Before You Were Mine Literature Guide

Grade Level: 
K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
A literature guide for parents, teachers, and group leaders to accompany the reading of this picture book. The guide below provides before, during, and after-reading discussion questions. Choose from activities and discussion questions to build children's understanding of generosity, community, and service to others.

In Before You Were Mine, a boy wonders and questions what his dog’s life was like before he found his new forever home. Was the dog well taken care of, do his old owners miss him, did he get lost or was he given up?

This charmingly illustrated book gently teaches children how a pet should be cared for and shows the good that can be done by rescuing a pet.

Before Reading

ASK: What does a dog need to be happy and well taken care of?

SHOW: Look at the picture on the back of the book. Name the things that you see that the dog needs to stay healthy.

CONNECT: Do you make sure that your pet has everything he needs? Does your pet have: clean water, food, shelter, toys, and a way to exercise? You have a very special job. It’s up to you to make sure your pet is taken care of. Talk about how you are important to your pet and how your pet relies on you.

Note to Parents: While taking care of a pet is a wonderful way for you to teach your child to be responsible, the ultimate responsibility lies with you. Pets should never be adopted into a family when the parents are not willing to take on the responsibility of care when the children fail to adequately provide it.

During Reading

ASK: In this story, the boy wonders what his dog’s life was like before he came to live with the boy. The boy asks many questions. What can you tell about how the boy feels dogs should be taken care of by reading the questions?

SHOW: Find the pictures in the book where the dog looks happy or excited. Then find the pictures where the dog looks scared, worried, or sad?

CONNECT: If your pet could talk, what questions would you want to ask your pet?

After Reading

ASK: How did being adopted from the animal shelter affect the dog in this story?

SHOW: Look at the pictures of the dog in the shelter and after it is adopted.

CONNECT: Have you ever rescued a pet from a shelter? Some people get pets from shelters. These are usually animals that have been lost or given up by their owners. Sometimes they are the babies of stray or surrender animals. Another way to get a pet is to buy from a pet breeder who keep animals to reproduce and sell them. Talk about how each kind of adoption is different and how you would like to adopt if you are interested in getting a new or additional pet.

Note to Parents: You should avoid buying cats and dogs from pet stores as they come from mass breeding facilities that provide substandard care and use indiscriminant breeding practices.


  1. Volunteer as a family at a local rescue shelter. (Check with the shelter in advance to discover if they have a minimum age requirement for volunteers, or other restrictions.) Many shelters want volunteers to walk dogs during the day. These walks help the dogs get exercise and have a little fun. Volunteer to walk a dog once a week. You’ll make a new friend, get exercise, and feel great about yourself.
  2. Write a story about your pet, or a pet you would like to adopt, in which you imagine what its life was like before it came to your home.
  3. Raise funds or collect supplies to take care of pets that are waiting for a forever home at the rescue shelter. Note: To find a local animal shelter near you, go to
  4. Here are a few ideas:
  • The next time you have a birthday party instead of getting gifts for yourself ask the attendees to bring gifts to benefit a local shelter. You could make your birthday party a dog or cat theme and provide gift ideas on your invitation, such as pet dishes, leashes and collars, pet treats, and pet beds. Some shelters even host birthday parties at their facility!
  • Design and create pet-sized bandannas. Wearing a colorful bandana is a wonderful way for shelter animals to get noticed by potential adopters. You will need non-toxic washable fabric markers and solid color bandannas. Place the bandana on the table. Draw only on the side that faces up. Your goal is to get the animals that wear these bandanas noticed—and thereby get adopted—so your bandanas should be colorful and fun. It’s a good idea to include some words or phrases on your bandanas. Some are listed below, or you can make up your own. Some examples of phrases for your bandanas: Adopt Me!; Shelter Dogs Are Cool! or Shelter Cats Are Cool!; I’ll Be Your Best Friend!; Help Me Find A Home! When finished decorating your bandana, let it lie flat for a minute to make sure that your design doesn’t smear.
  • By collecting and donating pet food to your local shelter, you can help it offset the cost of caring for pets in their charge. Contact shelters in your local city or town, and find out which ones will benefit most from a donation of pet food. Once you have decided on a location for the event, such as a school, community center, or other location, decide on a date well in advance. The date could be in connection with an animal event, such as Adopt-A-Shelter-Cat Month (June) or Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog Month (October). Create posters asking people to donate pet food. Hang them up in schools, community groups, and clubs you may belong to. Please remember to ask permission before putting up a poster in any location. Make sure to include the following information in your publicity materials:

    Date and location of the event.
    Theme—If the day of the event is in connection with an animal event, such as “Be Kind to Animals Week,” (May) make sure to include that in the poster.
    Brief description of the event and what shelters you’ll be donating the food to.
    Types of pet food, such as dry or wet, canned or bag, cat or dog, specific brands requested by the shelter and how the food should be packaged.

    Set up a table with chairs for those greeting donors as they arrive, and to display any information you would like to give away about pets or about the shelters to which you are donating the food. Set up boxes in an area to place donated food and treats. The boxes should be clearly marked. This will make it much easier when it is time to sort the food. Once you have collected the pet food, sort and package it neatly in small and medium boxes. This will make it easier to transport. Contact the shelter or shelters that are accepting the donations and confirm a date to deliver the items. Deliver the pet food to the shelter or shelters waiting for the donations.

    [Some activity ideas courtesy the ASPCA (]