Does your dog have a dad?

May 28, 2015 • Posted in careers/jobs for people who are blind, memoir writing, questions kids ask, Seeing Eye dogs, Uncategorized, visiting schools by

A writer in the Monday memoir-writing class I lead grew up in Germany, came to America through a study abroad program at Vassar, and stayed. Brigitte has retired from a career in academia now, and twice a week she volunteers in a third-grade class at a Chicago Public School.

The kids at Swift had a lot of energy and questions.

The kids at Swift had a lot of energy and questions.

Nearly all the students in Brigitte’s third-grade class at Swift School are children of immigrants, and to celebrate the end of a successful year, Brigitte ordered every one of them a copy of my children’s book, Hanni and Beth: Safe & Sound and had me come over last Friday to meet them all.

I was captivated by the children’s curiosity. Without being able to see them, I forgot that the nine- and ten-year olds in Brigitte’s class might look different from any of the kids in the other classes Whitney and I have visited this past school year. Maybe you can tell from the questions they asked?

  • How old is your dog?
  • If she is only five, why is she sleeping?
  • How old are you?
  • How come you got diabetes?
  • Has life changed for you now, you know,because you’re blind?
  • How do you cook?
  • How do you fry?
  • You never said what the building was like where your dog went to school. How old is the school it went to?
  • Was it hard for you and your dog at first, you know, when it got to Chicago?
  • Would you have a dog if you never got blind?
  • Is your day ever very challenging?
  • Does your dog have a dad?

That last question was one I’d never been asked before. Yes, I explained, my dog does have a dad. A mom, too. “One of them is a Golden Retriever, and the other is a Yellow Labrador Retriever,” I said. “They still live in New Jersey, that’s where my dog was born.”

After hearing my anser, the girl who’d asked the question said, “I think your dog is sad, because it misses the family it grew up with.” And that’s when I remembered. These kids had parents from different countries. Maybe that little girl’s response about my dog being sad, and the question about life being challenging, and whether or not my dog had a hard time when it first moved to Chicago…those questions might stem from something they hear their parents say from time to time at home.

These third-graders were mature beyond their years, but they were fun, too. And smart. Thanks for asking us to come to Swift School, Brigittte, and for seeing to it that each and every one of those kids got a book to bring home. Whitney and I had a ball.

Sheila Kelly Welch On May 28, 2015 at 8:27 am

Beth, I loved reading your post this morning. I don’t know if anyone ever tells you how beautiful you are so I thought I’d mention it. 🙂

The photo of you, Whitney, and the children is lovely, and, of course, your sensitive description of this event made me a bit tearful. Thanks!

bethfinke On May 28, 2015 at 8:52 am

Beautiful? Moi? THANKS for saying so, Sheila. I am convinced that people look beautiful when they are happy, and the beauty of those wonderful children in that room Friday was contagious, too.


Annelore On May 29, 2015 at 11:08 am

Having had the chance to meet you and Whitney is one experience to make Chicago become a little more ‘home’ to these children… a win-win situation for all of you. And as for your readers, we are lucky to be included…. and thankful.

bethfinke On May 29, 2015 at 12:11 pm

What a happy coincidence –I feel lucky that you readers check out these posts Mike and I write. THANK YOU for leaving a comment, Annelore. Gee, you may have to meet Brigitte some day. Or who knows, perhaps you know her already…? It’s a small world.


Benita On May 30, 2015 at 9:31 am

These kids seem older than the ones you usually visit. I am always amazed that all your questioners, regardless of age, ask you about how you cook. I wonder if they’d ask that question of a man, don’t you?
How kind of Brigitte to give each child a book. If they are recent immigrants, it’s likely it’s their first book in English. What a treasure for them.

Deborah Darsie On August 9, 2015 at 10:18 am

The questions you are asked during your class visits is always interesting. This group had some fascinating perspectives that snuck in.

The one about adjusting to Chicago was particularly telling for me. It resonates with my early days and my mild curiosity of what the immigrant experience iswas. My maternal great grandfather immigrated with his family from Eastern Europe and ended up in Boston.

Thanks to you, Mike and Whitney for being a bright spot in so many lives!

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