Teacher's pet: Oreo the guinea pig brings calm, comfort to special-needs classroom
Published Sunday, March 8, 2015 9:58PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, March 8, 2015 11:59PM EDT
When he’s not munching on lettuce and other greens, Oreo is earning his keep as a “teacher” in a Calgary classroom for students with special needs.
Oreo is a therapy guinea pig. Similar to other therapy animals, the fluffy pet helps to manage anxiety and stress levels.
“When you hold Oreo on your chest, he seems to regulate your heart beat and kind of calms you down,” teacher Kelly Calvert told CTV News.
Calvert has been using Oreo with her special needs students at St. Gregory School. She says the specially trained rodent is a vital member of her classroom that encourages students, some of whom have autism, to open up about their problems. Most of the time, Oreo simply sits quietly and lets students pet him.
“He’s actually my colleague, so I do pay his room and board, and pay him in lettuce and greens but he is a district employee and he is covered by our board,” Calvert said. “I look at him as a pet, and as another working teacher.”
For Grade 7 student Ellie Konicki, Oreo helps her manage some of her daily stresses.
“Anything that was going on that was too much, like an upcoming tests, like midterms … Oreo is here to help you,” Konicki said.
But despite Oreo’s popularity, the loveable pet wasn’t always welcomed at the school. Principal John Decorsy initially said no to the idea.
“I sort of shook my head and said, ‘I thought I had heard of everything but this was brand new,’” he said.
Decorsy, however, quickly warmed up to Oreo after seeing how students interacted with the furry friend.
“We love him,” Decorsy said.
To ensure Oreo is not overworked, he is given several breaks throughout the day.