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Introduction to
The Dog at the Gate: How a Throwaway Dog Becomes Special
Discussion Guide

The Dog at the Gate: How a Throwaway Dog Becomes Special is an elementary introduction to the “Hero’s Journey” narrative style that has been passed down for thousands of years, transcending cultures, religions, and spoken/written record-keeping through drama, storytelling, myth, religious ritual, and psychological development. It is considered “the ultimate narrative archetype” of storytelling.

In The Dog at the Gate, Max’s story features many key elements of the human archetype but by featuring a dog protagonist, children will more easily identify with the challenges, emotions, and ultimate outcomes that Max undergoes. Children are capable of learning through storytelling and Max can be a guide and fictional friend who teaches through his willingness to share his perceptions, insecurities, fears, desires, goals, and joys with young readers.

Children will also experience the world through a dog’s eyes. This unique vision will hopefully elicit empathy, respect, and compassion for animals and their environment, as the young reader travels Max’s life journey with him.

This discussion guide is provided to enhance the communication between trusted adults and children who, like many dogs, may feel overwhelmed and/or intimidated by the world they inhabit. By active, sensitive, and kind exchange of thoughts, children can further trust adults in their lives and feel safe turning to those adults in times of challenge, rather than being blindly lead by their (also naive) peers.

When challenges arise (such as ridicule, insecurity, rejection, neglect, abuse, cruelty, illness, abandonment, isolation, or depression) which darken the young mind and heart, every child should find they have an advocate in their parents, teachers, and counselors. Every child deserves to have such advocacy, as Max deserved and finally found.

Please use this guide as your starting point for communication with the child in your life. Please do not let it end with this guide or Max’s book. Only with leadership, safe environments, and trust in others can children move on in life and grow into respectable, honorable, hard-working, humane, contributory citizens of integrity, who then pass on the positive attributes of what good humans should be. Max can teach what a special dog is, and being a special human is not that different!

How To Use The Discussion Guide:

  • Parents who are looking for a bonding experience through reading with their child and discussing the growing-up process regarding decision-making.
  • Teachers who need a tool to teach classic story-telling (using the Hero’s Journey model).
  • Counselors who want to reach children who have experienced trauma, loss, illness, bullying, rejection, and/or cruelty.
  • Humane Educators at shelters, rescues, and sanctuaries; to provide a story-telling education of how animals see their world and their people.

Sunny has over 25 years’ experience in pet rescue, humane education, shelter & sanctuary work, service dog training, obedience competition, dog & cat fostering, pet medical care, horse ground training and has authored articles and books in several fields.

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