She Was 10 and Loved Her Dog, But Poverty Meant a Hard Goodbye

November 21, 2017
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by Patrice Taddonio Assistant Director of Audience Development

Five years ago, in the Emmy-nominated documentary, Poor Kids, FRONTLINE explored the economic crisis as it’s rarely seen: through the eyes of children.

Now, in a new version of Poor Kids premiering Wednesday, Nov. 22, FRONTLINE continues its reporting on child poverty — revisiting the families at the heart of the film to see what their lives are like five years later, and offering an indelible portrait of the realities of growing up poor in America.

One of those children is Kaylie, who was 10 years old and living in Iowa with her brother, their mother, Barbara, and their two dogs when FRONTLINE first began filming with her. The family was struggling to get by on Barbara’s income, and to help her mom out, Kaylie spent her free time collecting cans.

But it wasn’t enough to make ends meet. In the above scene from the documentary, Kaylie is forced to say goodbye to her beloved dog, Nala, because her family can no longer afford her care.

“We’re getting rid of my perfect little, lovey dog,” Kaylie says on the drive to the animal shelter, writing “I love you” to her pet with her finger on the foggy window of the car.

“She needs lots and lots of bones,” Kaylie tells the shelter worker once they arrive. “She’ll chew one in like an hour or so.”

Then, Kaylie and her mother both sob as they say goodbye to Nala one last time.

It’s a gut-wrenching scene, and an example of some of the difficult choices facing many low-income families in America — a country with one of the highest child poverty rates in the developed world.

Those hard choices unfold in intimate detail in Poor Kids, as Kaylie’s family — and two others — grapple with issues like unemployment, foreclosure and financial distress.

To see what life is like for Kaylie and her family today, watch the updated version of Poor Kids that premieres this Wednesday. And as far as what happened to Nala? According to a Facebook post by the Quad City Animal Welfare Center, the shelter where she was surrendered, there was ultimately a happy ending: she was “adopted to a very nice family.”

Poor Kids premieres Wednesday, Nov. 22 on PBS stations (check local listings) and online starting at 10 p.m. EST/9 p.m. CST.

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