The Importance of Caring
Continuing to care for animals
by Jan Edmunds (revised, originally published in 2004)
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To consider how we can develop a caring and responsible attitude towards others, especially our pets.
Preparation and materials
- Have available some images of young animals and the means to display them during the assembly. Examples could include:
- a lamb, available at: https://tinyurl.com/y9h6olwe
- a calf, available at: https://tinyurl.com/y7mtejp7
- a kitten, available at: https://tinyurl.com/yc56kczz
- some puppies, available at: https://tinyurl.com/ycfbrdcy
- Optional: if you have a pet of your own, you could bring in some items that belong to it. The children could be asked to identify the items, and you could turn this into a guessing game, revealing one item at a time, perhaps from a range of pets.
- Show the images of young animals.
Ask the children to identify the animals.
Ask the children if they have any pets and ask them to describe them.
- Many of the children will have pets at home. Ask them about how excited they were on the day that their new pets arrived at their house. Talk about the pleasure that they had in playing with them and laughing at their pet’s antics.
- Remind the children of the promises that they may have made to their parents that they would help to look after the new animals by feeding, grooming and exercising them.
Continue by pointing out some of the problems that can arise. Remind them that puppies and kittens grow up, and then they may not want to play in the same way. Walking the dog on a rainy day can become quite a chore. Children often make excuses when it comes to cleaning out their rabbit or guinea pig, so a parent is left with the job. Sadly, animals, like people, grow old. When their pets cannot play or become ill, will the children still care for them then?
Tell the children that you are reminded of a story that you once heard. Read out the following story or retell it in your own words.
The Beautiful, Black Horse
Once upon a time, there was a rich king who had a beautiful, black horse. He was very proud of it. Everyone admired the animal and many wished that they, too, could own such a fine creature.
The king was well-liked by the people in his kingdom. He had vowed that everyone in the land should be looked after. He made sure of this by placing a wooden arch in the marketplace, from which hung a large, metal bell. He told the people that if ever they were in trouble, or were suffering from any injustice, they must ring the bell for all to hear.
Many years went by, and everyone was happy. The horse bravely carried his master into battle. He strutted proudly, leading processions through the town. He galloped freely in the fields and was properly cared for. However, one day, when the king mounted him, the horse staggered, his stride was uneven and he was obviously lame. The king realized that his faithful steed was now too old to carry him. The horse was turned out into a field by himself. No one bothered to look after him and he became totally neglected.
The king bought another fine horse and did not give his faithful, old servant a second thought. Winter came. The poor creature had no warm stable. Snow covered the ground. The old horse could not get enough to eat and he knew that he would not survive much longer. With great difficulty, he forced his way out of his field and dragged his weary body to the marketplace. Taking the bell rope in his mouth, he managed to ring the bell a few times before collapsing to the ground.
The chimes brought everyone rushing into the square, including the king himself. When he saw the poor animal, he was thoroughly ashamed of himself. The weak and starving horse was helped up and taken to a warm stable where he was given food and a good grooming. The king vowed that the neglected creature should be cherished until the end of his life. He erected a statue of the horse in the marketplace to remind everyone, including himself, that it is important to care for something always, not just when it is young, shiny and new.
- You might like to invite further discussion here, or leave the story to speak for itself.
Time for reflection
Ask the children to close their eyes and think about the story.
Ask the children, ‘What lessons can we learn from today’s story?’
Let us be kind and gentle to our animal friends.
Help us to look after them properly.
Give us patience and understanding when they get old.
Let us be thankful for all the fun that we have with them,
And all the love that they give to us.
‘All creatures of our God and King’ (Come and Praise, 7)