Meet the animals

Zoology students bring in their pets to class


Sydney Kinzy

Fat Louie enjoys carrying McBride’s highlighter around the classroom.

When walking into the zoology classroom, the first thing you may spot might be Louie the hamster scampering across the black lab tables to grab his owner Duncan McBride’s neon pink highlighter between his mouth. Or perhaps, you notice the turtle pushing rocks through his gigantic tank. Biology and Zoology teacher Amy Cohen runs this course, giving students the opportunity to adopt an animal and bring them into class.

“It adds a fun component to the class, navigating around small mammals that are rolling around in plastic balls, watching snakes eat mice, seeing gerbils or mice jump for food or climb cage walls, observing a turtle swim, examining the shed skin of a lizard, hearing guinea pigs vocalize,” Cohen said. “But mostly I enjoy seeing the students interact with their animals and socialize with each other. Having animals be part of class creates an environment where groups of students talk and work together simply because of their shared interest in animals.”

Students must log the behavior and activity of their animals throughout the semester as a part of their grade. Students also can use the logs to make sure their animals are happy and healthy, another key part of the grade.

“It’s an opportunity for the students to have hands on experience with animal behavior,” Cohen said. “It’s also a neat way for students to be exposed to animals they may not have been around before. It teaches the students a lot about being responsible for another living thing. The animals often surprise the students with how they communicate and interact with others.”

Duncan McBride, senior

Louie sits in the multicolored shavings McBride puts in his cage. Photo: Sydney Kinzy

Pathfinder: What is your animal’s name?

Louie, Fat Louie. We thought he was fat when we first got him.

What species is Louie?

McBride: He’s a Syrian long-haired hamster.

How old is he?

He is probably around a year because he is an adult.

What is special about Louie?

He’s kind of funny because he only has long hair on his butt, which is funny. He likes to hide in pockets too.

Does he have any special quirks?

He’s very particular. He likes to watch his hands a lot, especially before eating. He eats a lot and makes me give him a lot of food to store in his cheeks for later. He’s like one of the people preparing for the apocalypse.

What do you love the most about Louie?

I love that he’s really friendly. I had another hamster and she was great too, but she wasn’t as friendly and would bite. I like that I can hold Louie and he doesn’t care. He only nibbles when he has to poo so I can set him down.

What is the most annoying thing Louie does?

All hamsters do the wheel at night and the wheel always sounds nasty. I have a plastic wheel, others can be metal; it doesn’t matter they all sound awful. Thankfully he doesn’t do it that much since he isn’t that much into exercise.

What has Louie taught you?

He taught me I can’t look away ever. If you set him on the table, he’s going to run off the table. If he sees another hamster, he’s going to fight that hamster. He’s done that. He’s very busy.


Sophia Spaulding, junior

Tom often comes up to the glass to say hi to visitors, hoping they will end up feeding her.  Photo: Sydney Kinzy

Pathfinder: What is your animal’s name?

Spaulding: Her name is Tom.

What is Tom?

She’s a red-eared slider turtle, like the species you see at ponds typically.

How old is he?

I’ve had her for seven years, so she is around seven and a half years now.

What is special about Tom?

We thought it was a dude up until two years ago since she didn’t lay eggs. Then she started laying eggs and realized, “Oh, you’re not a boy. You’re a girl.”

Does she have any special quirks?

She is very shy, and is scared of people mostly. Except when you go up to the glass, she might come by the glass to ask for food. Everytime she sees a person, she thinks she is going to get fed. Her and my dog have an interesting relationship. They will go up to each other nose-to-nose against the glass. Then my dog runs away.

What do you love the most about Tom?

I like whenever I put out different foods for her and see what kind of food she likes to eat. She chooses her food, and it’s interesting. She eats more than she should.

What is the most annoying thing she does?

She has rocks in the bottom of her tank. She’s a big enough turtle that she can move them, and they make loud banging noises whenever she moves them around. It’s terrible. I have to move her whenever we watch a movie since her tank is [in the living room].

What has Tom taught you?

She taught me responsibility. She is very high maintenance, especially when cleaning the water.


Zach Smith, senior

Alexhamster the Great is an albino Russian winter-white dwarf hamster.  Photo: Sydney Kinzy

Pathfinder: What is your animal’s name?

Smith: He is Alexhamster the Great. It just came to me. I was sitting there in the car with him in my lap, and I thought, “I got it! Alexhamster the Great!” I don’t know if it is a girl or boy though.

What is Alexhamster the Great?

Russian winter-white dwarf hamster. I went to the PetSmart down in the valley and the guy brought out this hamster and said that they are special since they are albino.

How old are they?

Only a couple months old.

What is special about Alexhamster the Great?

They are albino. I went to the PetSmart down in the valley and the guy brought out this hamster and said that they are special since they are albino. I’m glad I got him. They’re kind of like me—extremely white.

Do they have any special quirks?

It actually licks me every once in awhile, which is really weird. It also loves to roll around in his hamster ball in my house. Whenever it does that, it scares my cats and they run away when they see him coming down the hallway in the ball.

What do you love the most about Alexhamster the Great?

Just the fact it’s the first pet I’ve ever had full responsibility over and the fact it’s just such a good pet to have. It never does anything to get in trouble. It basically just does nothing all day, which is easy to care after. I show affection to it and it shows affection back.

What is the most annoying thing they do?

When they are sleeping and I disturb it, it bites me. It’s basically telling me, “Hey, I’m sleeping. Don’t wake me.” I deserve it most of the time though, since it’s my fault.

What has Alexhamster the Great taught you?

Having a pet is a big responsibility, but it’s fun nonetheless.