ROYERSFORD — The borough’s 7- and 8-year-olds graciously played host to a 6-year-old in a special assembly in Royersford Elementary School’s cafeteria Friday afternoon.
It just so happened this 6-year-old is furry, has a cold nose and likes playing fetch.
Steven Conway, the Montgomery County SPCA’s humane educator, brought in Faith, a golden retriever who came in as a stray puppy five and a half years ago, to teach Royersford Elementary School’s second graders a little about pet ownership and safety.
“It gives kids a chance to learn about what it means to take care of an animal,” Conway said.
As children initially filed into the cafeteria, many of them squealed, “Doggie!” excitedly.
“I’m sure you’re glad to see me but happier to see Faith,” Conway joked after all the students were seated on the floor in front of him.
Conway, who works out of the Conshohocken headquarters, explained to the students what the job of the SPCA is and filled them in on some of the cases they’ve taken on.
Bringing up the time a fisherman called them up about a 3-feet-long alligator he caught, the kids gasped with shock. When talking about a kangaroo that was once on the loose in the area, the children laughed loudly and rolled on the floor.
Focusing back on Faith, Conway described various aspects of taking care of a pet, especially a dog, such as walking, feeding and cleaning up after it.
“You must be prepared if you want to have a dog,” Conway said.
At the close of the assembly, Conway took questions from the gathered students about pet ownership and the SPCA.
Many asked questions centering around walking a dog, such as how long, how often and how to know when the dog need to be walked.
Finally, the students were brought up, one by one, to pet Faith, but not until Conway explained how to properly do so, including approaching her from the front, allowing her to smell their hand, and petting the top of her head and neck.
“I think, in our community, because we’re a walking school (for a lot of students), they don’t know how to approach dogs, their parents may not think to teach them,” said Royersford Elementary Principal Teresa Carboy.
Carboy said the assembly was a good way to familiarize the young students with pets and how to approach them. She said her own son might just run up to a dog without thinking twice.
The point of much of Conway’s talk was to emphasize the responsibilities of caring for an animal.
But Conway told The Mercury caring for a pet is a good learnign experience as well.
“A pet is a good chance for a child to learn responsibilities,” he said.
Follow Frank Otto on Twitter @fottojourno.