After Gemma Dunne took the upsetting decision to have her dog Charlie put down, she was understandably in pieces. And when the teacher found herself back at school just days later, she struggled to hide her grief from her students. Then she received a letter from a nine-year-old boy that left her broken.
Dunne is a teacher at St Michael’s Primary School in the city of Glasgow, Scotland. There, she is in charge of Year Five – the equivalent of fourth grade in the United States. With some boisterous kids presumably among her charges, it’s likely Dunne’s job could be rather demanding.
However, in February 2018 something happened to make the teacher’s job even harder. A tragedy at home left Dunne struggling to “get through the end of the day,” she told Today that same month.
Back at home, Dunne and her family owned an adorable golden retriever called Charlie. However, when the dog was just 18 months old, vets discovered he had a tumor that was affecting his heart. And that was worrying news for both Charlie and his owners.
Sadly, the growth was inoperable. And as a result, vets had little option but to put Charlie down. Naturally, the decision left Dunne and her family utterly heartbroken. However, they found that their lives had to go on.
With that in mind, just three days after her dog’s diagnosis, Dunne found herself stood in front of her class of nine- and ten-year-olds once more. To the children, it was just an ordinary Monday morning. But for their teacher, nothing about it felt normal at all.
Understandably, Charlie was still uppermost in Dunne’s mind. So much so, in fact, that she decided she had to tell her pupils about what had happened to her dog over the weekend. “I could see my students, they looked a wee bit upset because they could tell I was upset,” she explained.
Since Charlie had been such a big part of the teacher’s life, her class knew all about the dog too. Dunne revealed, “I felt I had to tell them. They knew Charlie because I had talked about him so often and they had seen so many photos and videos.”
After explaining why she was a little withdrawn, then, Dunne got back to work educating her class. “To be honest, I just wanted to get through the end of the day at the time,” she confessed.
However, little did Dunne know that her news had had a profound effect on one of her students. Little Callum Ferguson was so touched by the news of Charlie’s passing that the nine-year-old decided to reach out to his teacher with a poem.
Ferguson spent the majority of his day perfecting his poem before handing it over to Dunne. On the front of his card, Ferguson had written, “To Mrs. Dunne, sorry if you don’t like it or it makes you emotional.” Over the page, meanwhile, his moving missive began with the words, “I’m sorry about your dog.”
Inside the card, Ferguson had penned a touching acrostic poem which spelled out Charlie’s name. Each line listed a quality the dog possessed according to each letter. So, in Ferguson’s eyes, the dog was “Cheeky, Happy, Adorable, Relative, Lucky, Incredible and Energetic.”
After pointing out some of Charlie’s key attributes, Ferguson concluded, “But most of all, I know your dog was special and your dog is in a better place and is looking over you. Charlie was a great dog. From Callum.” Moreover, Ferguson’s thoughtfulness certainly resonated with his emotional teacher.
Indeed, in February 2018 Dunne confessed to The Scottish Sun that Ferguson’s poem had left her “in tears.” When she got home, the teacher shared her student’s moving verse with her family, including her 20-year-old daughter Lucie.
And the poem impressed Lucie so much that she decided to share it on Twitter. “Mum’s been so upset about the dog being put to sleep and stressing about having to go back into school today, and she got this from a wee boy in her class,” she explained. But little did Lucie realize what social media would make of it all.
The answer was a great deal. In fact, before long Ferguson’s poem had gone viral. Since Lucie posted it online on February 19, 2018, it has attracted over 151,000 likes and close to 30,000 retweets. Furthermore, many tweeters were quick to congratulate the nine-year-old on his “beautiful poem.”
However, while many people commended him on his verse, gaining praise was never Ferguson’s intention. “I just wanted to cheer up Mrs Dunne,” he told The Scottish Sun on February 21, 2018. “I have a French bulldog Huggie and I knew she would be sad. My friends have asked me for my autograph now.”
No one was more proud of Ferguson than his dad Stuart, who only learned of his son’s poem after Dunne called. “I am very proud, I am proud of all of my children, but very proud of Callum,” he said on an appearance on U.K. TV show This Morning in February 2018.
Through Ferguson’s poem, Charlie’s spirit lives on, and that’s the greatest gift Dunne could have imagined. “The strangest part is that people are calling me as if they know Charlie,” the teacher told Today. “Charlie was just our big lovable dog and suddenly the world knows who he was. People are so sympathetic towards us.”
Meanwhile, following his brush with viral fame, Ferguson has vowed to keep writing poetry. So, with any luck, he’ll be bringing joy to his readers for years to come. However, if his teacher’s words are anything to go by, it’s possible the schoolboy will be trying to keep a lower profile from now on. “Callum was a little bit embarrassed by the attention,” Dunne confessed.