Dale was sitting at the table sobbing. He had been there for the last few minutes and was clearly heartbroken. Watching from the other side of the playground his form-teacher was deeply moved by his plight. All morning he had been distracted and hadn’t taken part in the class with his usual enthusiasm.
Mrs Allum couldn’t bear to watch a moment longer. She told Miss Wingate, her teaching assistant, to keep an eye on things for a moment. Keeping one eye on the other children as they played on the various things in the playground, or chased each other she crossed the yard and stood be Dale for a second before putting her hand gently on his shoulder.
Dale stopped his sobbing suddenly and looked round. It was almost as if he had had no sense of anyone else being there before Mrs Allum touched him. His eyes were red-rimmed and his nose was running slightly. Pulling a tissue out from her sleeve Mrs Allum handed it to Dale with a nod and an empathic smile.
“What’s wrong, Dale?” she asked him. “All morning you’ve been looking out the window and haven’t taken any notice of the class. Is there something wrong at home?” Although she knew she shouldn’t be prying or putting words into his mouth she had to get to the bottom of what was upsetting Dale so much.
“It’s nothing,” Dale said defensively.
“Nothing doesn’t make anyone cry,” Mrs Allum told him gently.
“No, well, I er, I..er mean it’s nothing you can help with.” Dale replied sadly.
“Haven’t you heard that a problem shared is a problem halved?” Mrs Allum sat on the wall and tapped the space beside her indicating Dale should sit beside her. At the same time she checked that Miss Wingate was still keeping an eye on the other children as they played.
Reluctantly dale sat beside Mrs Allum It was clear he was waiting for a scolding, or worse. “Can I offer you a cuddle?” Mrs Allum asked. She knew she was overstepping the guidelines here, but Dale was so distressed and needed help.
“I guess,” Dale said as he moved in slightly closer.
“So, are you going to tell me what’s wrong? And maybe I can help you.” Mrs Allum gently put her arm over Dale’s shoulder.
I can’t tell anyone,” Dale confessed.
Mrs Allum’s radar was on full alert now. She had heard so many horrible stories about what some children suffered at home. She was almost scared of what she might hear.
“My mum said..:” Dale started, then thought better of it. He remained silent for a while.
“You can tell me, Dale.No matter what it is you can tell me,” Mrs Allum was hoping that she was sounding the right note to encourage Dale to open up. She was aware she should have alerted the Head by now, but didn’t want to break the spell she felt she had woven to make Dale feel safe enough to talk.
“We’ve got to give her up, up, up…” he started sobbing again.
“I’m sorry Dale, I don’t understand.” Mrs dale’s face showed the confusion she was feeling.
“Denny. Denny, we’ve got to give her up,” Dale sobbed.
“Ah,” Mrs Allum understood now. Denny was the Blunt family dog.
“Tell me more, Dale, perhaps I can help,” Mrs Allum, being an animal lover was all ears.
“My mum said we can’t afford to keep her. She only gets the dole, and since my dad buggered off she can’t feed us all and Denny.”
Mrs Allum ignored Denny’s bad language and suggested that she speak to his mum and tell her that he was so upset about having to give up his dog.
“She’ll be really angry with me for telling you,” Dale looked concerned. “Any way, she’s probably done it by now. She was going to take her a long way away, tie her up and leave her”
Mrs Allums’ heart leapt into her mouth as she felt her blood pressure rise along with the anger she felt. “She’s going to do what?” she asked.
Dale repeated his story about his mum’s plans for their dog, then started sobbing all over again.
“Dale she can’t do that. I am definitely going to help you, and one way or another we’re going to keep Denny.”
As the school bell rang Mrs Allum encouraged Dale back into class. After setting the task for the afternoon she left the class in the care of Miss Wingate. Her first stop on leaving the classroom was to speak to Shelly, the school secretary. She managed to get Mrs Blunt’s home and mobile numbers and set off for the teachers’ room.
There was no answer on the home phone so Mrs Allum called the mobile number. After a few moments Mrs Blunt answered. As diplomatically as possible Mrs Allum explained what had happened and asked if the situation as Dale had told it was correct.
Mrs Blunt Was shocked that Dale had been so upset and sheepishly admitted that there wasn’t enough money to keep the dog, and that she did intend to give her up, but she said that she would not just leave her in the street. She intended to drop her off at an animal charity at the weekend.
Hearing the family’s plight Mrs Allum explained her situation. She had been a widow for some years now and would welcome the companionship of a dog. She had met Denny on several occasions when Dale had been out walking her. She said that perhaps she could give Denny a new home, and with Dale’s help with the walking, everyone could be happy.
Mrs Blunt was unsure of what to say, and asked to discuss it with Dale when he got home. Mrs Allum agreed that would be a good idea but as she hung up the phone she felt her life was about to change, and that Dale wouldn’t have to completely give up his beloved dog after all.