OAKLAND -- Slyviane Cohn's second- and third-graders at Joaquin Miller Elementary had a visit from some special guests.
Two four-legged visitors from the East Bay Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals came to wish students on Feb. 15 a belated happy Valentine's Day and thank the class for their donation to the organization.
The event was organized by parent Adrienne Seal, who learned about the "Drive to Help Them Thrive" program offered at Valentine's Day. Each class that raises a minimum of $100 in donations gets a visit from an SPCA educator and a dog and cat to "meet and greet" students, as well as an opportunity to make and decorate a valentine for one of the pets.
Larry, a 4-month-old cat, and a whippet named Ziti, who is a therapy dog, were brought to the class to thank the students for their donation. The duo was received with much enthusiasm by the 24 students. Educator Anya Pamplona thanked the class and explained how the $200 the class raised can help animals at the shelter by providing them with food, medicine, and shelter.
"I thank you and your families for raising money so all our animals can have valentines," Pamplona said.
Pamplona explained how they care for the animals at the shelter until they can find "forever homes" for them. Larry, looking for a home, is very tolerant and even rolls over on his back -- for a minute -- and lets kids rub his tummy.
Eight-year-old Ziti also had her following. Ziti's owner, retired schoolteacher Sharon Tringali, explained to the class, "The reason I do this is because I used to be a teacher. I wanted Ziti to be that kind of dog. I wanted to share her because not everybody gets to have a dog."
"She likes to run and snuggle," Tringali said.
As a volunteer for the SPCA's Pets and Love Shared (PALS) program, both Ziti and Tringali have received special training in order for Ziti to be a therapy dog. They visit nursing homes and a preschool on a weekly basis.
"She's a lovely dog," Tringali said. "She gets excited when she sees the vest. I wanted a chance to go out in the community and share my dog with people."
Second-grader Vienna Seal and third-grader Samantha Soohoo were busy making valentines for the animals. Soohoo was making a valentine for Larry because she said he is "nice and soft."
While Seal agreed, she wanted to make valentines for both animals. Second-grader Jaeon Anderson made a valentine for Ziti.
"I like cats but they don't play with you as much." Anderson said.
Anderson has two dogs Tina and Zina, and a cat named Princess at home.
"This is a great way for them to have exposure to animals, and see where good deeds go," Cohn said. "Seeing that live dogs and cats benefit from their gifts is good for the kids, and brings a commercial holiday back to earth. This is very important for second- and third-graders. They also gain exposure about abandoned pets in the community, and if they want one, there are other options than going to a breeder."
Pamplona left the class with a parting gift, a stuffed dog of their choice. After taking a quick class poll, Cohn chose a gray dog which will sit on her desk as a remembrance of a memorable day. The students decided that the dog would become their class mascot.
For more information about the East Bay SPCA and their programs, visit https://www.eastbayspca.org.