Post   » Fri Jan 21, 2005 9:01 pm

Hey Piggie Parent. When you list your pig as adopted, it should go to Happy Tails.

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piggie parent

Post   » Fri Jan 21, 2005 9:40 pm

Thanks. Then do most people do like an update to let people know where the pig was adopted to without giving out personal info. of course.

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Post   » Sat Jan 22, 2005 1:18 am

For the most part, I've avoided these pets-in-the-classroom threads. Generally, they lapse into horrible teacher stories and I haven't wanted to get into it.

However, after just reading this thread, I think I have to reply.

I want to begin by stating this clearly and concisely.

I would not advocate that a teacher have a pet in the classroom now, nor do I defend any of the situations people report relating "horror" stories about classroom pets of all kinds. I also do not think anyone should adopt out a guinea pig to be a classroom pet.

But I do take offense to some of the statements here, particularly the "Dear Dumass" comment.

My first experience with guinea pigs was as a classroom teacher with a young male.

My guinea pig (who died when a very well-respected exotic vet did his neuter), and Chippy and Cookie after him, did not suffer for one minute in my classroom.

They had more than twice the room of many of the rescue cages I've seen, proper food and tons of hay. They did not go home every weekend with a different family, but did spend extended vacations on occassion with trusted, responsible, and trained families who followed my instructions to the tee.

Believe me, it did not encourage any of these families to get their own guinea pigs. On the contrary, most found out how much time and expense they involve.

They received well-visits to the vet every six months, were well groomed and weighed once a week. I have thousands of dollars in vet bills to prove they got proper medical care. We did research on their needs and all learned to respect these very important members of our classroom.

Instead of being alone all day, these pigs were at the center of the activity. Stormy, in particular, would come to the side of his cage and demand attention if he hadn't had someone visit for over ten minutes. In fact, it was a student, not me, who noticed that Cookie was crying when she peed. Had she been at home, it's likely I wouldn't have noticed nearly as soon.

I realize this is not the norm. I realize that most of the comments from rescues come from frustrations and genuine concern of the pigs, but there's a tendency to paint every teacher who ever had a classroom pet as a villain. It's indicative of the all-or-none attitude that often prevails here.

When I first made the decision to bring pets into my classroom, it did not occur to me that it was the scandulous crime it's been portrayed as being. They were in the classroom, but they were my pets, my responsibility. Not objects. Not a new "toy" to be digarded when the newness wore off.

Did I make mistakes? You bet. Along with just about everyone else that posts on this board.

Did I stop having them in the classroom after deciding the very best life for them was free-range in my home? Yes.

If teachers are bridling at your questions, perhaps it has more to do with approach than their supposed feeling of superiority.

Appeal to their humanitarian side rather than seem like we are instructing them.

You're not going to accomplish that goal with the following:

Dang. I keep forgetting that I have to write a "Dear Dumbass" letter for classroom pets.


Post   » Sat Jan 22, 2005 1:29 am

Becky, you're the last person I would want to offend and you know that. The way you've interpreted my comments is really irking me, though.

The "dear dumbass letter" is just a phrase denoting a form letter. We have many of them and only a couple are "joke" letters that I posted on here. They are usually article-length, referenced discussions instructing people on issues that are key points in considering someone for adoption.

I realize this is not the norm. I realize that most of the comments from rescues come from frustrations and genuine concern of the pigs, but there's a tendency to paint every teacher who ever had a classroom pet as a villain. It's indicative of the all-or-none attitude that often prevails here.

1. No, it's not the norm. You and HollyT are not the norm. But you're not the rule either.

2. You're confusing villifying the practice with villifying the practitioners. And this is exactly the reason why I stopped explaining to teachers why they can't have a classroom pet. Because no matter how nice I was about it, they got too damned upset and I couldn't talk to them anymore.

And I doubt it's my approach, since I am highly diplomatic when dealing with adopters AND teachers represent 99% of the people who get pissed off about being turned down.

Some day, someone will invent a way to say "guinea pigs shouldn't be in the classroom" without it being interpreted as "teachers are villains." For now, I think I'll just continue to say no.

And someone please remind me of this masochistic episode so that I don't post on this topic in the future.

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Post   » Sat Jan 22, 2005 2:41 am

The "dear dumbass letter" is just a phrase denoting a form letter.

But, don't you see that it also reflects an attitude? it assumes that the teacher (or other groups warranting a Dear Dumbass letter) is incapable of doing anything but being at best, neglectful and at worst, an animal abuser.

This isn't about separating the practice from the practioners. There is no separating them.

We all know that guinea pigs suffer in classrooms and that teachers need to recognize this but they are so difficult to deal with that I stopped explaining it.

When teachers decide to have a classroom pet, the last thing on their minds is doing a bad thing. That was part of my point. Instead of going to Petco, they've contacted a rescue. That's supposed to be a good thing.

When the approach is about guinea pigs suffering, then, yes, people are going to get defensive. Considering the form letter comment and the comment about teachers thinking they're superior, I have to wonder just how diplomatic you are coming across sometimes.

Look, I really don't want to make this long and drawn out. I've been thinking for a long time about this issue. I understand the majority of classroom pets do not get proper care, but I also know of several teachers with pets who give these animals better care than many people with pets in their homes.

As a teacher, I think these points would deter me from having a guinea pig in my classroom.

Vet costs. Have them email me. I'll send them documentation of how expensive they are to keep as pets.

Food costs. Even the barest food needs are relatively expensive for most teachers.

Supply costs and dealing with soiled litter. Let them know how much carefresh costs. It'll be their only choice, since allergies will make other types of bedding unacceptable. Also, many custodians won't deal with disposing of the bedding.

Allergies. This, more than any other reason, should deter them. I had no idea kids could be so allergic to guinea pigs. More and more children have allergies. This is a neutral argument that has nothing to do with their level of care.

Space. Most classrooms can't accommodate the amount of space a C&C cage requires. The fact that they're contacting a rescue for a pig indicates to me that they are interested in proper care.

The suggestion to adopt guinea pigs as a family pet and have them visit the classroom might appeal to many teachers. It's easy to set up a C&C cage if you use binder clips at the corners. If they use fleece, the clean up is relatively easy with less expense for bedding.

You probably include many or all of these considerations already. These are the ones that would have stopped me. None of them suggest that the teacher will not be a good caretaker.


Post   » Sat Jan 22, 2005 10:32 am

Excellent posts, Becky. I think you hit the nail on the head.

Chary, I understand where you're coming from, but I'm also having a hard time believing you're so diplomatic with adopters when you are so undiplomatic here. If that many teachers are getting pissed at you, me think the problem is with your approach.

Although I don't agree with adopting out pigs as classroom pets, I think adopting them out as personal pets who will visit the classroom from time to time is a good compromise for everyone.

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Post   » Sat Jan 22, 2005 1:45 pm

I like the allergy point. I am going to use that. Everything else there I already include to dissuade them from going to PetCo.

I think the replies back are worse when the teachers already had a pig before and it died so they need another. Then they already feel that they did successfully have a pig in the classroom (despite that it died before the year was even over).

Maybe including in the letter that there are rare exceptions, and that if they can provide X standard of care or something, they could adopt from a shelter? (not that you can't just grab a pig up here, but I mean, we'd help them out with any information about the pigs they are interested in) That way if we run across someone like Becky out here, if they really would be a good home then they don't have to go to PetCo.


Post   » Sat Jan 22, 2005 8:45 pm

Check out my petfinder website.

Please let me know what you think or something you think I should change or fix.


Post   » Sun Jan 23, 2005 1:38 am

Thanks for the personal attack, E. You haven't done that in a while. And coming from you that comment means nothing.

Here is my "undiplomatic" letter proving that I am SUCH a major bitch and I HATE teachers:

Dear Teacher,

Thank you for your interest in our guinea pigs! It sounds like you really are an animal lover and I'm so glad that you have decided to educate your class on animal care. I'm going to try to help you do that.

We have a number of educational and volunteer opportunities for children -- we have guest speakers who go to the classroom with guinea pigs and let the children handle and learn about them. We also have "junior volunteers" who volunteer at our events and help educate the public. Some even make crafts such as our "cozies" to help support the rescue. We also have a very gifted junior volunteer who visits pet stores to educate the employees on proper care. She can always use helpers!

In addition, we can always evolve an educational/volunteer program tailored to your classroom. Our educational coordinator has been visiting classrooms for many years and is very adept at developing children's educational programs.

Hopefully some of these options will appeal to you. I'm sorry, but we do not allow our guinea pigs to actually live in the classroom (even if they go home on weekends). We find that the best environment for guinea pigs is a home environment where they are family pets.

Please let me know if you would like to discuss our educational options, and thank you again for your interest!

Now, I think I will just take my "undiplomatic" self off here, so that Evangeline, the queen of diplomacy, can have the floor to herself.

Pigglies, I'm not writing another letter. I'm tired of being yelled at.

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Post   » Sun Jan 23, 2005 2:00 am

I like it. You had that one already? It's better than what I wrote by far.


Post   » Sun Jan 23, 2005 2:07 am

No, don't use that. It's the letter that I've been sending for the past year and it's generated nothing but a bunch of hate mail.

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Post   » Sun Jan 23, 2005 2:13 am

Oh ok. I've just been writing a new one specifically for each teacher. I can't figure out a way to make a good form letter that fits everyone.

There was one teacher who emailed and already had a pig (found it in a dumpster in a small cage). She was asking where to get a good pet shop cage for not too much money. I told her that building a C&C cage would make a "really cool class project". She was really happy and I have no idea what grade she taught, but she sure sounded like they'd do that. That is the only positive experience I've had with teachers and classroom pets so far.

Other than that, most teachers have either not replied or written back nasty replies about rescues being too strict.


Post   » Sun Jan 23, 2005 3:11 am

All I can say is that I have tried to educate many fellow teachers on the dangers of keeping pets in the classroom and they just roll their eyes at me. In fact, I personally haven't met many teacher colleagues who have pets. Of course there are some, but many that I know seem to hold the view that animals are too messy and too much work.

Of course this is just my experience and it may be that this is the norm in the general public as well, but I have never had a colleague offer to foster a rabbit or guinea pig for me. One told me this Summer her husband bought a rabbit for the kids and is living outside even though I sent her tons of information.

As a teacher, I would be way too paranoid to leave any animal unattended in my classroom even when locked. On the occassions I have brought mine in they were never alone or without adult supervision. I really like the idea of a teacher sharing her pets with the class and promoting rescue and good pet care that way.

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Post   » Sun Jan 23, 2005 1:15 pm

I'm going to try to help you do that.

This is condescending. Your implication is that they are incapable of educating children about pets. What do you know about their knowledge of animals? Maybe they hold a Ph.D. in biology.

I'm sorry, but we do not allow our guinea pigs to actually live in the classroom (even if they go home on weekends). We find that the best environment for guinea pigs is a home environment where they are family pets.

Why isn’t the classroom a good place? What are your reasons? What evidence do you have to back up your claims that the classroom is an inappropriate environment for a guinea pig? Why is it worse than many of the horrible, horrible family environments out there?

It is dismissive. Again, you are making the assumption that all classrooms will make the pigs suffer.

This is a person contacting a rescue, for god’s sake! Without knowing one blessed thing about this person or the situation, you assume the worst.. Of course they’re going to be on the defensive! You would, too. In fact, how many times on this board have people become immediately defensive if anyone, including vets, question their knowledge.

And just how many teachers contact you? Let’s take that number and compare it, first, to the total number of teachers with pets in their classroom. I’m guessing you hear from a very small number of them. These are exactly the people you want to court, not dismiss.

Now, let’s take a look at the number of pets in bad classroom situations compared to the number of pets in bad home situations. Are you automatically sending them Dear Dumbass letters? Of course not. Even if you did the math and came up with a percentage, I’m betting there are exponentially more bad home situations than classroom situations.

A big problem in the rescue world is a lack of perspective. The world does not revolve around this one, important aspect of life. It just doesn’t. When you narrow your perspective, you get to a point where you are right and everyone else is wrong. It comes through whether you see it or not.

Dear Dumbass. Yeah, that’s respectful and open-minded. Difficult to deal with. Unlike you, I’m sure. …think they’re superior. Why, because they’d like to hear some actual reasons behind your policies?

Maybe people aren’t as concerned as the rescue world about the absolute perfect environment for guinea pigs. What are you going to do—force them to be as concerned?

You are pissing off a very powerful possible partner when you are dismissive to teachers. If they always get defensive, then I’d say you have a big PR problem. Why not put the effort into making them your champion instead of the enemy? Do you have any idea how many families I’ve talked out of getting guinea pigs, or to contact the SPCA or a rescue instead of going to a pet store? Just last year I talked a teacher out of breeding her family pets. Get teachers on your side, and you could have an enormous impact on your work.

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Post   » Sun Jan 23, 2005 1:16 pm

And just because I don't think talk is much good without action, here's the letter I'd like to get if I were a teacher contacting a rescue.

These are my final words on this issue, and perhaps all issues guinea pig. I wish you well in your rescue efforts.

Dear (actual name of teacher),

I can tell by the fact that you contacted a rescue that you are aware of the serious overpopulation of guinea pigs in our area. Good for you for being so socially aware and willing to help in this situation, not just by wanting to rescue two guinea pigs, but by educating your students about proper pet care and integrating these companions into a loving environment. And good for you for realizing the pet store industry contributes to the overpopulation problem by selling pets and supporting the breeding mills.

Let me tell you about our experience with some other caring teachers who have had guinea pigs as classroom pets. None of these teachers have pets now for many good reasons:

Children’s allergies. I’m sure you see more and more children with allergies and asthma these days. Many people do not know that if a child is allergic to a cat or dog, there’s a high possibility they will be allergic to a guinea pig as well.

Since guinea pigs live from five-eight years, it is highly likely that, during that time, you’ll have more than one child with allergies. One teacher experienced a child who had to be brought to the doctors due to a severe reaction. Even the child’s parents were surprised.

Medical costs. Since guinea pigs are classified as “exotics,” there are few vets in the area that competently treat these guys. Also, since it is a specialty area, the costs for treating them is quite enormous. They are prone to abscesses, bladder stones and various tumors. All of these situations require expensive, extensive diagnostics and surgery at a cost anywhere from $300-$800 and extensive post-surgical care that cannot be carried out in the classroom.

In addition, many guinea pigs develop serious dental problems. As I’m sure you know, their teeth are continually growing. If problems develop, the guinea pig will require specialized care or risk starving to death.

Habitat. Guinea pigs, to thrive and have the best possible situation, require a great deal of space. (This link will take you to a site specifically about guinea pig cages.) The only bedding that will not cause problems with allergies is a product called Care Fresh, (quite expensive—average price for a week of bedding would be $30). This bedding needs to be changed weekly. One teacher actually had to transport the soiled bedding home because the custodian refused to deal with the heavy trash cans.

Our teachers also have told us space is an issue in many classrooms. A proper-sized cage would take up an enormous amount of space.

Food. Hay, good quality pellets and fresh vegetables will average approximately $25 a week. That’s a big hunk out of a poorly-paid teacher’s salary!

Because of the experiences of other teachers, as well as the belief that the best possible environment for these rather fragile creatures is as a family pet, it is our policy not to adopt our guinea pigs as classroom pets. We do, however, have many educational outreach programs.

(List your programs.)

Again, I applaud your efforts and appreciate your thinking of a rescue first. I’d like to extend a personal invitation to you to spend a day here with us helping out our rescue. It can be great fun, and you’ll get to see our operation in action! I welcome your comments and input about pets in the classroom. We always are striving for new ways to expand our message of proper guinea pig care and can’t think of a better source than our classroom teachers.


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Post   » Sun Jan 23, 2005 1:30 pm

Hey Becky, that sets an excellent tone. You make some really good points too, especially about getting teachers on side. Hope you stick around.

Get on your bike.

Post   » Sun Jan 23, 2005 1:40 pm

becky, you are INVALUABLE to this forum and you aren't going anywhere!

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Post   » Sun Jan 23, 2005 2:02 pm

Becky, can I use portions of your letter?

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Post   » Sun Jan 23, 2005 2:27 pm

That is a very nice letter, Becky. I echo lisam's question, please.


Post   » Sun Jan 23, 2005 2:49 pm

A personal attack? Jeez. Aren't we a little paranoid? If I didn't know you better, I'd think that this would surely qualify as a personal attack.
And coming from you that comment means nothing.

I stated a fact that other members here have obviously observed. You are not a diplomatic person. At all. I don't know how you are with adopters, but here, as a member, I don't find you diplomatic. That, and the fact that so many teachers are upset with you, leads me to believe that you aren't as diplomatic as you think you are.

I know I am probably the least diplomatic person here and I've never said I was. I guess, at least, I don't tell myself lies about it, huh?

Excellent letter. I heart you.

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