The Pouch: Class Pet Spotlight: Al Pal

The Pouch: Class Pet Spotlight: Al Pal

Eunjae Jeon, The Pouch

Class Pet Spotlight: Al Pal
By Eunjae Jeon

Al Pal (whose aliases include Almond, Alfred, and Albert) is a small Russian tortoise that lives in the Urban Agriculture classroom. In his spare time, he enjoys basking under his heat lamp and chasing cats. His weaknesses include being flipped on his shell and cruciferous vegetables. We interviewed his owner, Ms. Tanis, about her mini class pet.
What are some unexpected parts of owning Al?

I don’t think many tortoises are like this, but Al is very energetic. He loves scurrying around the classroom, and when he’s not sleeping in his cage, he’s trying to make a break for it. He sprints around my house, sprints across my yard—he just gets the zoomies a lot.

His previous owners actually had a dog that chewed up Al’s shell a bit–that’s why his shell has some damage on it. But he’s doing great now that he’s in our care, and even though he got bitten by a dog, he still runs after them with his mouth hanging open like he’s trying to eat them. He’s just very overconfident. One of my cats likes to drink the water in Al’s pond and he doesn’t like that, so he chases her out. They like each other, though. They’re besties.

Al also only wants to eat the stuff that’s bad for him—he refuses to eat the healthy vegetables. His personality is sort of like a toddler’s, if that makes sense. He’s very picky about his diet. I’ll give him a pile of kale and he’ll just sleep on top of it.

What are the pros and cons of having a class pet?

I think there’s only pros. Actually, I’m going to take that back. Mostly pros. I think the social-emotional benefit is unmatched. The end of last year was difficult on students, but with Al coming in, I think he really helped things. During class, you can go up to him, chat, pat his little head, and take a little break.

The only con is that sometimes, when he has the zoomies, he goes crazy and tries to chuck himself out of his enclosure, which might distract us a little bit. But he’s mostly chill!

Thank you, Ms. Tanis, for the interview! In addition to being the agriculture teacher, Ms. Tanis is the advisor for FFA (a competitive agriculture club). Come drop by room 164 to check it out!