Two months ago, after much hesitation, I made the leap to adopt a classroom pet. Over the course of my years at Dublin Community Preschool, we have had many pets – fish of all varieties, hermit crabs, hamsters, rats, a rabbit and a number of guinea pigs that we fostered from the Monadnock Humane Society. The purpose of the MHS fostering program was to find permanent homes for the pets, which we mostly did with great success. It was a win-win relationship. And then, after a number of years, we took a break from pets – but it felt like something was missing.
It was time to try again. So, after a visit to the Animal Rescue League of NH, I brought a two-year-old female guinea pig home to DCP.
Butterscotch was received with great joy and much curiosity. What has followed has been heartwarming.
We set up her cage in the quiet reading area of our classroom. Within a day, we witnessed both before- school children and preschoolers trying to read to her. We now offer lap time every morning where children can quietly cuddle with her or choose to read her a story.
We often witness children leaving the busier areas of the classroom to share their worries and concerns through the bars of her cage and though there may only be the twitch of a furry nose or the tiniest of squeaks in response to sometimes elaborate conversations, the children leave feeling better for having shared an emotional burden with a non judgmental friend.
She has evoked so much curiosity. The children are always observing her actions- noticing what she likes to eat or which are her favorite areas to be scratched or patted. They wonder what she is thinking. Many have included her in their artwork. They are completely in tune with her and often show as much concern for her as any of their peers. She is included in our morning circle song and recognized right along with the rest of her human friends. As we eat snack, the children ask to save leftover veggies for her instead of throwing them away. She goes home with children on weekends and holidays creating a deeper home-school connection for many.
When we contemplated the pros and cons of having a classroom pet again, we never expected that we would be getting a literacy advocate, a therapist and a new friend.