Teachers’ pets


Photo courtesy of Naomi Okada

Pudding (left) and Momo (right) met at a speed dating event and have been together ever since.

If you attend Naomi Okada’s Japanese class, you probably know about her two rabbits, Momo and Pudding. What you might not know is that the two met in a rabbit “speed dating” program.

Two years ago, Okada was given a white rabbit by a friend who could no longer take care of him. She named the rabbit Momo, the Japanese word for peach, for the pink coloration of his eyes and ears. A year after she got Momo, she took him to a special rescue shelter to find him a friend. “I took him to a shelter that did a bonding thing, so he did like a speed dating where he was matched up with different ones,” Okada said. “I think Pudding was the tenth try.” Pudding is a caramel brown female and gets her name from the color of Japanese pudding. Both are neutered so we shouldn’t expect any baby bunnies from the couple anytime soon.

Despite Pudding’s annoying habit of chewing up walls and furniture, the rabbits are given free range to roam anywhere in the house, except for the living room, which isn’t “bunny-proofed” yet. They make good use of this freedom by ambushing Okada for treats when she comes home. “They just sort of start circling me or like beg. It’s mostly because they want to be fed,” Okada said. “Momo’s really cute because he’ll kind of lick me a lot. I was told that it’s a sign of affection.” Their favorite place to rest after a long day of begging for treats is Pudding’s bed from the shelter.

Okada brought the Bunnies to the World Language Festival last year, where they got lots of affection from the students of Lowell. “I think at least a third of the students visited that day,” Okada said. She also used to keep them around the AP office to help co-workers destress.

Okada has had rabbits since she was a child and has loved them ever since. “I had one when I was in middle school and two after I graduated college; the other ones are pretty recent,” Okada said. “I’ve just always loved them; they were always my favorite animals. If you ever see my classroom it’s got bunnies all over it.”

They have souls; they have personalities. We call them animals but they have souls.

— Naomi Okada

Photo courtesy of Nicole Henares
Shakespurr (left) and Mr. Edgar Allen Paw (right) were named for two of Henares’ favorite writers.

If you’ve had her as an English teacher, you may still remember Nicole Henares and her cats. For those of you who haven’t, her cleverly named felines, Shakespurr and Mr. Edgar Allen Paw, have been with Henares for about six years now, but she has had cats for almost her whole life. In fact, “cat,” was the second word she had ever said. “I couldn’t say the ‘C’ so I would say, ‘-At,’” she said. “My mom and dad had a cat named Sunshine and he was this elusive ball of orange that I’d chase around saying ‘At! At! At!’”

Henares looks back fondly on all the memories of her past cats, but is now invested in the lives of Shakespurr and Mr. Paw. Shakespurr is a black and white indoor cat that Henares adopted in 2013, when her beloved cat, Figueroa, died after 20 years of being by her side. Mr. Paw, a teeny tiny green-eyed kitten, was adopted shortly after as a playmate for Shakespurr. According to Henares, Shakespurr and Mr. Paw are best friends and love each other, but she does occasionally come home to piles of hair scattered around her house after some sort of kerfuffle between the two.

Henares’ cats have very distinct characteristics. “Shakespurr had this strange, little weird personality,” Henares said with a laugh. “He was weird, kind of skittish. He was like Gus-Gus from Cinderella.” Shakespurr likes to play fetch like a dog. As Shakespurr retrieves and returns a ball, Mr. Paw will jump into the highest windows of the house and sit up there looking out by Henares’ side. “He’s a beautiful cat,” she said. “Shakespurr is cute, but Mr. Paw is just beautiful.” Henares describes Mr. Paw as incredibly loyal, affectionate, routine-based and just a little overweight at the moment. He doesn’t like to be picked up by anyone but his exceptionally caring owner.

Henares says she doesn’t believe in bringing pets to school, because the allergic reactions caused by allergies to cats and other animals can be very painful and she doesn’t want to subject anyone to that. One time, she did have to bring Shakespurr to school because of an emergency vet appointment, but he hissed at everyone. She said his hisses were not threatening at all, though, just pitiful.

Henares has loved cats all her life and says that there is a lot that we can learn from them. “Aldous Huxley said that any writer really wanting to study the human condition should get a pair of cats,” she said. “I think that there is so much we learn [from them.] We learn how to love, sometimes, from our animals. We learn how to take care. They have souls; they have personalities. We call them animals but they have souls.”