, a frog, a horse, a cow and one actual bunny.

Voting runs through Wednesday at 9 p.m. Pacific time at bunnytryouts.cadburyusa.com. The family of the winning “bunny” will receive $5,000 and has its pet featured in this year’s Cadbury Easter commercial.

The people at Cadbury must have seen something in Fletcher, as most who are around him do.

“He’s extremely friendly,” Kuhnert said. “He’s loving, very sweet, but he’s got a funny side to him too. And he’s really competitive.”

A dog in bunny ears and a woman stand behind a half-door.
Fletcher is pictured with owner Ellen Kuhnert.
(Raul Roa / Times Community News
)

Things have moved quickly since Kuhnert, at the urging of a co-worker, entered Fletcher in the contest in late February. She submitted a picture of Fletcher wearing bunny ears, relaxing in the backyard of the house she shares with her friend Luis Tirado.

They found out he was a semifinalist on March 4 and had four days to pull together an audition video to send in.

They decided to put Fletcher behind the wheel of a purple Volkswagen Beetle owned by Tirado’s father. The premise was that with everyone using food delivery more often during the pandemic, Fletcher could deliver Cadbury eggs.

Just two days later, Kuhnert found out that Fletcher was a finalist among more than 12,000 entries. Now, they’re in a campaign for the win. Kuhnert has signs in her yard and at work, as well as at a community dog park, encouraging people to vote for Fletcher.

“Obviously, we’re partial to him,” Kuhnert said. “He’s so special to us. We waited a long time to get him, did a lot of research. We put a lot of time in with him with training and everything, because that’s the life we want him to have. To think just from a photo, everybody else found that kind of joy that he’s brought to our lives? It was emotional, for sure.”

Kuhnert said winning the contest would be an honor. There is some precedent for one of Fletcher’s species to claim the prize: Last year’s Cadbury bunny winner was a two-legged rescue dog from Ohio named Lieutenant Dan.

“It would be great to have everybody see the commercial and feel some love and joy from him,” Kuhnert said. “Even if it makes 10 other people happy, it’s so worth it.”

Szabo writes for Times Community News.


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