Animals in Literature

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A Home for Dakota

Dog No. 241, from a puppy mill breeding operation is rescued and taken to a warm, secure foster home.  She is eventually renamed Dakota and learns to love and trust. A new challenge arrives when Dakota is adopted by a family with a little girl, Sweetie, who is also undergoing recovery.  Dakota and Sweetie learn from and take comfort in one another.

Why use this book:

  • Highlights the importance, and what can come, of not judging a book by its cover
  • Highlights the strong connection and relationships people have with animals, known as the human-animal bond

Ask your students:

  • Pre-Reading Discussion Questions
    • Do you have a pet? Where did you get your pet from? What other places might a pet come from?
    • Have you and your family ever taken your pet to a veterinarian? For what reasons? What other reasons might pet owners take their pets to a vet?
  • Post-Reading Discussion Questions
    • Who is narrating the story? How do you know?
    • The story begins “In that place…” What is “that place?” How does Dakota describe “that place?”
    • What needs were not being met for the dogs at the puppy mill?
    • Why did Dakota have trouble walking after being rescued?
    • Near the beginning of the book Dakota said she “just wanted to go back into the familiar dark.” Why do you think Dakota wanted to go back to the puppy mill?
    • How do you think Dakota felt when she received her first hug?
    • Why do you think the girl, Sweetie, reacted unkindly toward Dakota? Why do you think Sweetie was nicer to Dakota at their second meeting?
    • What did you learn from this story that you didn’t already know? Did you learn anything new that has changed what you already thought?


  • A Charitable Donation – The inside flap of the book cover tells us “A portion of book sales profits are donated to shelters and animal rescue groups.” Discuss why charitable organizations like the Alberta SPCA rely on donations. Have students brainstorm ways to raise money or collect supplies to donate to your local animal shelter. Extension: Pick one or some of the brainstorming ideas and follow through!  If your class decides to raise money or collect supplies let us know about it and we will put you on our Kindness Map!  Your class could inspire other Alberta schools to make a difference in their community.
  • Change of Perspective – Divide students into small groups and have them retell the story from the perspective of the girl, Sweetie. This can be done in the form of a written activity such as a script or diary entries or in the form of a play. Have groups present to another small group or the class.
  • Comparing Books – Have students compare and evaluate A Home for Dakota to a different book your class recently read. Students can use sentence starters such as:- I liked/disliked (the character) when …

    – I liked how the author …

    – In my opinion …

    – I think the author should have …

    With a partner, have students share which story and which illustrations they preferred.

  • Dogs Dollars and Sense – This exercise involves research, estimating and budgeting. It’s a good way to give students an idea of the costs of pet ownership before commitment, as well as showing the variation between costs of purchase and adoption. To start, hand out Dog Dollars &  Sense activity sheet.  Students can then determine what sex, breed (or large, medium or small if mixed breed) and whether they will purchase or adopt from a shelter.The estimates will vary; students can research the costs several ways:
    • Looking online;
    • Looking through newspaper fliers;
    • Contacting groups or individuals for assistance.

    We have put some useful links on and in our Smart Board activity.


    There are many good dogs (and other pets) awaiting adoption at animal shelters.  Adoption fees are significantly lower than purchasing a dog at a store and can end up being lower that “free” animals found online. Adoption fees often include spay/neuter procedures, initial exams, vaccinations and microchips.

     Spaying and neutering is essential to addressing pet overpopulation.


    Amounts will vary, but you can expect adoption fees to range between $225-325 for a dog and about $450 for a puppy. Annual costs are typically in the $1500 to $2000 range.



Jan Zita Grover, 2010


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