The second gift we got from The Jefferson School (TJS) would be Atty, the class pet.
Soon after our daughter transitioned from the 5th grade class to the 4th grade class at TJS, I went in for parent-teacher conferences, which was my first time in the 4th grade classroom.
There, in the corner on the floor, was a fetching young lady named Atticus Finch, or Atty, for short.
Atty is a most beautiful and possibly 2-3 year old guinea pig, the (former) class pet.
For me, it was love at first site.
I immediately offered to take her with us over Christmas break, and etc., and the teacher was happy to have us do it, as her dog did not tolerate Atty coming home with her.
So, Atty stayed with us over Christmas, making our Christmas so much sweeter, and I could hardly bear to return her when school began again.
The school asked us if we could keep her during the shut down. Of course, we could.
But what began as, I expected, a few weeks, turned into the entire second half of school. We felt, as a family, that Atty was now a part of our family, and we hoped we would not have to return her.
Finally, a few days before TJS closed. the school told us the happy news that we could keep her.
Our family joke is that I say we have three GPs, and I call them by these names:
Baby Pigness (Sugar)
and Favorite Pigness (Sophie).
During our time with Atty, Sophie and I have done a lot of research on Guinea pigs. We learned that they are NOT from Guinea. They are from Peru where they live their lives as pets, food, and shamanic healers. They are important and revered, just like Atty (though we will never eat Atty, I do feel that she has provided me with some shamanic healing).
We learned they need vitamin C in everything, so they don’t get scurvy. Though they might like to play pirate, they do not want to be one and die from scurvy! (Or walk the plank!)
We also learned from Sophie, the mole on the inside, that, while in the classroom, Atty was often forced to ride in Lego cars, and the like, by the boys, and generally handled roughly. That she had been donated by a school family who thought better of owning her, and that she was, of course, given away a second time, to us.
There should not be any such thing as class pets, IMHO.
Animals have feelings and fears and loves, and to subject them to long weekends (or even closed weeks, or days with no heat during snow events) is cruel. To buy and commit to an animal and then throw it away, is cruel. To keep an animal as school pet but not take care of its dietary needs, or to allow children to be rough and self-serving with it, is cruel.
Since Atty has come to us one other thing we have learned is that Guinea pigs are very social pack animals, and so we rescued another one, this time from the pet store as our local shelter had none, and Atty is no longer lonely. She shares her home with Sugar. Sugar came to us with a severely infected eye, and it took quite some time, and quarantining from Atty, to get her healthy. And they both now get vitamin C supplements in their treats and water. And there is always hay, so Atty never has to worry about a long weekend with not enough hay and deadly GI stasis. And she never has to worry that she will be alone or cold or hungry or given away ever again.
Atty and Sugar are victims of the pet trade, and we cannot stop the pet trade, but we can insure that two little ladies are living their best lives from now on.