Peculiar Pets

Students and facility around Nixa High School show off their furry friends.

 In the wild, at the beach, on the sidewalk or in a pet store — all sorts of animals can be found in the world. Cats and dogs are normally seen within a household, but other pets fall under the unusual category — those being  hamsters, birds, snakes and fish. 

   Biology teacher, William Dennis is a fan of all types of animals — students come in during school to take a peek at all the animals in the back of his classroom. His collection consists of ants, snails, a whipped scorpion and the infamous balled python that he calls George. Dennis has had positive feedback from students and faculty about his pets.

   “Students love the animals, and faculty gets freaked out sometimes,” Dennis said. “Students come into my class and ask me ‘Are you the dude with the snake?. Then they come in and talk for a bit.”

   Classroom animals are something seen at one’s old elementary school as a way to get kids to interact. Dennis keeps them for useful reasons.

   “I am a biology teacher and I enjoy having them around during my lessons,” said Dennis. “I think students should pressure all of their teachers to get pets in the classroom.”

   While snakes help Dennis teach and students learn, junior Alisha Taylor owns a bird named Kirby who helps her stay together. Kirby is a pet store bird named after the video game character Kirby. Taylor was inspired to get a bird after hearing her mom’s experiences.

   “[My mom] owned a lot of birds whenever she was younger and she told me stories about them — I’ve been interested ever since,” Taylor said. 

   Taylor was trained on how to keep up with high maintenance pets from a young age, where she was given many hamsters.

   “My parents wanted to make sure I was able to take care of a bird,” Taylor said. “So they gave me a bunch of hamsters.”

   Taylor gives her whole life to Kirby. Even with her work and participation in color guard, nothing has stopped her from giving the best to the animal she loves the most.

  “Birds are very high maintenance so whenever I [went to Indianapolis] I had to hire a babysitter to make sure Kirby was alright,” Taylor said.

  Growing up with strange pets can make one become attached to a childhood pet. Junior Alexis Ehly has a similar attachment with Hermit Crabs — she has owned Hermit Crabs off and on since she was eight years old. She has had a love for the animals since  her first trip to Florida..

 “While me and my family were on a trip to Florida when I was younger, we got a bunch of hermit crabs,” Ehly said.

   Ehly recently was able to get more hermit crabs from a supply store. She and her friends have connected with the crabs since that time.

   “I named one Hermy because he never came out of its shell whenever I got him,” Ehly said. “The other one Olivia [Jones] named Marcol. I like the uniqueness that my crabs have.” 

   The connection between these pets is something one has to build. Ehly had to  start building trust with her crabs before she was able to do more with them.

   “It is not like a dog or a cat where you can talk to it and they understand you,” Ehly said. “They don’t follow commands. You need to build trust and that is the only way they will ‘talk’ to you.” 

   Ehly gives one important tip before buying any caged animal.

   “Do your research and figure out your budget within the animal,” Ehly said. “It will make you and your pets all the more comfortable in your environment.”

Dr. William Dennis shows off his classroom snake, George. (Lydia Cheek)