The main theme of Along Came a Dog involves the need to be accepted. This theme is developed both through the dog’s desperate attempts to find a home and through the hen’s repeated returns to the flock even though she is attacked for being toeless.
Although Joe drives the dog away each time that he comes to the farm, the dog persistently returns because he knows that Joe is kind and good. He also knows that he needs a home, and he makes the farm his home even before Joe accepts him. The dog adopts the Little Red Hen and learns from her and the other chickens how to behave on the farm. For example, he learns that whole eggs are not for him, but broken eggs can be eaten without remorse or punishment. He also seems to know intuitively that the chickens are not for him to eat, although he would obviously enjoy them as a meal. Instead, he survives on the grain that Joe tosses on the ground for the flock, broken eggs, and some parsnips that he finds in last year’s garden.
Although the hen does not seem to be explicitly aware of an emotional need to be accepted, it is necessary for her to be accepted by the flock in order to survive physically. Because of her lack of toes, she is lowered to the last position in the pecking order and, as a result, is often attacked by the easily enraged chickens. Consequently, she is often unable to eat without the dog’s protection. Furthermore, because of her toeless feet, she is unable to grip the chicken ladder and therefore cannot sleep in the coop with the other chickens. She is forced to spend the long dark nights in the barnyard. If the dog did not accept her and decide to protect her, she probably would not have survived the dangers of the night. De Jong is careful to point out that all chickens are helpless in the dark, since they are unable to see anything without the assistance of light. As a result, whenever the hen is in danger during the night, she...
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