Jennings’s best friend It was at this first orphanage that Jennings met Doggie, a stuffed animal. Doggie became Jennings closest friend. Doggie went through every orphanage with him.
Jennings quickly learned about the harsh rules of the orphanage. He was often hit or forced to go without food for standing out of line. Once he was sent to live with a couple who only took him in for money.
Life after the orphanage Jennings’s mother comes back for him. Money is still very tight and food is sparse. Frequent arguments irrupted between the brothers and their mother.
Life was hard George, the oldest, developed a drinking problem early on. Their mother was wearing herself out trying to put food on the table. Jerome was confined to a hospital most of the time, another expense for the family. Holidays were often not celebrated because of the lack of money.
Another sickness another orphanage Jennings’s mother going days without eating. The boys were separated and sent to live in different homes. Jennings was sent to live in another orphanage.
Running away became necessary to survive Jennings was beaten and dragged across a splinted floor for spilling his coco. He spent six days in the hospital. He was scared of the nun who put him in the hospital, so he runs away.
Mom returns once again Jennings was picked up by police and sent back to the orphanage. Shortly after, his mother comes to get him.
Life’s struggles do not end Larry and Jennings have missed too much school to go on to the next grade. They endure harassment from other students. Larry decides to start skipping school. In order to earn more money for the family, George drops out of school.
“Now, boys I want you to see what a really stupid kid looks like.” Jennings did not learn fractions because of all the school he missed. Jennings had to stand in front of a black board for whole day. Shortly after Jennings is transferred to another school. Larry gives up going to school.
Sal At the new school Jennings has to stay after and work hard to catch up. Taking the bus after school, he meets a bus driver named Sal. He understands how hard living in an orphanage can be, he was an orphan himself.
The Fraziers Jennings’s mother became sick with pneumonia. This time he is sent to a private home. The Fraziers were very kind to him. Their maid Martha was especially fond of him.
The clothing incident Jennings’s teacher could see that he was in need of new clothes. She asked some parents to donate old clothes to him. The next day the boy harassed him so badly that Jennings got into a bad fight. Sal saved him and brought him to the hospital.
Returning home for the third time The family moved again, but within the same bus route and school district so Jennings could still see Sal. Unfortunately, Sal gets transferred to the Bronx. This is very hard on Jennings.
Larry Larry runs away from home because he is sick of all the house work. Running away becomes a habit that follows him throughout his life. Jennings is blamed for Larry running away. This makes Jennings runaway to find Sal. He is sure Sal will take care of him.
The Bronx Zoo Jennings makes it to the Bronx but has a few days before he can find Sal. While he is waiting, him and Doggie live in the Bronx Zoo where he eats out of the trash and sleeps in the bushes.
Back Home Sal does not let Jennings live with him. Instead he brings him home. Sal helps support the family any way he can. Jennings’s mother falls down the stairs and breaks her back and neck. Jennings is sent to live in another orphanage.
Mark Here, he is reunited with his old friend Mark. Jennings notices that Mark looks very sick. Mark denies that anything is wrong. Shortly after, Mark dies of a heart failure.
Mom back at home Jennings returned home to find his mother in “traction.” Weights pull her back and neck straight. Jennings’s job is to look after her and feed her. Larry returns home an alcoholic like George and their father.
Mental Breakdown Jerome comes home for the second time. He gets sick again and is sent back to the hospital. Larry runs away again. These two factors combined with an overdose of medication makes their mother have a mental breakdown. She cuts the ropes that are holding her neck and back in place.
A state-run orphanage Jennings is humiliated when he accidentally wet his bed. He is forced to stand naked with the urine soaked sheet over his head. Jennings decides to run away to find the Fraziers and Martha. Sal is not around because he recently took a job as a trucker.
The Dailys Jennings was picked up by the police again. Officer Daily took him home to stay with him and his wife. The police chief wanted Jennings back at the orphanage. The Dailys try to contact Sal. Jennings did not want Officer Daily to lose his job so he runs away again.
Back at the Bronx Zoo Jennings decided to live at the Bronx Zoo again. It was getting too cold out to sleep outside. Just as Jennings has given up on Sal coming to rescue him, Officer Daily and Sal come and find him.
In the end… Sal takes care of Jennings and Gene until they are grown up. Jennings’s mother eventually recovers from her injuries. Jerome dies at age 21. Walter finishes school. George gets married and becomes a member of alcoholics anonymous. Larry continues to run away from everything in his life, including his wife and children.
And Jennings… Adopts a daughter, Carolyn. Has held a number of jobs. Has a B.A in forensic psychology. Still has Doggie.
And Now…. Jennings Michael Burch, the author of They Cage the Animals at Night came to Farragut Middle School in April of 2000, to talk about his life experiences growing up in foster homes. With his helpmate "Doggie" and a strong will to endure, he managed to survive a foster care system that overlooked inept, abusive caregivers. In and out of many homes and institutions as he grew up, Mr. Burch discovered the true value of kindness in a world that threatened and inflicted mental and physical harm with awful consistency. He brought his insights to the 7th graders, and alerted them to the types of cruel behaviors they might be practicing towards their peers. He urged them not to think of his situation, and the foster care system, as some nightmare environment far removed from their own experience, but to be sensitive to being unkind within their own lives, at school and at home.