Garrett Middle School students eagerly huddled around a classroom table where a feisty barking lobster and shark stood. Other students patted Miss Piggy’s head and cradled Batman, while a bumble bee and ladybug sat quietly on the floor.
The middle school students may have outgrown trick or treating, but their pets in costumes still wanted some Halloween fun. Members of Garrett’s “No Pet Left Behind” club recently brought their four-legged friends to school for the second annual “Trick or Tails” event.
The pets went on the hunt for treats in the courtyard of the school. Some pets were too dainty to eat their Halloween goodies at the school.
“Suzie doesn’t like to eat treats in public,” explained seventh grader Caleigh about her dog, who was dressed like a ladybug. “She will most likely eat them at home, but she loved going around and getting the treats from everyone,”
The pet participants weren’t limited to dogs. A cat dressed as a skeleton dared to make an appearance and strutted across a classroom table as a large Boxer in a devil costume sat nearby.
Seventh grader Marcus may have brought the calmest pet. His bearded dragon named Spanky watched the other excitable pets from his perch on the shoulder of Garret school counselor Joy Chanin.
“As a school counselor, I try to make connections with students,” said Chanin. “Animals are a passion of mine, and it is a really good way to make that connection. So many kids love animals. There are so many studies proving how animals are helpful to people, and I hope if children learn to be compassionate and kind to animals and responsible to animals, they will learn to be more compassionate and kind to each other.”
Chanin started the “No Pet Left Behind” club five years ago. Animal rescue groups visit the school and talk to club members about the importance of taking care of animals. The club donates money to the rescue groups from funds the members raise during the school year.
“I think [the club] raises awareness for [the students] to not to [allow pets] to be abused and left behind,” added Juanita Garrison, who is a parent of the puppy in the Batman costume as well as the parent of eighth grade club member Audrey. “People move and leave their pets behind. So hopefully it will teach [the kids] at a younger age that [the pets] need to be taken care of and not left behind.”
Caleigh said her favorite part about being a member of the club was going on field trips like the one they took to the zoo where students got a behind-the-scenes tour. Her classmate Marcus likes to meet new animals.
Seeing the smiles on students’ faces grow as they cuddle their furry friends at the “Trick or Tails” event may explain why students have told the school counselor they don’t want to leave Garrett Middle because of the “No Pets Left Behind” club.
“Students will come talk to me about their dogs, cats, lizards, birds, fish and turtles, and they get so excited about it,” said Chanin with a smile. “Students come to me as a counselor because they get to know me in [the club]. They might come and talk to me because they have already developed a comfort level with me, or they might bring a friend, who needs to talk to me. So I really think “No Pet Left Behind” is a good segue into my job.”