There’s a very special pair of classmates at Monona Grove Liberal Arts Charter School, or MG21.
It’s junior Tierra Byrd and Lou (a.k.a. Nibbler) the rabbit.
“He’s really, really soft, extremely soft. That’s the first thing everyone says about him,” said Byrd.
Tierra and Lou like to do many things together. She feeds him his favorite foods, strawberries and lettuce. Tierra lets her rabbit run around and she loves it when he does binkies. “It’s when he jumps up in the air and he twists his back legs. He does that only when he’s extremely happy. It’s nice seeing him do that,” said Byrd.
And she’s patient with him, even after he chew through ten iPhone chargers and one lamp cord.
Sometimes, Lou comes to school with Tierra.
“If I’m having a bad day I’ll bring him. He calms me down and he’s goofy so he makes me laugh a lot,” said Byrd.
On the days the rabbit is in the classroom with her, Tierra is beaming. The self-described, “big-time animal lover” proudly carries Lou around in a small black and brown carrier filled with hay.
Tierra and Lou mean a lot to one another. She recently wrote the following essay about her favorite classmate of all time.
The Best Classmate I’ve Ever Had
I believe that Lou is not only the best pet I’ve ever had, but also, the best classmate I’ve ever had.
It all started on March 19th, 2018 when one of my best friends asked me if I wanted a rabbit because she couldn’t take care of her pet any longer. I obviously said yes, before even asking my mom and dad. Later that night, I told my parents that I was getting a rabbit from my friend. They said it was okay and that I could have him. So, I went to my friends house and got her. I was told that she was a girl and her name was Lucy. I didn’t want to switch it up, just in case my rabbit already knew her name. I didn’t want to confuse her.
Some people just assume having a rabbit is easy work and that they just sit around being cute– which they do– but rabbits are also very smart, social and affectionate. They can also be very bratty, willful and destructive. I think it takes a special kind of person to be able to handle all of those traits at once. I’m someone who is very good with a rabbit, like Lou, because I’m not short on love or patience. I have plenty to share.
Before I had Lou come to school with me, I didn’t really feel like I brought much to my school and couldn’t figure out what I could do to change that.
The first time I brought him to school was during our animal study tour. He was being very good and the teachers loved him. They asked me if I wanted to start bringing him in more often. One of the days I brought him, I found out that he was a boy. I couldn’t tell before this day because he was so young. I went through a few names for him before I could find one that really fit him. First it was Juvie and then I finally settled with Lou. His nickname is Nibbler based off of a character on “Futurama.”
When I started bringing him in, I noticed some changes in myself and in my behavior because of Lou and so did my teachers. I was a lot more calm and could focus on my school work better just by having him around. I was making new friends through Lou because he is a great conversation starter! I get a lot of questions about him and why he’s in school with me. Everyone loves him and wants to pet him and hold him. Lou became somewhat of a celebrity around my school.
This year, I’ve learned that Lou is a trendsetter because many others see the joys of pets and bring their own pets to school. In fact, now we have “Pet Fridays” where teachers encourage many students to bring pets to school. It’s really nice having animals in school because it makes the learning environment more interesting and exciting.
Before coming to MG21, I imagined the only classmates I’d ever have were human ones. However, the day I decided to bring Lou into school, I learned, and have since taught others, that sometimes pets can be the best classmates we can ask for.
This essay was by Tierra Byrd, a junior at Monona Grove Liberal Arts Charter School. Hear from more MG21 students throughout the year on “Wisconsin Life” and on the special, “Classroom Frequency: Student Voices From Wisconsin.”
(This story originally aired on March 22, 2019.)
SONG: “Neanderthal” by Kaki King