Lita Naessig has a thing for rabbits

Staff Writer
Echo Pilot
Lita Naessig really does love bunnies, and they come in all shapes and sizes at her home. Her favorite, of course, is the Netherland Dwarf she is holding.

Bunnies, bunnies everywhere.

Rabbits are known for their ability to multiply quickly. However, in the Naessig household, it’s not the Netherland dwarf Tobe who has gone crazy producing offspring. It’s his owner Lita, who has a passion for rabbits, and has garnered a large collection of memorabilia over the past 20 years.

Her family doesn’t quite get it, but they join in the fun. Husband Fred did draw a line. No rabbits in the bedroom, the bathroom or his den.

Sister Tina Frazier is more traditional. “I love animals but I have a dog. I can’t really understand the rabbit thing but this keeps us young.”

Mom Frances Keller was amazed by the number of bunny items Naessig brought out of storage last week. She had never seen so much in one place at one time. Noting the number of books, she commented gaily, “You’d think she’d never grown up.”

A love affair

Naessig’s rural Greencastle home is peppered with rabbit ware. The decor includes the little creatures in ceramic, tin, cloth and glass. She has dishes, stuffed animals, comic books, children’s books, grownup books, calendars, pillows, rugs, bags, postcards and food products (such as Brer Rabbit molasses and pasta in shapes).

She finds items to add to her collections of Bugs Bunny and Peter Rabbit. A favorite set is a bunch of toys that are musical, her “Band of Bunnies”.

A new and special piece is a prayer bunny, adorned with angels, from her mom. It is to celebrate Naessig’s remission from lung cancer, which was diagnosed in October. She also has several pink stuffed animals aligned with cancer awareness.

And of course, there is a real live rabbit in the house.

The tame and the wild

Naessig, 53, is on her third rabbit since 1993. Tobe, she says, was meant to be. He lives in a cage next to the kitchen. When she is home, he is often in her lap snuggling, or hopping around under her watchful eye. She admits as much as she loves him, he can’t be trusted. He will behave as he was born to, gnawing wood or chewing cords. But Tobe is content in his climate-controlled environment and never gets outdoors.

“He doesn’t know he’s a rabbit,” she said. “When Fred has hunting shows on and they have calls of rabbits in distress, he doesn’t blink an eye.”

Tobe is a little more particular than his predecessors Bo-Bo and A.J. Naessig could dress them in baby clothes, but Tobe will have nothing to do with that. He goes to the vet regularly to have his toenails clipped and his teeth filed.  He knows Naessig’s schedule, and perks up when she enters the driveway. When she gets ready for work, he is reluctant to be home alone, so he hides.

Naessig admits she has “the special bunny touch,” and gets her pets to such a sociable state because she handles them so much. She is concerned that too many parents will buy their children bunnies for Easter, and no one will give them the attention they need.

She has also taken in four rabbits from the wild, and cared for them until they could be released back to their native habitat. Most people are not successful in that endeavor, she said.

Her fanaticism is perpetual. “I can spot a bunny anywhere, day or night.”

When the head of Bugs Bunny flew off her car antenna, “I looked for him for two days because I felt sorry for him.”

Sure enough, Naessig found Bugs on the road and brought him back home.

The question ultimately is why? Why such a love for rabbits?

Naessig only knows that Easter has always carried its holiday traditions within the family. As children, she and her siblings received colored chicks. Later she turned to ducks. That transitioned to rabbits. And so Tobe is the recipient of her devotion and he returns the favor.