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MI Press: Preschoolers learn lessons in pet carethrough critters

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Posted by: W von Papinešu at Tue Sep 23 08:54:29 2003  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by W von Papinešu ]  
   

MUSKEGON CHRONICLE (Michigan) 19 September 03 Preschoolers learn lessons in pet carethrough critters (Teresa Taylor Williams)
Cameras flashed and video cameras were rolling as preschoolers petted chameleons and other reptiles during a rather unusual lesson in pet care Thursday.
Diana Sleiertin's menagerie of rescued reptiles held the eyes of preschool children, their parents and grandparents during her presentation at Fruitport Community Schools' Early Childhood Center.
Sleiertin said she wanted to give the students a lesson in pet care. The students, except for two who cried for a short time, just wanted a chance to get close to the scaly, slithering critters.
Careful to use hand sanitizer before and after each petting, the children oohed and aahed over Leo, a leopard gecko; Jackson, a veiled chameleon; Elvis, the California king snake; Magic, the carpet python; Kenji, a baby water monitor; and the nameless ball python and Sudan plated lizard.
The biggest one, Sebastian, a 28-pound, 5-foot monitor lizard, was the star of the show.
He gave the community a bit of a scare last month when his claws ripped through a screen on his tank and he escaped Sleiertin's Fruitport home. He was found in nearby brush the same week.
"Eww," said Bonnie Micka of Roosevelt Park when Sebastian flicked his long tongue. She and her husband, Ron, had a bird's eye view with their grandson, Ethan.
"It's funny because the kids can't seem to get close enough, and you can't peel the parents off the walls," Sleiertin said.
She is passionate about educating the public -- particularly children -- on exotic pet care. Her own pets are products of rescues, many from when she lived in Canada. Jackson was found on the side of the highway, and one of the pythons had its growth stunted by malnutrition, she said.
"When people don't know what to do with them or don't want them anymore, they throw them away or kill them," said Sleiertin. "And you can't rely on pet stores to always tell you how to care for your animal. I just want to encourage responsible pet ownership."
The only creatures currently in her home are her two dogs. Sleiertin also has a 3-year-old son, Zachary Placidi-Sleiertin, who attends the Fruitport schools child care center.
Sebastian now lives with a friend, as do her other pets, she said.
Jennifer McVoy of Robinson Township and her daughter, Alexa, 2 1/2, calmly sat cross-legged on the floor up close with the other children and their teachers.
"We both love animals," Jennifer McVoy said. "I think it's great that (Sleiertin) is doing this at a young age so they can get comfortable with them and appreciate them."
After most of the children departed the room, Sleiertin rested on a chair while Sebastian nuzzled his owner's neck, clutching her in a hug with his stubby, scaly arms.
"Reptiles do cuddle," Sleiertin said.
Preschoolers learn lessons in pet carethrough critters


   

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  • You Are HereMI Press: Preschoolers learn lessons in pet carethrough critters - W von Papinešu, Tue Sep 23 08:54:29 2003

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