Animals in Literature

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Rescue & Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship

This inspiring true story is about a girl, named Jessica, whose life has not turned out how she thought it would. Jessica, who was injured in the Boston Marathon bombing, relies on Rescue, her service dog, to help her accomplish everyday tasks. Based on a real-life partnership, this heartwarming story of the special bond between people and animals, especially those who need assistance, is sure to lift spirits.

Why use this book?

  • A true story about the bond between a service dog and a girl. As the story unfolds students will notice how Jessica and the dog depend on, and help, each other.
  • Highlights the strong connection and relationship people have with their pets, known as the human-animal bond.
  • Highlights the different roles animals can play in our lives and that some dogs have jobs. As these dogs are members of our communities, it is important for students to be aware of what they should do when they see a service dog in public (do not distract, do not offer food, do not pet, do not approach, etc.) This story could serve as a great introduction to both service animals (along with emotional support animals) and people with different abilities.

Ask your students:

  • What are some ways Rescue helps Jessica?
  • What are some ways Jessica helps Rescue?
  • How would you describe the relationship between Jessica and Rescue?
  • How do Rescue and Jessica overcome some of the obstacles they face?
  • How do you overcome obstacles you face?
  • Have you ever witnessed a service dog in person? Describe the experience.
  • What other animals can be service animals?


  • Lending a Helping Hand – As a class, watch the short video ‘Rescue and Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship Book Trailer’ (4:57). Brainstorm a list of small things everyone can do to help individuals with disabilities. Holding doors open, ensuring sidewalks are clear of snow and ice for people with mobility issues, not parking in accessible parking stalls, etc.
  • The Real Rescue – As a class, watch the short video “2017 ASPCA Dog of the Year: Rescue’ (3:48). After watching the video, have students compare the similarities between Rescue to a typical dog using a Venn diagram. The video contains a brief news clip of the Boston marathon bombing, including the sound of a bomb detonating. Preview to make sure it is suitable for your class, or skip ahead to 0:37.
  • Service Dog PSA – Have students research guidelines for meeting a service dog in public. Students can create a poster or pamphlet that illustrates the work service dogs do, including dos and don’ts of interacting with a service dog.

Additional Resources Related to Book:

  • For additional information on service dogs in Alberta, and how to interact with service dogs in public, visit the Government of Alberta website.
  • For additional information on guide dog etiquette visit the CNIB website.
  • For additional information on service dogs, emotional support animals, and the difference between them visit the American Kennel Club website.


Jessica Kensky & Patrick Downes, 2018


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