Pat Rose's menagerie entertains kids, educates them too Chester. Have toucan, will travel: Pat's Pals evolved from Rose's earliest friendships with all creatures great and small.
Pat Rose with Cecil the macaw (Photo provided)
By Ginny Privitar Pat Rose wants to share her love and appreciation of animals with everyone. For 35 years, she has operated an educational program, Pat’s Pals in Chester, bringing a menagerie of animals to classrooms in New York and New Jersey. Rose is also a woman of deep faith who believes God speaks through creation. “God got me into this," she said. "It’s a ministry." Her first playmates were animals, and she has always loved them. When she was 16, she volunteered at a BOCES summer camp in Yorktown Heights. A family would bring horses to the camp, and the kids would ride them, ecstatic. Because of these encounters, she said, “Kids who were scared of doing things become emboldened to try them.” Later she worked with pet shop owner and raised a lot of animals. She remembered the joy of the kids at summer camp and said to herself, “This is great — I’m going to bring animals to kids again.” She started volunteering in Bergen County, N.J., schools and put together a collection of six or so animals that the kids would react to, including a parrot, snake, rabbit, and kinkajou. At first she did this as a volunteer, until someone offered to pay her to go to their children’s schools. Things evolved from there, and now she earns her livelihood from her presentations. Now she has 11 parrots, 3 toucans, rabbits, and seasonal baby animals, which she borrows from a farm. She has also been rehabilitating animals for decades, including snakes, lizards, tortoises, and ferrets. “When I go into a school I find out what they’re studying and how can animals enhance it," she said. "In spring for pre-schools, I always have baby animals." Scholastics magazine, given out in schools, features baby animals in spring, she said. She’ll ask questions about how different species tend their babies. What kind of nests do different animals make? Can a tortoise sit on her egg? What incubates it? All questions to get them to think. “Kids get to figure it out themselves,” Rose said. Building on children's interests The interactive presentation runs about 45 minutes. She wants the children to be successful. For birthday parties, Rose asks parents about their children's main interests and builds a program around that. Rose and her husband, Richard, own 21 acres in New York State, five of them just outside Sugar Loaf. The U.S. Department of Agriculture sends an agent every year to inspect her facility, to make sure the animals are well kept, see veterinarians, and get their shots. In the past, they’ve also had porcupines, monkeys, and canaries, which she raised. “I had some really great singers," she said. "From 300 feet away you could hear the six males on a summer day." Being with animals taught her how to listen to different languages, she believes. Many times patients she visits in adult daycare are non-verbal., yet she can understand what they need. “I truly believe when I bring my animals to school, the kids are seeing God’s creations," she said. "Animals raise our spirits." Rose believes children need to connect with the natural world: “Being around animals, planting in the dirt, the smell of flowers — all these things instead of losing themselves in computers and smartphones.” Pat's Pals has been to the Albert Wisner Public Library in Warwick many times. Children’s Services Librarian Stacy Kraai said her programs are very well-attended, and the kids have a wonderful time learning about her animals. "Her animals are unusual, interesting, and always well-behaved," Kraai said. "Pat is knowledgeable, friendly, and has a great rapport with the kids."