Take the Lead on International Guide Dog Day

This week is International Guide Dog Week. A week dedicated to honoring the work of guide dog teams around the world. I haven’t found any information about happenings in the US, but Australia seems to be celebrating in a big way. The campaign for this year’s week is Take the Lead. A push to get people to leash up their pet dogs so that they don’t interfere with the work of a guide dog. Guide Dog handler Jo has a great blog with stories from her life as a guide dog user. She has voiced things much better than I could. I hope that you will heed her words and Take the Lead!

Daily Life of a Guide Dog Team

Here is a post I wrote to support Guide Dogs NSW/ACT’s new ‘Take the Lead’ education campaign. Later today Wiley and I are going to a local primary school to help launch the campaign and celebrate International Guide Dog Day here in Canberra.

Encouraging pet dogs owners to Take the Lead

The other day I was walking to my local shops, my beautiful Guide Dog Wiley happily leading the way, doing his job, keeping me safe. Suddenly I froze – I’d just heard the words I dread. “Fido Come’, then in a more urgent, louder tone FIDO COME!”. I knew that within 10 or so seconds an off lead dog would be on top of us.

What I couldn’t tell was the intent of the dog.  Was it playful or aggressive, large or small, on its own or with another dog. Was Wiley about to be attacked – would the…

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Mother Goose

We are at the end of April and poetry month and I thought I would close out the month with some really fine poetry. Short and sweet verses that are Rhythmic and thought provoking. Clever and full of magical imagery. It’s what poetry is all about —

IMG_5897Mother Goose is the quintessential poet. Her poems have it all – humor, tragedy, drama. They are loved far and wide by young and old alike. Mother Goose has been interpreted in countless ways over the ages. But by far the most fabulous representation of Mother Goose poetry comes from Mr William Wegman and his weimaraners.

I present to you –

Mother Goose
by William Wegman
published by Hyperion Books for Children in 1996

The Cast of Characters includes Batty, Chundo, Crooky, and Chip. And Buster as Old Mother Hubbard’s pup.

The book includes 19 classic Mother Goose nursery rhymes in astonishing vignettes. You won’t believe your eyes!!

IMG_5903Jack Sprat could eat no fat and his wife could eat no lean — had Electra wanting to eat the book!

William Wegman is an extraordinary creative genius. You can find out all about him at his website HERE. And HERE.
There is an interesting article about him at the Guardian HERE.

I have talked about some of his other works before — The Night Before Christmas HERE.
William Wegman’s ABC HERE.
One of his movies – The Hardly Boys in Hardly Gold HERE.
And Flo and Wendell HERE.

I leave you with a performance of the ever popular Rub a Dub Dub – Three Men in a Tub

I wish for you a poetic week!
Your friend in the library
Rhythm
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Someday a Tree

Today, April 25th is Arbor Day and I’m here to talk about trees.

I love trees. We have a lot of trees on our 7 Acre Wood. All kinds of trees. Trees full of birds and squirrels and good smells. Trees that sing when the winds come blowing up the river valley. Old trees that have seen lots of history. Young trees that are just coming into their own. They all have stories to tell.

We’ve been in a big drought the last few years and have lost quite a few of our lovely trees. It’s a very sad thing when a tree dies. It’s like losing a good friend.

IMG_5913We have a book that tells just such a story —

IMG_5940Someday a Tree
by Eve Bunting
illustrated by Ronald Himler
published by Clarion Books in 1993

Theme – trees, the environment, pollution, dealing with loss
a fiction book suitable for age 5 and up

It begins –
Every afternoon, when the weather’s nice, Mom and I and our sheepdog, Cinco, walk across Far Meadow and sit under our oak tree. Dad says the tree may have been here when Columbus came to America.

This is the story of a tree. And the family that loves and honors the tree. They spend happy hours under its branches – picnicking, reading, napping, telling stories. Sometimes other people stop and share the shade of this big, friendly tree.

IMG_5942One day the young girl notices that the grass under the tree is turning yellow and smells funny. A tree doctor comes to look at the tree and after doing tests on the soil and the leaves, tells the family that the tree has been poisoned. Someone has dumped chemicals underneath it. Word of this disaster gets around the small town and everyone comes and volunteers with help to try and save the tree. They dig out the poisoned dirt around the trunk and put in new soil. The fire department comes out and sprays water on the leaves. Some folks come wrap sacking around the leaves to protect them from the sun. People leave get well cards and heart balloons.

The family watches as the tree slowly dies. It is heartbreaking. But in the middle of one night, the young girl remembers the acorns that she collected before the tree got sick. The next day, she and Cinco go out and plant those acorns and a wish and hope that new trees will grow – Someday.

the Treaty Oak in Austin

the Treaty Oak in Austin

There is a famous tree in Austin, Texas called the Treaty Oak that is estimated to be over 500 years old. The story in the book is identical to the story of our Treaty Oak. In 1989, the tree was deliberately poisoned with a powerful herbicide. It made national news and all kinds of help came pouring in to save the tree. It did survive and is a monument to the strength that can be found in an oak tree. You can find out more about this remarkable tree HERE.

HERE is an interview with Ms Bunting from Reading Rockets.

To celebrate Arbor Day — go out and plant a tree!!
Or at least find one to sit under and admire – draw it, study it – what kind of critters do you see in its branches and in its trunk? Have a picnic. Climb in its branches. Maybe make some MUSIC!  Enjoy!!

Happy Arbor Day!
Your friend napping UNDER the tree
Rhythm
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The Easter Chick

This is a pretty special time of the year. Spring is here! The earth is awakening after the long cold winter. New life is emerging everywhere. The Church is celebrating rebirth with a lovely holiday called Easter. I don’t know what “Easter” means. Easter is an unusual celebration, with rabbits laying colored eggs and kids eating lots of chocolate. I like eggs myself, but I’m not allowed the chocolate variety. I also like to join in the hunts for those colored ones. It’s my favorite game!

We have chickens here at the 7 Acre Wood and sometimes we have to hunt for eggs for real. Even when it’s not Easter.

IMG_3052IMG_1776

Sometimes those eggs hatch and we get little baby chicks running around. They can be quite amusing.

At the library this week, we read a cute book about a little chick who wanted to hatch on Easter day and be an Easter Chick. Our friend Allie helped us read this one.

IMG_5870The Easter Chick
by Geraldine Elschner
illustrated by Alexandra Junge

This book was first published in Switzerland in 2003 under the title Das Osterkuken.
It was translated to English in 2004 by Marianne Martens and published by North-South Books

Theme: Easter, chickens, dreams can come true

Suitable for ages 4 and up

It begins –
Hilda had laid the most beautiful egg, and she fussed over it lovingly………Suddenly she heard a little voice. “Mother, when is Easter?”

Hilda is a lovely little orange hen with little lacy bloomers on her legs. She is worried about her egg that hasn’t hatched after several weeks. Then the egg starts talking to her! She is quite surprised!  The voice comes from the little chick inside the egg who has decided that it wants to hatch on Easter and be an Easter Chick. But it doesn’t know when Easter is. (Does anyone ever know when Easter is?) Hilda goes in search of the answer. She asks all the animals in the barnyard, but none of them knows when Easter is. They suggest that she ask Max the Owl.

Max tells her that three things must happen. First she must wait for the first day of spring. On that evening he will hoot once and Hilda must meet him by the barn. When March 21 arrives, Max hoots and Hilda rushes to meet him. He tells her that now she must wait for the next full moon. That night he will hoot two times. Now the illustrations show us the different phases of the moon as Hilda and her chick wait. When Hilda hears the two hoots, Max tells her that the next Sunday will be Easter. “Easter is always the first Sunday after the first full moon that comes after the first day of spring.” Whew!!

On Saturday night before the next Sunday, Max hooted three times and the chick knew that it was time to hatch. Everyone was happy and excited to have a little chick born on Easter.

IMG_5871This is a really fine little picture book. I like how it explains about when Easter is. Easter is not on any specific day like most holidays. It’s rather complicated. The illustrations are quite lovely and humorous. Ms Elschner has taken a serious subject and given it a light touch that makes it more accessible for youngsters. I think that Allie liked this one. I sure did. It had my mind thinking and wondering.

To find out about Easter and where that word comes from check HERE.

Backyard Chicken has instructions for incubating and hatching eggs.

Pinterest has bunches of fun chicken crafts for kids. And GAMES using plastic Easter eggs.

Now you might want to skip on over to Susanna Hill’s blog and see what she’s hatching today! It is Perfect Picture Book Friday and there should be a big list of Perfect Picture Books for you to browse.

I hope all your Easter dreams come true!
Your egg hunting friend
Rhythm

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Rugby & Rosie

We are all about guide dogs here at the 7 Acre Wood. And goats. And grapes. And swimming. And tennis balls. But I digress. I want to talk about guide dogs today. My family here has raised guide dog pups off and on for a good number of years. The very first one was a black Lab named Gretta. During her long, illustrious life she actually achieved Sainthood. St Gretta came from a guide dog school in California called Guide Dogs For the Blind.

img502All the other pups that have passed through our gates have come from a guide dog school in Florida called Southeastern Guide Dogs. Including myself.

img338And my buddy Walker –

scarb fair 5-08 016And now Electra –

IMG_5312There have been others in between. Some have made the humans proud and become working guide dogs. Some have made the humans proud and been extraordinary therapy dogs.

The life of a guide dog puppy in training is an emotional ride – for the humans and for the pups. There is a real bond that develops and lots of love is invested and then the pup has to move on to other things. The humans have to let go. The pup has to let go. And both have to create new bonds and new attachments. Some dogs just can’t do it. I couldn’t and came back to live where I knew I belonged. Only about half of the pups that return to school actually go on to become working guide dogs. Statistics show that a higher percentage of Labs become working guide dogs than any other breed. I think that that may be because we Labs are basically happy with anyone who feeds us on a regular basis.

Anyway, I have a Perfect Picture Book for you that’s about a year with a guide dog pup.

IMG_5796Rugby & Rosie
by Nan Parson Rossiter
published by Dutton Children’s Books
in 1997

Theme – dog training, guide dog pups, friendship

It begins-
Rugby is my dog. He is a chocolate Labrador, and we have had him for as long as I can remember.
………..
We used to do everything together – just the two of us.
Then Rosie came.

The narrator of the story is a young boy who has a really close friendship with his dog, Rugby. One day his dad comes home with a little yellow pup named Rosie. Rosie was a guide dog pup and would only live with the family for one year. The boy knew all about this, but didn’t know how to tell Rugby. Rugby was not happy about the new pup. She tried to get him to play, but the wasn’t interested. It took him quite a while to decide that she wasn’t going anywhere and he might as well make friends. After that the two dogs were always together, romping and playing and napping. Rosie needed a lot of extra training out in public where Rugby didn’t get to go. But he was always waiting when they returned home.

Then the day came that Rosie had to return to the guide dog school. Everyone was sad. Even Rugby. Rosie became a guide dog and the family, along with Rugby, got to go to the graduation ceremony and see Rosie again and meet her new person. They saw that Rosie was happy and making a difference in the life of this new person. All because of their love and devotion. They were all very proud of her.

IMG_5793This book makes my Mom Person cry every time she reads it. It’s a well done story. You can see and feel all the emotions tugging at everyone. Even the dogs. When we read this book to kids, there is always a discussion about letting go. Life is full of letting go. Even if you’re a little person growing up.

There are 13 accredited guide dog schools in the United States. For information about all of them visit the Guide Dog Users, Inc. website.

If there is a school near you, you might want to go for a visit. I know that Southeastern has puppy hugging days when they let people come play with all the pups. You can visit their website and find out all about pups and being a volunteer puppy raiser.

HERE is a link to some thoughts on etiquette when encountering a guide dog team.

HERE is an article for kids about blindness.

You could have a discussion about being blind. Put on blindfolds and take a Listening Walk around the room. Think about how you would be using all your other senses if you couldn’t see.

Here is a little video to show you what it’s all about — enjoy —

And now you might want to venture over to Susanna Hill’s blog to see a whole big list of Perfect Picture Books and resources to go with! — Enjoy!!

Your friend indeed
Rhythm

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The Hound Dog’s Haiku

I understand that April is National Poetry Month. I don’t know a lot about poetry. I like to listen to the Rhythm of a good poem. Poetry sounds nice to my ears. I try to get my reading buddies to read poetry to me, but I’m not always successful. When I was the official Library Dog at school I seemed to have better luck steering kids to poetry books. I even had some kids writing poems about me!

IMG_1934Here are a couple that came my way —

Rhythm
Golden fur everywhere
On the ground
or floating around.
She is sweet
She is furry.
She likes to sleep and sit.
Rhythm is who she is.

The Dog Called Rhythm
Hairy, sweet, yellow
She snores, rolls, chews all around
Rhythm is her name.

Now those are unbelievably lovely poems!! But I also have an unbelievably fantastic book for you as well! After all, this IS Perfect Picture Book Friday!

IMG_5701The Hound Dog’s Haiku
and Other Poems for Dog Lovers

by Michael J. Rosen
illustrated by Mary Azarian
Published by Candlewick Press in 2011

Theme – poetry, dogs

This is a book of Haiku poems about dogs. There are 20 dog breeds represented here. Each with an incredible wood block portrait done by Mary Azarian. Ms Azarian can create magic with a block of wood. The poem for the Labrador Retriever is –

the first duck splash-lands
speck in the iced pond’s lone eye
soon … the chase restarts

IMG_5705At the end of the book are several pages with notes about each of the breeds described in the poems. It is a book for dog lovers and lovers of poetry alike.

Of course if you are going to read a book of Haiku with your little people, then you must have them create their own Haiku!

You can read about Haiku at Poets.org HERE.
You might also visit the Haiku Society website HERE.

You might want to let your little people try their hand at print making –
Try this link from Pinterest
Or HERE for some more printmaking

And if your are really ambitious here is a video of REAL wood block art making –

And after all of that, you might want to venture over to Susanna Hill’s blog for a list of Perfect Picture Books and some great resources to go with!

Happy Rhyming!
Your friend
Rhythm

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Light It Up Blue! 2014

The month of April is Autism Awareness Month. And April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day. A time to learn about and think about and be aware of Autism in our lives. It has been a big part of my life. I have spent a lot of time walking and playing and just sitting with young people who have autism as part of who they are. Autistic people do not perceive the world the same way that most people do. Their senses work differently than most of the world’s.

CIMG3491Some autistic little people love to stroke my hair – with their hands, their feet, their faces. Some don’t like to touch my hair at all, but they like the feel of my leather leash. They stroke it with their hands and rub it on their faces. They feel things differently.

People with autism sometimes smell the world differently. I have had kids sniff me from one end to the other. They want to smell my feet and my ears and in my mouth. They bury their noses in my hair.

I’ve been on many a walk with autistic little people. For some, the world is far less confusing with their hand on my back. For some, holding on to my leash is comforting.

And the illustrator of my book Reading With Rhythm, Paul Howell, is a very talented young man with autism!

IMG_1501I recently did a post about a Listening Walk. I like going on listening walks, and sniffing walks and rain walks. Today I’d like to take you on a walk with Ian.

IMG_5648IAN’S WALK
A Story About Autism

written by Laurie Lears
illustrated by Karen Ritz
published by Albert Whitman & Co. in 1998

Ian is a young boy with autism. This is a fictional story told through the eyes of Ian’s older sister, Julie. Julie, and another sister, Tara, are planning a day at the park and Ian wants to go, too. But Julie isn’t sure she wants him along. Ian sees the world differently and has to be watched closely. He sometimes does things that are embarrassing. But the girls decide to let him come along.

The walk to the park is all about how differently Ian senses the world around him. The things that he sees and doesn’t see. As they pass a diner, Ian wants to stop and watch the ceiling fan, but doesn’t notice all the people. The things that he hears and doesn’t hear. A fire truck rushes by with its siren blaring, but Ian doesn’t seem to notice. Ian smell things differently – he doesn’t like the smell of the flowers at the flower stand, but when they go past the post office, he puts his nose up to the wall to smell the bricks. Ian doesn’t like the feel of a soft feather, but lies on the ground to feel the warm, hard pavement. When they stop to sit on a bench and eat some lunch, the girls get distracted and Ian slips away. The girls are now in a panic and rush around frantically asking people if they have seen him. Julie decides to close her eyes and try to think like Ian. Where would his senses take him. Suddenly, she hears the big bell ringing and remembers that Ian loves that bell best of anything! And that is where she finds him! The girls are so relieved to find their little brother that they decide to walk home the way Ian likes.

IMG_5649This is a really lovely little book with some great illustrations. This is not a book to teach you all about autism. It is a picture book that provides a window into a life with autism. I like that it’s the point of view of the sister. Siblings of autistic children can have a particularly hard time sharing life with autism.

There are lots of resources out there for further study —

The Autism Society website is here.
Autismspeaks.org is the official Light It Up Blue for Autism website.
NPR recently had an interesting program about some new studies of autism.

Here is a recap of the 2013 Light It Up Blue campaign

Think BLUE today! And Light it up tomorrow!
Your friend in BLUE
Rhythm

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