Thursday, March 8, 2012

What Pets Teach Us

This blog is dedicated to Molly, my classroom pet, who past away in August.   She was 9 1/2 and lived an extremely long and happy life for a guinea pig.  Guinea pigs live to be between 5 and 8 years old.  So, I would say she would be about 105 if she were a person!  Next week, would have been her 10th birthday.   This is a repost with some tweaks of one that I posted on my blog in August.  I have gotten many questions through this blog on how I handle a classroom pet's death and what type of cage I use.  This post answers those questions and more.  It also highlights what pets teach us.

I had known Molly's death was coming and had been preparing myself and the students.  In June, I noticed that she was not handling the heat well and decided she would be better at home in my airconditioned house.  I also thought it better, they not see her dead.  If it had happened I would have handled it with honesty, but if I was able to prevent the children from seeing Molly like that I thought it best I do so.  So, we had a retirement party in my classroom.  We wrote her advice on her retirement.  I scanned a few of the super cute ones and placed them below.
(She will relax in a jacuzzi with water and sit by a water jet.)

Molly enjoyed the simple things in life up until the very end. She would squeak for food whenever I walked past her cage.  Then she would purr after I would give her some of her favorite summer treats: watermelon, strawberries, grape tomatoes, and corn.  I am deeply saddened by her loss, but find comfort in the fact that she brought me and over 200 students who came through my classroom such joy.  There is a quote by Dr. Seuss that I love: "Don't cry because it is over, smile because it happened."  I want to remember and celebrate all of the special things about her life.

Molly was left in a box in front of Petco early one March morning.  A class mother knew that I was looking to rescue a pet for the classroom and told me about her.  I teach Humane Education in my classroom and thought this would be a great way to teach my students about compassion for animals.  Through the years, Molly not only taught them about compassion, but about so many other important life lessons.  Here are some of the lessons she taught my students and even me:
  • Fresh Fruit and Veggies are the Best - She encouraged healthy eating, as the the students were only allowed to share their snack with her if they had fruit or vegetables.  
  • Responsibility -She taught the students responsibility, as each month it was one student's job to be pet helper.  When she was younger, she went home with students for the weekend.  For some students, this was a stepping stone to getting their own pets.  On Mondays, we would share her journal entry and photos.  This was also a great way to enhance the "Home-School Connection."  
  • It's OK to Laugh in School - Oh she made us laugh!  One time, it was dead silent in the room and she just burst out squealing at the top of her lungs.  The students asked if she was having babies; turns out she just really wanted some lettuce.  Another time, I replaced her well chewed wooden house with a new one.  She tried to fit through the window like she always did, but this window had not been widened by her chewing.  She got stuck in the window like Winnie the Pooh, with her behind hanging out.  It was hysterical!  
  • Write About What You Know -Molly was a source of inspiration for Writer's Workshop and was a always on my students' "Things Inside My Heart" lists.  
  • Always Dress Your Best - She was the leader of the Halloween parade every year.  She tolerated anything I put on her!  
  • Animal Safety - I showed the students appropriate behavior for interacting with domesticated animals, such as the proper way to approach an animal and pet an animal.
  • Be On Your Best Behavior - When my students got a bit to noisy, I would tell them that Molly was trying to nap and that they were disturbing her.  She also became a positive behavior reinforcement for the ABA students in my building.  The students would earn lettuce from the cafeteria for good behavior.  Then they would get to feed Molly the lettuce.  
  • Say Thank You - Molly always offered a friendly purr or "chud chud" sound every time someone gave her food.
  • Greet Your Friends In the Morning - She said "hello" to me every morning by running to her her cage and squeaking.  
  • Y can Sound Like a Vowel - Whenever there was a y that sounded like long e at the end of the word, I would remind the students of Molly's name.  This really helped them remember that y could sound like long e!
Thanks for reading this post and helping me celebrate her wonderful life.

Click {here} to view photos of Molly.

Click {here} to read my previous posts about Molly and Humane Education.

If you are thinking of getting a classroom pet,  my advice is that you must think of the classroom pet as your own.  Please, click {here} and download my Critters in the Classroom packet.  As always, make pet adoption your fist option, go to Petfinder to find local rescue groups.

My favorite site about Guinea Pigs is Cavy Spirit.  This is were I got the plans to make her extra large guinea pig cage.


  1. this brought tears to my eyes. I love your passion for pets Erica!

  2. Thank you for posting this! I have been contemplating a classroom pet for awhile (in addition to our worms and fish) and had the opportunity to adopt a 6 month old bunny today, so I instantly jumped on the opportunity. I've been doing lots of reading but was wondering what your opinion is on leaving my bunny friend overnight in the classroom a couple nights a week and bringing her home a couple of weeknights and over weekends/vacations. I'm concerned that she'd be lonely if I left her in the classroom a couple nights a week.

  3. Hi there! I'm a new follower and reading this post brought tears to my eyes. I think it is wonderful what you have taught your students about the fun, love, and inspiration a pet can give you! Your blog is great!!!
    The Enchanted Ladybug

  4. Thanks for all of your information about guinea pigs! I've read so much and it is super helpful! I'm a enthusiastic,new pet owner with a class of first graders.
    Rambling About Reading


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