By: Scott Corbett/Principal
OA’s Emotional Support Animal
In my position I constantly get student requests, some still shock me. “Can you provide healthier snacks?” “Can I please wear a head covering in school to start my dreads?” Every year like clockwork, I get, “Can we please have some type of reptile?” I always spit out “No” before they can even complete the question with speed and precision like a verbal ninja. As a former reptile owner I know the attention required to keep reptiles healthy and provide an appropriate quality of life (QOL). One of my goals is to always improve the QOL of those around me. Dr. Rocco has improved our QOL!
Dr. Rocco is a juvenile veiled chameleon that now graces Ocean Academy’s hallway. His personality is huge, he enjoys human interaction, and being handled, which is uncommon especially for male chameleons’. At the pet store he interacted with anyone that would pay attention to him, even trying to reach thru the glass to grasp fingers of passersby’s. We knew OA could give him the human interaction he desired, while providing emotional support and untimely bringing people together. More importantly, as educators we listened to our students and demonstrated willingness to make changes, something we ask of them daily. We can’t expect change from others unless we are open to change ourselves.
At OA, Dr. Rocco was upgraded to an appropriate habitat containing live plants, extra space to roam around, and plenty of positive human interactions. He sways to the music in the halls and eats from a dish, but prefers hunting down crickets and snapping them up with his long tongue like he would in the wild. Dr. Rocco was chosen as our emotional support pet because he was atypical; however he’s a perfect fit for OA and became family from day one!
Last year, Alaska the therapy dog visited weekly with great success and the students loved his presence; we wanted to capitalize on this success. It takes time to train dogs and many students are allergic; we stress putting health first so unfortunately a dog is not the best option for OA. Rocco is hypoallergenic, moves with precession and grace, delicate, interesting, communicates non-verbally, and always is changing colors while adapting to his surroundings. We feel his attributes and qualities can assist in changing lives and we can all learn from him. His presence gets an entire school interacting, collaborating, and effectively communicating.
Most importantly Dr. Rocco puts smiles on faces and improves everyone’s mood he comes in contact with. I would like to formally apologize for the years of “Ninja No’s” and thank the students for being persistent and planting the seed that improved the QOL of everyone at OA. A veiled chameleon is not a typical school support pet, nor is OA typical, however we like to create change #Onelifeatatime.
PSA………Taking on a pet is a huge responsibility and should never be taken lightly as its life is dependent upon proper human care.