BY REBECCA ISENHART
NISKAYUNA — When second-grade teachers at Rosendale Elementary School told their students about the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society’s Be Kind to Animals Contest at the end of the school year, Maddy Kahn got very excited.
“I love animals and writing,” Maddy said while snacking on cotton candy frozen yogurt on a recent afternoon. “I could do both at once!”
Now a rising third-grader, Maddy considers the contest one of the highlights of second grade. Four students won awards: Maddy and two others for their writing, and one for art.
It comes as no surprise to Maddy’s family that she chose to type up a persuasive essay about why people should steward animals. She adores stringing words into sentences into stories, and she dreams of becoming an author one day.
“It helps you express your feelings,” Maddy said. “It’s really fun.”
Her essay was about the many ways animals can help people. Basically, she argued, we owe it to them.
“Dogs can help people if they’re drowning,” she argued. Just before writing her essay for the contest, she had read a book about the ways animals assist their humans, so she had plenty of material.
The many utilitarian qualities of animals are good material for an essay, but Maddy loves the less-helpful ones, too. Pets of all kinds make her happy.
“I have two fish and eight beetles,” she said. Her mom, Alyssa, nodded in confirmation, adding that her eldest child will care for pets that belong to other people, too, like Ruggie, her grandma’s pup.
“She takes really good care of the dog,” Alyssa said.
“I help walk him, feed him,” Maddy added.
Wildlife is fair game, too, though the rising third-grader is more likely to observe than to interfere.
“She found a nest at my parents’ house,” Alyssa said. “She used a special camera with a zoom-in lens.”
Right on cue, Maddy pulls out a plastic picture album, carefully avoiding the frozen yogurt. She flips to the baby bird section, where eggs become little pink babies, then grow feathers, aging with each turn of a page.
“I never saw baby birds up that close,” she said. “It was really interesting.”
Other creatures fill the rest of the pages: her fish, Flippers and Goldie, were both prizes from Niska-Day. Maddy won Flippers, and her little sister Ava won Goldie. Her grandma’s dog makes an appearance, too.
It’s like watching Snow White show off an album of her friends, but without the dwarves.
Right now, Maddy dreams of a straight trajectory from childhood to career.
“I want to become an author and study animals for a book,” she said, leaving the impression that she’s thought about it quite a bit. But of course, things change after third grade sometimes, so she has a plan B, too.
“I want to be a soccer star,” Maddy said. She just joined the Niskayuna youth travel soccer team this past year and earned the nickname “the brick wall” while playing goalie at summer camp.
“She wouldn’t let any goals get past her,” Alyssa said.