Dog Tales, Part One
My dog ate a mouse, says a blonde third-grade boy.
I have two dogs, offers another, a brunette.
A third, also brunette, says, My dogs died.
The three boys, along with several friends, have come to pet Galen and to see why my daughter and I are seated beside a table covered with dog treats, dog toys, and pamphlets and magazines featuring Best Friends Animal Society.
It is Mitzvah Day at our synagogue—a day when we don’t just speak of the importance of tikkun olam, which translates loosely as “to repair the world,” but when we pursue it by raising money for multiple charities and running blood, food, and housewares drives.
Lindsey is raising money for Best Friends as part of her becoming a bat mitzvah, so we decided Mitzvah Day presented us with a great opportunity to spread the word about the organization and to fundraise for it. We brought Galen along because we knew she’d be a draw. (We figured Galen would make the soft sell, Lindsey the hard sell.)
But back to the boys.
They walked to our table as soon as they spied Galen. Some petted her, some simply started talking—to each other, or to me and Lindsey, it wasn’t clear. They just seemed to need to tell their stories about their dogs.
It was a spate of stories, much like these, that Dr. Michael Good heard from first, second, and third graders in a Georgia elementary school in 2010. Good had been invited by a teacher to talk to students about being a veterinarian. He’d assumed he’d be speaking to high schoolers considering careers, but, to his surprise, he found himself before a much younger audience.
As Good recalls, “I am caught totally off guard, and I have ninety minutes to tell these kids what a vet does. Well, it takes less than a New York minute. I say, ‘As a vet, I get your best friend well so he can go home and play with you.’ And then I’m done, and I still have ninety minutes left. Well, to the credit of this young teacher, she asks the kids if anyone has a question, and there were three hundred kids, and three hundred hands go up. And not one of them asks me a question. They tell me stories about their pets; and grandma’s pet; and their neighbor’s cat having kittens; and going for a walk in the woods with their dog and it chasing a squirrel up a tree, and they can tell me every branch it climbed; and they talked with a loud voice and a big smile on their face, and they were so passionate about telling their story. And I got to thinking—what if we got millions of kids all over this country to tell stories about dogs who don’t have homes, and we make shelters promise not to kill any dog whose story is being told? Then these animals are going to get great homes.”
Coming soon, Dog Tales, Part Two: Dr. Good’s Homeless Pet Clubs empower children and save lives.
Jacki Skole is an award-winning journalist, author and adjunct professor of communication. A graduate of the University of Michigan and Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, she spent a decade as a writer and producer at CNN before turning to teaching. Jacki launched WRITE Now to assist students in writing the college application essays that will chart their future. Read More...