DERRY — They come to learn and study; some come to play and fetch balls.
Pinkerton Academy's animal science students are taking on dog and other animal duties in their new space on campus.
The program is housed in one of two new Career and Technical Education facilities now online at the high school.
Under the guidance of teacher Katrina Hartlen-Mooers, students are learning basic grooming, pet health, management skills, consumer information, customer relations and are also getting a lot of hands-on-fur experience.
One recent day, rabbits, ferrets, a chinchilla, snakes, a bearded lizard and several rats made up the day's lesson in animal business management.
Malcolm, a ball python, wrapped his smooth body around the neck of sophomore Destiny Chase.
"He's the sweetest snake," she said.
Malcolm makes up a large contingent of reptiles and animals now calling the animal science program home. Many of the animals are rescued, or adopted by the class and in need of new homes.
The snake was born in 2009, Hartlen-Mooers said.
"I've had him since he was a snakelet," she said. "A lot of these animals were given to me because (people) knew I would care for them."
Hartlen-Mooers has her own miniature zoo at home — a horse, a goat, several dogs, a cat and some fish.
The new one-story, 6,500-square-foot space in the lower campus building known as CTE South shares space with the new cosmetology program across the hall.
Students learn a good work ethic, along with valuable skills to take their animal education further if they choose.
Their teacher is right at home.
"I love it," Hartlen-Mooers said. "I just love my job."
She has taught at Pinkerton for 13 years and said she feels the classroom is like a palace. She also had a hand in helping design the new space.
"It gave me a new enjoyment for teaching," she said. "It made it feel new and exciting again."
It's not just the small animals learning the ropes and being cared for. Pinkerton staff members often drop off their dogs for grooming time and other services. They ask Hartlen-Mooers questions and seek animal advice.
One dog even came to class after being sprayed by a skunk, looking for a bath and odor removal.
That gave students one more opportunity to learn valuable information about caring for animals and all their needs. Students also learn CPR for pets.
Many hope to take what they learn at PInkerton on to bigger things in life.
"I want to be a veterinarian," Georgia Brust, 16, said. "It's a good chance to learn how to groom."
Catherine Demers, a junior, said she is learning how to handle all sorts of animals.
"This will open up a lot of job opportunities," she said.