We know from science that nothing in the universe exists as an isolated or independent entity.
— Margaret Wheatley, American author and management consultant
This session focuses on the intangible gift of mutual caring in the connections we can make with animals. While the gift is reciprocal in many ways — including responsibility, affection, and loyalty — humans have the power to name and nurture it. By exploring and affirming mutually these relationships, this session affirms our seventh Principle, the interconnectedness of all life.
The children will talk about their own interactions with animals and learn about relationships in which a person and an animal need each other. The central story introduces guide dogs trained to help owners with disabilities: In these relationships, the animal depends on its owner for survival and nurture, and the owner depends on the animal for help with daily tasks and personal safety.
Encourage all the children to reflect on their experiences, even those who have had limited exposure to the special and at times spiritual connection that can occur between animals and people.
Make plans well ahead of time if you want to include Alternate Activity 1, Visit from a Guide Dog. Alternately, consider inviting children to bring a real pet for Activity 4, Blessing of the Animals. First, find out from parents or your religious educator if any children have extreme animal allergies or fears. If so, it may be best to skip the live animal visitors. Make sure you include safety rules for dealing with unfamiliar animals, animals in the wild, and other people's pets, whether or not live animals are part of the session.
Alternate Activity 2, Making Dog Biscuits, requires use of a kitchen. After baking, Vegan Dog Treats need eight hours to harden before packaging. The Faith in Action activity suggests that the children sell or donate the biscuits.
This session will:
- Demonstrate spiritual, emotional and functional ways humans and animals connect
- Teach that humans are responsible to ensure mutual help, not harm, between humans and animals
- Introduce a common Unitarian Universalist celebration, the Blessing of the Animals, which comes from the Catholic tradition of St. Francis of Assisi
- Present animal/human relationships as an aspect of the interdependent web of life (seventh Unitarian Universalist Principle).
- Learn that some animals have been trained to assist people with special needs and how these working animals are different from pets
- Understand how working animals exemplify care between species, an intangible gift the children can give and receive
- Explore their own interactions with animals as pets, at a zoo, in books or electronic media, or in nature
- Identify elements of a mutual caring relationship between a human and an animal, including responsibility, affection, loyalty, and help
- Connect caring relationships between humans and animals with the larger concept of the interdependent web of life, the seventh Unitarian Universalist Principle
- Make gifts for animal friends and/or sell dog biscuits to raise funds for a guide dog school or a no-kill shelter.