Chelsea Lambert noticed the difference right away.

A mental health therapist at Methodist Fremont Health, Lambert handed one of her rabbits to an anxious female patient.

“When we gave her the rabbit, she melted almost instantly and was calm — just by having the rabbit sit on her chest and she petted it,” Lambert said.

Now, the Arlington woman has four rabbits that are certified therapy animals, which she brings to a group therapy session a couple times a month, the Fremont Tribune reported.

She also works with 17 photographers, bringing her bunnies to photo shoots for Easter pictures. She has brought bunnies to birthday parties. She plans to take some to a nursing home.

And the woman — who for years has served as superintendent of the rabbit show at the Washington County Fair — sells rabbits to people who want them as pets or 4-H’ers who plan to show them. She does not sell them for food.

Lambert has a soft spot for the furry, little animals.

“Most rabbits are super sweet,” she said. “It’s fun watching them, because they’re curious. After they get to know you and understand that you’re not a threat, they will come up and give you kisses or cuddle.”

Lambert’s bunny love came early in life. She grew up with rabbits and was 6 when she got her first one.

She and her three siblings would show rabbits in 4-H and after a while their mom, Betty Johnson, became superintendent of the rabbit show at the Washington County Fair.

The family lived in rural Arlington.

“As I was growing up, we had anywhere from 30 to 80 rabbits and we really had a two-room barn that was called the ‘Bunny Barn,'” she said.

Neighbor kids sometimes came and helped with the rabbits. Some bought rabbits to show in 4-H.

About 10 years ago, Lambert started taking over the rabbit show at the fair, with help from her mom.

Today, Lambert and her husband, Tad, have three children, Charzlie, 13, Zadyn, 10, and Zayla, 6.

They raise Dwarf Hotot rabbits — small white animals that look like they’re wearing eyeliner.

Thus, their rabbits are named: L’Oreal, Maybelline and Kat Von D.

“We try to keep makeup names,” she said.

They also have mini rex rabbits, which have velvety soft fur, mini lop, characterized by their lop ears.

Last year, Lambert got a call from a photographer asking if she’d rent her rabbits for Easter photo shoots. So she worked with 10 photographers.

“We did photo shoots with little kids, so my job was to pose the rabbits and try to make the kids smile — which isn’t hard when you have a rabbit,” she said.

She brings about six rabbits to a photo shoot so she can give some rabbits a rest while the others are in the photos.

Someone at one of the photography sessions asked if Lambert would do a birthday party.

At that party, the rabbits were dressed in small costumes like that of a princess or a lobster. Children could sit in an outdoor playpen and hold and pet the rabbits.

Lambert has rules regarding the rabbits and brings at least two helpers to help watch the bunnies at a party. That way, neither bunnies nor kids get hurt.

She added that her rabbits have been handled since they were 7 or 8 days old so they’re accustomed to children. And for birthday parties, she doesn’t bring bunnies that are under 4 months old.

She’s done three birthday parties so far and believes children can benefit from being with bunnies.

“It teaches that your actions affect others,” she said. “It teaches how to be kind. I try to teach that each breed is a little bit different.”

Lambert can teach how different breeds have different temperaments. For instance, one breed might be calmer. Another might want its own space.

“Kids ask lots of questions,” she said. “I answer all the appropriate questions the kids or parents have.”

Recently, Lambert took some bunnies to a kindergarten classroom in Arlington. She later had the bunnies hidden in the corner of a gym when she went to eat lunch with her daughter.

But then a girl noticed the bunnies, and before long about 50 students were around the rabbits and an adult asked about the animals.

“I brought one (bunny) out and I got mobbed,” she said of the impromptu meet-and-greet moment.

At fair time in July, Lambert loves hearing her own children share their knowledge of the rabbits.

“I’ll look over and see my oldest daughter holding a rabbit on her knees so little kids around her can pet it,” Lambert said.

Or Lambert will hear her daughter talking about the bunnies with people, who’ve come from Omaha to a concert in Arlington and have never held a rabbit.

“It’s nice to see that she’s also passionate about the bunnies,” she said.

As a mental health therapist, Lambert uses the bunnies to teach coping skills.

“People forget to take deep breaths or they’re so wrapped up with things that are in their heads that they’re not present in the moment,” she said. “Rabbits bring you into the moment. So instead of worry about everything — because we live in a stressful world — they bring you to the here and now and the repetitive petting and just noticing them and being in the present moment is calming to people.”

And bunnies are cute.

“Sometimes they sit on their back legs and they clean their face with their front feet — and that’s so adorable you can’t help but smile,” she said.

These days, life hops along quickly for Lambert and her family.

“I like to spread joy with rabbits,” she said. “People just become happy when they see them.”


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