Children have the exceptional ability to see with their hearts. The way they view the world is yet to be clouded by the fears and prejudices life can heap on us. One Chicago teacher challenged his or her special education students to apply this innocent worldview for the good of shelter dogs. The cage doors of several adoptable dogs at Chicago Animal Care and Control display the touching results of the assignment.
The students, ranging from grades 4 – 8, penned heartfelt letters to potential adopters from the point of view of the dogs themselves. They were able to see the dogs and their information cards which provided information like breed mix, energy level, and age. The kids then used these facts to place themselves in the emotional position of the animals, imagining what it must feel like for them to live in the shelter.
The letters were decorated with smiley faces, sad faces and hearts to help convey their messages. The ability of children as young as grade four to empathize with the confusion, fear and loneliness of shelter dogs is remarkable. One letter reads:
Amazing family, Please adopt me. My family abandoned me a long time ago. I’m tired and scared of being in the cage alone. It’s cold and dark. Love me, and I will love you forever, protect you, and play with you. Love, Your New Friend
Another letter zeroed in on the stereotyping certain dogs face based on their physical appearance and hype propagated by the media:
Dear Adopter, I know I may look mean. I promise I am nice. Don’t believe the stereotype about my breed. Take care of me and I will show you a lot of love and kindness. Sincerely, Your New Pet
One child noted that the pup had a remark on his card stating “Give me lots of exercise.” He wrote the following letter as that dog:
Please adopt me. You may not want to have a dog with lots of energy, but I really want to play with kids. I can’t do that from inside this cage. If you take me home, I promise to love you with all of my heart.
The final letter is the most difficult and touching to read. It conveys a level of despondency that shelter staff see in the dogs under their care all too often. Despite the sad start, the end of the letter becomes hopeful and offers a life lesson we would all do well to remember – everyone is deserving of love and a safe place to call home.
I know for a fact I am not getting adopted, but I want to tell you this. I know I’m a slob. I know I’m big. I know I’m an old dog. I know I have big teeth. But inside and out I know I’m special because every dog, cat, or person has something special. I’m a dog and I know that, so I hope you’ll adopt me just like I am. Love, Your Silly Dog With A Big Heart
At the bottom of each letter is a note from the teacher asking for photos of the dogs to be emailed by whomever ends up adopting them so the students can see the happy endings they helped make possible. What a beautiful way to teach children about respect for animals, empathy and tolerance. Kudos to this amazing educator and his or her inspirational students!
H/T to Lindsay Joy/Facebook