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For many children, their first pet is a virtual one. Experts say many children who enter the first grade can play video games but few have a pet to play with. And teachers say that's a shame, considering how animals can enrich a child's upbringing. So for a quarter of a century, educators such as Dawn Slinger in Farmington, Minn., have paid out of their own pockets to provide one for their classrooms. Only in the past few years have groups stepped in to help with the financial burden.