Before You Were Mine Literature Guide

Grade Level: 
K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
By Maribeth Boelts - 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.

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.


  1. Volunteer 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. Look for ideas and learn more ways to get involved and help animals with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.