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LINCOLN — With a name like Hammie, a 1-year-old Lincoln bulldog was bound to be sweet.
But Michelle Parden's dog is getting national and international attention for befriending and cuddling six orange feline friends.
In October, Parden's friend Gayla Hausman, director of Voice for Companion Animals in Beatrice, posted on Facebook that she needed to find a foster home for a pregnant cat to have her kittens. The cat, named Mommy, was a stray found in Valparaiso, Neb.
The Parden family already had two bulldogs, Honey and Hammie, and a cat. But being animal lovers, the Pardens volunteered.
When Mommy arrived in Lincoln she had an eye infection, fleas, an upper respiratory infection and was underweight. Despite the health issues the orange cat gave birth to six kittens on Halloween. Parden, with the help of her 7-year-old son Max, named them Pumpkin, Goblin, Frankenstein, Batman, Zombie and Elvira.
Concerned Mommy would be afraid of the dogs, Parden kept the cat and the kittens separate from the dogs. Slowly she started introducing the cats to the dogs by bringing in blankets that the dogs had used. Then it was time for the kittens to meet Hammie.
“I did it to socialize the cats,” Parden said. “I wasn't trying to get photo ops.”
But when her English bulldog stood over the kittens, nudged them with his nose and then plopped down next to them for a nice cuddle, Parden couldn't help but snap a few photos with her phone.
The kittens and Hammie typically spent about an hour a day together.
“I swear he thought he was the mom,” Parden said.
Last week Parden posted a photo of Hammie with one of the kittens to the social media site Reddit — her first ever post to the site. Within 24 hours of posting the photo, a reporter from the Huffington Post had contacted Parden. A gallery of Hammie and kitten photos are on Good Morning America's website. He's even gone international with British and German news outlets contacting Parden.
“It's breaking stereotypes,” Parden said, in trying to explain her dog's sudden celebrity.
Often when people see Hammie, they get scared and walk the other direction, Parden said. Or mistake him for a pitbull.
“But he's the sweetest dog I've ever had,” she said.
Mommy is now healthy and living with Zombie in a new home. The five other kittens have also been adopted.
Don't worry about Hammie. He's busy trying to win over the Parden's family cat, Masuaka. And next month he'll take his charm on the road when he participates in a bulldog show in Missouri.
Video: Hammie plays with the kittens