Percy Learns to Fly

I was bred to be a Guide Dog for a Blind person, but that was not meant to be. Instead I became a special friend to young people with special needs. I spend much of my time at school helping these little folks adjust to a world that is sometimes harsh and misunderstanding. For kids with autism and down’s syndrome and other disabilities, I become a bridge to a more comfortable day at school. If they can hold on to me, school doesn’t seem such a scary place. If they can walk me down the hall, other kids are impressed and want to talk to them. If they can hold my leash or brush, they can learn to hold and use a spoon or a pencil. If they can laugh, the world is good.

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We have a special Fiction Picture Book that is all about being different and trying to fit in.

IMG_4144Percy Learns to Fly was written by Patricia Schetter, a Behavior Analyst and Autism Specialist.

It is illustrated by my special friend Mary Livingston.

It was published in 2013 by ABTA Products and Publications. (Autism and Behavior Training Associates)

Percy Learns to Fly just recently won the Gelett Burgess Children’s Book Award. For more about this award check HERE.

Themes – Being different, penguins, motivation and inspiration

From the book – “Everyone can see Percy is different. He tries hard to fit in with his friends and do well in school.”

“The families of Gull Island were excited as their eggs began hatching. The Hatcher family was the most excited because this was their first chick.”

Percy Learns to Fly is kind of an Ugly Duckling tale. The birds on Gull Island are sea gulls; graceful flyers of the sea. Percy does not look like all the other chicks. He’s big and gawky and doesn’t sound like all the others. As all the chicks grow bigger, they develop long wings with fluffy light feathers. Percy’s wings are short and stubby and sleek. His parents know that he’s different from the other chicks, but they are non-the-less proud of him and love him. When all the chicks started school, everyone made fun of Percy because he couldn’t do things like they did. They told him he was “hatched from the wrong egg.” But his mom told him that “God made each of us in a different way so we can do what we are called to do in life.”

IMG_4146And that’s what Percy found to be true. When it came time for all the chicks to fly, Percy just couldn’t fly like all the others. But he soon found that he COULD fly — in the water! Then everyone cheered him for his differences.

This is a great little book for talking about finding your special talents. It’s a good motivational tale of overcoming difficulties. Percy is an inspiration!

I hope that you will check out Percy Learns to Fly and see for yourself. There is a great list of resources in the back of the book for parents and teachers.

You can find out more about Mary Livingston at her blog, The Backdoor Artist.

For more information about autism visit Autism Speaks.

The California Academy of Science has a live penguin cam where you can watch penguins “flying” underwater. Check it out HERE.

penguinsAnd here are some funny penguins made from water bottles

Click on the picture to visit a Pinterest board that is chock full of all things penguin.

Since today is Perfect Picture Book Friday, you might want to visit Susanna Hill’s blog for more Perfect Picture Books and lists of resources.

Spread your wings and FLY!
Rhythm

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Lots of Hands On Love in West!

This was my day today —

This morning we visited the West Elementary School in West, Tx. The 1st half of the morning I was in the library. About 50 kids at a time came in and listened to an audio CD of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It was kind of hard for me to follow with no pictures. And with hands massaging my whole body while the CD was kind of droning on, I confess that I went right to sleep!

For the 2nd half of the morning we moved to the music room and got to listen to recorder music and singing. Those kids were really pretty good! Didn’t hurt my ears one bit! And if my singing was not on the blink, I would have been singing along!

It was a good day for all!! Hope yours was too!

This is not the West music group, but this is pretty much what I listened to —

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Spreading JOY

IMG_1688I have a guest today. This is my buddy Walker. Walker lives with me and makes a very fine pillow. Walker and I take turns with work days. Yesterday, Tuesday, was Walker’s turn to go to school in West. He doesn’t like to talk much. He mostly says it all with his tail. So I’m ghost writing for him.

About 8 TDI dogs showed up at West Elementary School Tuesday morning. They were all different kinds of dogs. As soon as they walked in the school the oohs and aahs began. The dogs each visited rooms for about 15 or 20 minutes. That makes for lots of petting!!! Walker got to show off some of his tricks and play some hide and go seek. (This is our favorite game where someone hides our toy and then helps us find it by telling us if we’re hot or cold.) (I can play this game all day! Walker gets tired of it pretty quickly.) He also got to read our book, Dog Loves Books. And all the kids sat around and petted and brushed. They asked all kinds of questions about Walker. Kids always want to know how old we are in “dog years”. I don’t ever understand this question. But the Mom Person tells them that they have to do math and that if they multiply our real age by 7 they will have an approximate dog age. So in one of the classes at West, they did more math and figured out that we dogs have a birthday every 52 days! Isn’t that something! If you would like to check into this issue further check this link.

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After visiting the classes, all the dogs settled in at the school library. Then more kids came in to visit. This time the dogs got to stay in one place and the kids rotated around. More pets and brushing and reading and questions. Walker said some of the kids had lost their dogs after the explosion and were worried about how they would find them. I think that there are lots of folks working on this problem. I hope those kids and dogs find their way back to each other. That must have been a really scary thing for those dogs. And now they’re somewhere worrying about where their kids are. There sure are a lot of puzzles to be worked out in West.

Here are some links to websites that are helping in this lost pet puzzle.
https://www.facebook.com/westanimals
http://www.spca.org/

But for yesterday, West Elementary School seems to have been a pretty JOYful place!

Copy of 904545_440154319409108_1390469710_oThis is a picture of Walker reading with a little girl at the Distribution Center on Sunday. It was taken by a photographer who has a studio in West. Lindsey was nice enough to share it with us. Her studio is called The Studio on Austin.

There has been a great outpouring of goodwill flooding into this small town. People are coming from far and wide to pitch in and help out in whatever way they can. West has a big heart and lots of courage. The town and its people are standing tall through this crisis. I’m glad that we have been able to help out in our own small way.

And since I don’t have a book to tell you about I’m going to leave you with a little uplifting music from Michael Kiwanuka —

School is Back in Session in West!

Yesterday, Monday, we were in West greeting kids who were just going back to school after a horrendously frightening few days off. The High School and Middle School were completely destroyed so the big kids don’t have a school to go back to. From now until the end of school, they will be bused to another small town nearby that happens to have an empty building that West can use. They don’t have textbooks or school supplies or backpacks. Lots of the stuff they need has been donated by Helper folks around the country.

At the end of their school day the big kids were bused to a car dealership in West where their parents came to pick them up. And that’s where we went to meet and greet. They all seemed pretty jolly as they got off the buses and were quite excited to see a bunch of dogs waiting there! There were 7 of us — all from TDI — all shapes and sizes. Some of the kids gave us quick rubs as they passed by. Some sat on the parking lot and gave us good rubs and hugs and talked a lot. Some of the teachers cried. They all thanked us for being there.

Next we went to visit the elementary kids as they were getting out of school. Their school was not damaged except for water pipes. Most of the town is without water because of damage to all the pipes. They put in some special pipes for the school so they have water but it’s not drinkable. No worry though, because the command center is overflowing with donated bottled water! At the school, we laid down on the porch and under the trees and waited for kids to come out. And was it ever fun when they did! Just like the big kids, the little ones were excited to see dogs at the school!! I have a hard time imagining a school without dogs. But I’m finding out that school dogs are pretty rare! It’s odd. Well, we got some good belly rubs and ear rubs and kisses and heard lots of laughter. I like that. And lots of Thank-yous.

After all the kids had been safely transferred to their parents, the school adults had a meeting. The superintendent stopped to give some ear rubs and got up with tears in his eyes saying ” Thanks for being here. It’s not just the kids who need these dogs.” Now doesn’t that make you feel good? It does me.

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These pictures are not from West. No pictures from West today as they asked us not to take any. But this is what my day was like.

I sure love my job! It’s the best job a dog could have!

To be continued …………

Inspiration Found in West

Wow! What an intense week we’re having! Yesterday, Sunday, we drove to West, Texas, a quiet, little town of about 3,000 people that lies about 65 miles west of where I live. Last week this quiet, little town had a big explosion that destroyed about half of the town including the high school and middle school and lots and lots of homes. On Sunday this quiet, little town was FULL of news trucks and fire trucks and all sorts of law enforcement folks and red cross helpers and insurance tents and food trucks and church vans and buses and trucks and trailers delivering donated stuff and more volunteers than probably the whole population.

And quite a few dogs. Therapy Dogs, International, the organization that I am registered with, put out a call for dog teams to come provide some comfort and emotional support for the people in West. So, there have been dogs there working every day since the tragedy happened. On Sunday, there were 6 dogs from TDI and a few dogs from other organizations. For me, it was a lot like going to the State Fair of Texas! Soooo many people that wanted to pet and hug and talk and visit. And sooooo much food! Everywhere you looked people were handing out hamburgers and hot dogs and sandwiches and fruit. And all over the ground, everywhere my nose passed over, there was food. It was intoxicating!

We took my work bag with us that is full of all the tools of my trade. Brushes and toys and books. I did get a LOT of brushing! And a lot of hugs! And a few tears. And the tears were from the adults. I can always find those folks who really need a dog hug. Something about ’em just calls out to me. We did get to read some books to a few kids. We took one of my very favorite ones — Dog Loves Books by Louise Yates. This book was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 2010. The little dog in this book is the happiest little dog I have ever seen! And he sure put some smiles on the kids’ faces. It’s about a dog who loves books and wants to open a bookstore. But no one comes to buy books. So he reads and gets lost in his book. It’s a lovely story.

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They asked us not to take pictures of the kids, so we just took pictures of the surroundings. I wish you could see these inspiring young folks! They are full of such courage!

Today, Monday, was the kids’ 1st day back to school and we were there to visit them when they got out. Tomorrow, Tuesday, we’re going back to visit in the classrooms. That should be fun! And I’ll tell you all about that tomorrow.

And now all of you say your prayers and be thankful that you have your own bed in your own house to sleep in tonight. There are people in West who still don’t even know if they have a house to go back to.

Goin’ to Work!

There’s a small town not too far from us called West. You may have heard of it. Or not. It’s famous for it’s Kolaches and It’s Westfest Festival – a celebration of it’s Czech heritage.

Now it has become famous for it’s fertilizer plant — that exploded this past Wednesday and destroyed a good part of this small community.

Tomorrow we’re going to visit the people of West and see if we can be of any help.

My Very Own Book!

Many years ago when I was a youngster and just getting started in my career as a Library Dog, the Mom Person and I wrote a story about my job duties. We had a conversation with some of the kids about different jobs that dogs have and what kinds of things were expected of me in my role as Canine Librarian.

At this same time, I started visiting the Life Skills classes at the schools. These are classes for kids with special needs so they can learn at their own pace in their own way. I love visiting these kids! One of my favorites was a high school boy with autism named Paul. He liked to draw pictures of me and play ball.(What more could a girl ask for?!)

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He was always drawing something. Draw, draw, draw. One day the Mom Person had the brilliant idea of asking Paul to draw pictures to go with our story! So with the help of his art teacher, Mr Haney, Paul went to work. It took him a long time to finish, but it was fun watching it all take shape.

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Then the Mom Person thought it would be fun to somehow publish it all! But she wanted to do it soon, before she lost touch with Paul and while I was still around! ( Dogs don’t live forever, you know!) She didn’t know anything about book publishing, but she found a company called Mill City Press that she liked and set the whole thing in motion — and now the book is here!

We had a book party this weekend to celebrate! Lots of friends and family came!

A great time was had by all!!

Reading With Rhythm, The Tale of a Library Dog, can be found at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. And at our local libraries!!  Thanks for letting me share!

Play With Your Dog!!

Wednesdays are Detention Center nights! Joy,Joy! One of my favorite events! These are pretty special guys at this place. They’re learning all the right ways to take care of a dog and train us by being nice to us. I like that part. The being nice to us means lots of petting and brushing and treats! Usually we spend time playing games and doing training exercises. But tonight the boys made tug toys! Braided fleece tug toys!

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And it would be nice if all these toys were for me! But all of these toys will be going to one of our local animal shelters. When a dog is adopted it will get to go to its new home with a nice, soft, boingy tug toy. Isn’t that nice of these boys?!

Now we might not have gotten to bring the toys home with us, but we did get to try some of them out. We had to make sure they could pass the real dog test. More JOY!

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And of course all the toys passed!

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You do know that you should be playing with your dogs?! Playing with your dog is a JOYful activity! For you and your dog!

I’d like to share a couple of books with you that might get your creative playfulness jumping.

The 1st book is Play With Your Dog by Pat Miller. Published by Dogwise Publishing in 2008. Ms Miller is a renowned trainer who has written many books about training. In this book she talks about dogs and play. She believes that playing with your dog helps to build a strong relationship between the two of your. Play also helps to develop social skills and provides mental and physical exercise. Play With Your Dog has chapters on what play is to a dog, body language dogs use when playing, types of play — dog/dog play and human/dog play. Ms Miller talks about children playing with dogs and how NOT to play with a dog. There are quite a few references at the end. All in all, this is a very fine book!

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The 2nd book is See Spot Sit by one of the Mom Person’s favorite, favorite writers Carol Lea Benjamin. Published by Skyhorse Publishing in 2008. This is kind of a picture book dog training manual. The subtitle is 101 Illustrated Tips for Training the Dog You Love. Now doesn’t that sound fine?!  The chapters include — How to Have a Happy Dog, Good Manners Last a Lifetime, The ABCs of Dog Training, PLAY it Safe, and Good Times, Fun, and Games. The book is full of happy illustrations that make this a fun book to read for anyone.

So I think you should check these books out and go have some fun with your dog!!

And here are some links if you want to make your own tug toys!

How to Weave a Braided Tug Toy from HGTV
Michael Rosen
Richmondpetlovers.com

Paint Spatters

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I’m going off road a bit today and looking into the art world. My live in buddy and work partner, Walker, is quite the artist and recently spent some time with some 2nd graders splattering some paint around. So I thought I would tell you all about Walker and his world.

Walker is a 5 yr old black Lab who, like me, was career changed from Southeastern Guide Dogs, Inc. in Palmetto, Fl.  He was career changed because he was evidently being a fool with some of his dog buddies and hurt his knee bad enough that the trainers and veterinarians at the school felt like it would limit his working life. So he came back to live with us.

Walker hurt his knee,( which is perfectly fine now ), but his tail works overtime. He is one happy boy! So one day the Mom Person decided to put his tail to work, and the artist was born.

dec 2012 walkerIt takes a lot of preparation to create his masterpieces, so he doesn’t paint often. He uses acrylics or water colors on paper.  He says he gets a little nervous painting in front of a bunch of kids. But laughter makes him happy and it’s hard to rein in that tail!

This class had read a story about an elephant who paints. Their teacher, who happens to be the Mom Person’s daughter, asked Walker to come do a painting demonstration for them. So, Walker painted for the kids. They will all get their very own Walker originals after he signs them all. Then the kids did some pictures for Walker! Now isn’t that cool!  So I’m sharing with you some of their artwork as well. It’s just an artsy day!

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We ended this artistic trail with a fabulous blog post from Kristin Nador. She has a great post about “getting your creative groove on” with a fun, fun video of the television painter Mr. Bob Ross. I think you should visit Ms Nador and check it out!

Now go get your groove on and do something creative today!

Relax!!

Today was about relaxing and de-stressing. Those detention boys sure need alot of that!  We put on some good Native American music with flutes and birds and the guys laid down on mats and the therapist was saying, ” Relax this muscle, relax that muscle, visualize your best place.”  I had that hand rubbing my head –You talk about relaxing!  I went fast asleep.

Do your dogs ever get stressed out? Like when you leave them all alone? Or they can’t find their favorite tennis ball? Or strangers come to visit? We have some music that my Mom Person plays for us that we all like alot. It’s called Through a Dog’s Ear.  My Mom Person got it because one of my housemates is really scared of thunder. He gets really upset. This music helps him feel a little better. And it puts me right to sleep.

What do you do for your dogs to help them chill out? I’d like to know what kinds of things bother other dogs. I hope you have happy dogs!

Check out Through a Dog’s Ear! And have a chillin’ day!