We voted on a name too: Squirt (named after the turtle in Finding Nemo). So I'll admit--and not many people know this secret--Squirt #1 didn't last so long. She was sickly and died shortly after arriving in our classroom. The class never knew, I pretended I had brought her home and returned with a new Squirt.
Squirt #2 has now been with me for nine years. Many students have come and gone in my classroom and have had the opportunity to learn about Squirt and to care for her. Former students check in on her, and will even stop me in the hall to ask how she is doing.
I knew Squirt was special, but I didn't realize how special until she got sick. That's right, Squirt is sick. The first signs started a few months ago. She started having difficulty shedding, and needed help pulling some of her skin off. Her appetite dropped off a bit. I did my research, dropped a pretty penny at my local PetCo and she seemed to be improving. But, recently, her decline worsened. It got bad enough that even my students started thinking she didn't look good. I even had a chat with my class and, in as nice of terms as I could put it, I told them I wasn't so sure she'd make it through the year.
That very night, one of my parent's emailed me to let me know that her sister is a vet, and her old boss specialized in Leopard geckos. I reassured the mom that it wasn't necessary although I appreciated the offer and the mom promptly made an appointment. Two vet visits later Squirt is now on three different medications, has to soak two times a day in a lukewarm "bath", has to be force fed a meal of pureed cat food, Ensure and vitamins (which smells delicious by the way!) and had to have numerous (costly) changes to her habitat.
Crazier than that (because, yes, I know that is crazy) is the outpouring of support Squirt is receiving. My school psychologist emailed to check on Squirt, a special education teacher asked me about her at the start of a meeting, which then prompted a good five minute conversation with everyone at the table and, even more amazing, the parents in my classroom have stepped up to care for her. Two different moms have paid for her vet visits--one late enough at night that the poor mom had to hire a babysitter to stay with her other children and the second visit caused the student in my class to miss her Variety show rehearsal (quite the big deal, trust me!). Both refused to take money, insisting on spending a ridiculous amount to care for Squirt. One of my room parents sent out an email to all parents asking for help and financial support. She also emailed the PTA president and asked if a collection jar could be put in the front office....
All this for a leopard gecko. A very adorable leopard gecko, granted, but, a leopard gecko all the same. Just goes to show you that pets, big or small, furry or not, touch lives.
I just hope she lives.