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Dennis Earl principal shares love for animals with students
Secret lives of educators Pic.
Dennis Earl Elementary students pet Chuck the Duck, held by Principal Tami Truax, and learn about his feathers and beak. - photo by Photo Contributed

Ducks and horses and sheep, oh my! And that’s not the end of it for Dennis Earl Elementary School Principal Tami Truax and her traveling petting zoo.

Truax started building her ranch up about 10 years ago with miniature horses and chickens to goats and rabbits.

 “I have a passion for education and I have a passion for how animals can help others,” Truax said. “My dream is to combine the both.”

And she is doing exactly that with her traveling petting zoo. As her students learn about the different animals in class, Truax can bring them in so the students can actually see what they are learning about.

“It is nice to see the kids pet what they are learning about,” she said.

Her petting zoo consists of an alpaca named “Black Jack,” a miniature donkey named “Pepe,” a miniature horse named “Honey,” a goat named “Ferdinand,” a duck named “Chuck,” two miniature chickens named “Salt” and “Pepper” and a rabbit named “Thumper.”

The all-time favorite is “Chuck” the duck. He wins over the hearts of students with his bright white feathers and his clever name, Truax said.  

“Everyone zeros in on Chuck,” she said.

Truax has taken her entourage of animals to birthday parties, over five elementary schools, two churches, carnivals, and events all over the area.

But her most memorable moment with her animals was when she had a “Day on the Farm” event for autistic students, she said.

“It was a dream come true,” Truax said. “It is amazing to see how my animals can benefit others.”

She has also had a “Day on the Farm” for students with Down Syndrome and has taken her animals to an Alzheimer’s daycare.

Her favorite part about her animals: “Touching the hearts of handicap people to regular educated students to Alzheimer patients,” she said.

“Everyone can connect with animals whether they are handicapped physically or emotionally or not handicapped at all,” Truax said.

Truax’s petting zoo adventure all started with her dream to have her own ranch with a posse of animals by her side.

She moved to her 10-acre ranch about 10 years ago and has added new members of her extended animal family ever since. During the years spent with her animals, she decided that she wanted to share the wealth.

“I thought ‘why not share my animals with the community and my students,’” Truax said.

Now every spring she brings her animals on campus to share with her kindergartners after they finish learning about farm animals.

“They get a hands-on experience with what they are learning in the classrooms,” she said.

Truax always wondered how she could combine her two passions and her petting zoo has done just that.

“It is a dream come true for me,” she said. “I love to share my passion with other people.”

To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.