In this exclusive “Reflecting on Kindness” series, Ponysitters Club members reflect on moments from episodes that allowed them to express different forms of kindness.
In this week’s journal entry, Ethan demonstrates kindness through the themes of not judging a book by its cover, leaving your comfort zone, embracing change, keeping an open mind. He shares how these themes taught him to love all animals, allow himself to grow, and let go of prejudice.
While Ethan is trying to tidy up Blue the horse’s pen in “Pony Blues” (S01E09), Olivia lets Houdini the rat escape his cage. Ethan is not the biggest fan of rats — he loves most furry creatures, but has a hard time wrapping his head around keeping a rat as a pet. However, he sets his work aside and helps Olivia search anyway, and learns a lot about rats along the way. By the end of the day, Houdini has is found and Ethan volunteers to look after him!
When I started volunteering at Rescue Ranch, I thought I would just be looking after horses and maybe playing with a goat or two — maybe the occasional donkey. I had no idea I was signing up to look after rats! Any other day and I would have been coming to you with a horror story about how creepy and scary rats are, but to be honest, they’re really not as bad as they seem. I definitely didn’t start my day feeling this way, though.
So, after school, I came to the Ranch like usual. It was my job to tidy up Blue’s pen so he can be nice and comfortable when he arrives. He’s a new horse to the Ranch and we try to take extra care in the first few days so new animals can get used to their new environment. Olivia was cleaning out a cage nearby — I thought it was for a bunny, but she told me it was actually for a rat. I had no idea we boarded rats, and had no idea why we would. Who wants to keep a creepy pest as a pet? Don’t rats carry diseases? Before I could even find out, my worst fear became a reality: not only were we boarding a rat, but it had escaped.
I wasn’t too thrilled about it, but Olivia and I formed a search party and started looking. She told me the rat’s name was Houdini and that he’s escaped before. His name makes a lot of sense I guess — although I doubt he could escape from a locked box underwater like the real Houdini. I let Olivia know that I don’t like rats but wanted to help her anyway because I knew how much doing a great job taking care of the animals means to her. For a girl who’s a little nervous around reptiles and other creepy crawlies I thought she would feel the same about rats, but she actually seemed to really like them. She told me all sorts of facts about how different domesticated rats are from wild ones: they’re bigger because they can eat a healthier diet, and they’re more colorful and super clean as well. They also make themselves comfy spots to rest and groom themselves, almost like a nest. I didn’t know any of this before — rats were starting not to sound so bad after all.
When Olivia said they like to make comfy nest-like spots, I had an idea of where Houdini might have gone. Sure enough, he was right where I thought he was: resting on the pillow on top of the haystack I’d made for Blue! Kind of greedy, but I guess it would be hard for a tired rat to pass up such a comfy spot.
When I saw him calmly grooming himself, I started to think about rats differently. I had this idea of rats as gross, dirty animals who always ran away from people and somehow also made them sick, but Houdini is nothing like that. He’s super clean, and he loves to play — after his nap, we fixed up his running wheel and gave him a ball to play with. I guess it goes to show that sometimes you think you’ve got something (or someone) figured out, and you find out you were totally wrong. In this case, I’m happy I was wrong — I would have never met my new favorite member of Rescue Ranch otherwise! Well, favorite except for the other Ponysitters of course ? Catch you later, diary!
Did you know that kids can become a real member of the Ponysitters Club? Learn how to join and be sure to inspire your kids to be doers by downloading the 4‑H Inspire Kids to Do Activity Guide!