Animals in Literature

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Before You Were Mine

Before You Were Mine tells the story of a little boy imagining what life might have been like for his new dog before he adopted him. Maybe he had a family that loved and cared for him but the family moved and couldn’t care for him anymore. Maybe he lived with someone who wasn’t ready for an energetic puppy. The boy realizes that it ultimately doesn’t matter because now he is home. This is a heartwarming story about how adopting a pet can bring happiness to a pet as well as the new owner.

Why use this book:

  • Highlights the strong connection and relationships people have with animals, known as the human-animal bond
  • Demonstrates appropriate ways that people can demonstrate being a responsible pet owner
  • Demonstrates the benefits and challenges of having different types of pets

Ask your students:

  • What was your favourite part of the book? Why? What did you like about the story? What didn’t you like?
  • Did the illustrations in the book help you to understand how the characters were feeling? Choose a page and describe how you think the character was feeling.
  • Where does the boy think the dog came from before it was the boy’s pet?
  • Sometimes animals can escape from your house when you aren’t looking. What can you do to prevent them from getting lost? What can you do to help find a lost pet?
  • There are many reasons why an animal ends up at a shelter. What are some of the reasons given in the story? Can you think of other reasons?
  • What are some of the ways the dog was cared for at the shelter?
  • At the end of the story, the boy says maybe it doesn’t matter what happened to the dog before he adopted it. Do you think it matters? Why?
  • 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?


  • New Student – Have students think about what they would want to know about a new student joining the class. Do this as a brainstorming exercise with the whole class or have students write down their responses. Then ask the students if the answers to these questions are important or are just interesting. (For example, it may be interesting to find out that a new student is from Halifax, but when it comes to making a new friend, does it really matter where the person is from? Next have students think of three interesting things about them that they would want a class to know if they were a new student. Students can write three facts or make a college that represents at least three interesting things about themselves.
  • Animal Shelters – In the book, the boy thinks of many reasons why the dog is at the animal shelter. As a class, brainstorm the reasons and some possible solutions to overcome these problems. Example: Reason: People didn’t want it because “puppies chew stuff.” Solution: provide puppy with lots of chew toys and supervision. Usually puppies grow out of this stage, so if owners are patient they’ll find their dog no longer chews things as it gets older. NOTE: Sometimes circumstances can occur and a family can no longer take care of their pet. In this case, emphasize that a shelter is a good place for the pet to go in order to find a new and loving home.
  • My Family – At the end of the book the boy says “it doesn’t matter what happened before you were mine because now, you’re home.” When you adopt a pet, they become part of the family! Draw a picture of your family – if you have a pet make sure to include it. If you don’t have a pet that’s okay too!
  • Which Animal Would You Adopt? Group Activity – Have students form groups of 4 or 5 and hand out Animal Cards. Students will take turns selecting a card, placing them face up on the table and listing one benefit and one challenge of owning that animal. Other group members can then add other benefits and challenges.  Encourage students to think of as many as possible. When students are finished going through all the cards, have each group member pick the animal that would suit their family the best and explain why. Once groups are finished ask a few students to share their responses with the group .
  • Which Animal Would You Adopt? Writing Exercise – Once students have shared their responses within their group, ask them to write about what pet they would like to have and give three reasons why. Prior Knowledge:Students should have had experience
    • Writing simple sentences
    • Using visual organizers

    Teachers then use the following process for the writing exercise:

    1. Brainstorming – Group activity to generate ideas (Animal Cards Group Activity)
    2. Drafting – Using visual organizer to organize ideas and create writing piece.
    3. Revising – In small groups, students read their drafts then add, delete or change words to improve their writing.
    4. Editing – In small groups or as a whole class, have students check to ensure that they have capitals at the beginning of sentences and proper names, periods at the end of sentences and that frequently used words were spelled correctly.
    5. Publishing –Decide if students should rewrite their drafts into good copies or whether draft copies already represent students’ best work.



Maribeth Boelts, 2007


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