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Faithfulness: Marks the end of National Pet Month

To encourage understanding that love brings responsibility.

by Janice Ross

Suitable for Key Stage 1

Aims

To encourage understanding that love brings responsibility.

Preparation and materials

  • Optional: images of Miniature Schnauzer dogs and pups from Google images (check copyright) – preferably one showing ‘salt and pepper’ colouring and another showing ‘black and silver’.
  • Image of a dog owner with holding five Miniature Schnauzer puppies from Google images (check copyright).

Assembly

  1. This last month (April) has been National Pet month. Today I want to tell you a story about some little puppies.

    On 9 December 2010, Skara had her first litter of puppies. Skara is a beautiful, two-year-old Miniature Schnauzer.

    (Optional: image of  Mini Schnauzer, ‘pepper and salt’ variety.)

    She was very clever and did the job of bringing her little ones in to the world all by herself. She licked each one, saw that it was warm and dry, and then got on with the job of giving birth to the next one of her litter. Mr and Mrs Ross, Skara’s owners, were very proud of her.

    The next day their friendly vet popped in, and, after inspecting the five puppies, announced that Skara had had four boys and one girl (or four dogs and one bitch), and that all were well. Four of the litter would be like Skara, ‘pepper and salt’ in colour, and one was to be like his handsome dad, Hughie, ‘black and silver’.

    (Optional : image of Mini Schnauzer, ‘black and silver’ variety.)

    The first few weeks were wonderfully peaceful. As Mrs Ross wrapped Christmas presents and wrote Christmas cards, Skara fed five hungry little mouths, licked up any pees, so keeping her pups clean, and, most of the time, the pups just burrowed into in to their mum and slept. Now and then you would hear little squeaks. They all stayed in a cosy big box with warm blankets.

    In January Mrs Ross divided their box in two. At one end stayed the warm bedding, but at the other end she placed a lot of newspaper. This was to encourage the puppies to do their pees at this spot! Mrs Ross was surprised at how quickly they got the hang of it.

    As they grew, the leaders of the pack, Buzz and Murphy, decided that they could scramble out of the box quite easily. It wasn’t long before the other three – Evie, Breck and little Barney – were following their lead.

    Much as it was nice to see the puppies becoming strong and inquisitive, this did mean that they had a very big floor area to do their pees on. And five puppies peeing can make a lot of wetness! Mrs Ross had to ask her neighbours for any old newspapers and she almost covered the floor with these. The puppies had not had their first vaccinations yet, so they couldn’t learn to go out in the garden, which would have been a lot less messy.

    After five weeks of living solely on Skara’s milk, Skara began to show her owners that she didn’t intend to be a milk producer all her life. She continued to feed the puppies once a day – now big, and pulling at her from all quarters – but often Skara would jump around them if they tried to get milk. Whenever the pups didn’t get the message that she had no intention of feeding them, she would jump into the box. Crafty Skara. She knew that although the pups could scramble out, even the strongest had not mastered getting back in. Peace at last, thought Skara. She would give a little smile, curl up and ignore her family for a while.

    It was time to think about weaning the pups. Surprisingly the pups all took quite happily to some dried food moistened with a little water. Of course, the one downside to this was that now Mr and Mrs Ross had poos everywhere, and very rarely on the newspaper. It was time to start house-training properly. As by now the pups had had their first vaccinations, they were safe to go into the garden.

    (Show the picture of five pups in an owner’s arms.)

    They loved the wide open space of the garden and racing round the grass, climbing among the fruit bushes and generally having a great time. But they were also out there to pee and poo!

    ‘Clever boy! Well done!’, was the constant praise needed to train them. But it is quite difficult watching five boisterous puppies until they perform, and cold  standing there outside in the winter months. (Perhaps your playground assistants feel like Mrs Ross did some days!)

    Then came the job of coaxing the pups back in to the house.

    Do you like coming in when you are having a good playtime break? Well believe me, nor do puppies. This was not too bad during the daytime when you could see the little rascals, but not so easy at night-time. Of course, once this training starts, dog owners have to be available during the night. Usually Mrs Ross would hear some whining at about 2 a.m. and 4 a.m., but if the pups were having a particularly playful night, the owners could be up four times. Now, you might think, surely they could just pee on the paper. Yes they could, and I have to admit that there was the odd night when Mrs Ross groaned and said to herself, ‘I’ll just clear up in the morning!’ But when you are getting puppies ready for a new owner, you want to do your best to train them early. After all, as you know from school, you learn things so easily when you are small.

    (Show a picture of a puppy playing.)

    Playtime with the pups made up for all the hard work. They loved soft toys, toilet-roll tubes and old socks with which they did tugs-of-war with Skara. The pups were so cuddly, and they delighted the many visitors to the house. There is nothing more lovely than to have a little pup nuzzle into you.

    By the middle of February, four of the puppies had gone to their new homes. Only little Evie is left, and she too will soon be united with her owner. Evie will be getting her second vaccination soon and then will be able to go out for walks with Skara. She will have to get used to being on a lead of course, and the noise of traffic, and will have to learn to ‘come’ when called. So the training goes on. At the moment both Skara and Evie are sitting on Mrs Ross’s lap, fast asleep. It’s certainly a dog’s life! The kitchen floor has been washed for the thousandth time it seems. But it has all been worth it.

  2. Discuss:

    What are the good things about having puppies?
    What things are more difficult?
    Ask those who have dogs how long it took to house-train their dog.
    How long might it take to teach Evie to walk nicely on a lead and to ‘come’ when called?
    What other responsibilities will the new owners have towards their pups?
    Identify the amount of work that having a pup brings.
    Identify the word ‘faithfulness’ as being a quality needed by a new owner.
    Recognize that when we love a puppy, just as when we love a person, we have a responsibility of care.

Time for reflection

Put up the image of the five puppies cuddled in an owner’s arms.

Which words describe this picture?

Now picture someone taking out one of these pups for a bed-time walk on a cold, wet and windy night.

Which words describe the owner?

Prayer
Dear God,
We thank you for Skara’s beautiful puppies.
We thank you for all the new owners
and ask that you would help them to be faithful in caring for their pups.
We ask, too, that you will help each of us here today to be kind to animals we know.
Amen.

Song/music

‘He’s got the whole world’ (Come and Praise, 19)

Publication date: May 2011   (Vol.13 No.5)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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