A Lesson in Kindness: How One Teacher Makes a Difference in the Life of Animals

A Baltimore, Md., writing teacher and her students help homeless animals one letter at a time.

When it comes to helping homeless pets in the most earnest, heartfelt (and yes, adorable) way, children have that covered, hands down. This is especially true in the case of Tiffani Murphy, a writing teacher at Ebb Valley Elementary in Manchester, Md., and her fourth grade class.

Murphy wanted to share her compassion for animals with her students, so she came up with a creative writing project that would instill a lesson in both writing and helping: each student would compose a persuasive letter in the words of a homeless animal, explaining why that animal should be adopted.

Each of the 37 students chose a dog or cat listed on the Baltimore Humane Society website, and the children wrote their persuasive letters, convincing potential adopters to give their animal a forever home. The letters were laminated and sent to the no-kill shelter in Reisterstown, about 15 miles away from the elementary school.

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Wendy Goldband, director of marketing and public relations, was touched to receive the letters, and set about posting each by its corresponding animal. Soon, the kennels were outfitted with touching (and oftentimes funny) messages from the fourth graders, such as:

“Do you like mice? Well, if not I’m your girl!”

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“Have you ever had a wish or dream come true? Well, mine is to have a real family and a real home.”

“Cuddles loves to purr all day and night even if she does sleep a lot. Even better, she comes with her own built-in brush (her tongue)!”

“I will protect whoever adopts me from danger. I’m sad and lonely, and I need a home so pplleeaassee, pretty please with cherries on top, adopt me.”

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The letters have been a hit at the shelter. “People have responded to the letters with both giggles and tears,” Goldband says. “The profiles are wonderful and moving — after all, what’s more fun to read than the honest, unfiltered words of children?”

Goldband says that a number of dogs and cats have been adopted because of the students’ letters, and the shelter expects more adoptions because of the project.

“Some of the writing is funny, and some can break your heart,” Goldband says. “The fact that young children see the reason to help these animals gives pause to adults who might not have considered the need and seriousness.”

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When she began the project, Murphy had a very simple goal: to teach her kids persuasive writing skills while trying to help dogs and cats find homes.

“I thought this was a great community outreach project — something a little different that my students would really enjoy, and boy, did they!” says Murphy, who owns three rescue dogs, a rescued cat and a classroom hamster. “Teaching students to show compassion to all creatures is very important to me. Exposing them to kindness at the fourth-grade level hopefully will carry over into their adult lives.”

The students also collected donations from their elementary school, including money, food and pet supplies. All was donated to the BHS in person by the students during a tour of the shelter, where some of the kids got to meet “their” dogs and cats, and see their letters hanging on the kennels.

As for the students? “The response from my students has been extremely positive,” Murphy says. “They loved checking the shelter website to see if ‘their’ dog or cat was adopted. They were extremely proud to take the donations to the BHS during our visit. They loved the idea that they could play a part in helping a dog or cat get adopted.”

Want to get involved? Consider starting something like this at your child’s school or after-school program or do it with other families and friends. If you’re a teacher consider adding this into your curriculum for any age. Modifications can be made to this idea for older kids as well, involving video, social media and more. Get creative! Projects like this can make an amazing impact in the lives of both children and animals.

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Nicole Sipe

Nicole Sipe writes from her home in Indiana, where she and her husband raise their two young sons.

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