National Seeing Eye Dog Day

img431Today, January 29, is National Seeing Eye Dog Day. A day to recognize the JOY that is a working guide dog. A seeing eye dog becomes the eyes for someone who cannot see. They become an unbeatable team!

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Michael Jernigan and his guide dog Brittani

It all started with a serendipitous intertwining of a few forward thinking individuals. A lot of veterans came away from the terror that was World War I, blinded and in need of assistance. A school was set up in Germany to train German Shepherd Dogs to assist these veterans. An American lady, Ms Dorothy Eustis, happened to be in Switzerland and learned about this German school. She was so impressed that in 1927 she wrote an article for “The Saturday Evening Post” about these “seeing eye dogs.” And she began her own training school. In America, a blind man, Mr Morris Frank was read the article by his father and he decided that a seeing eye dog was just what he needed! He contacted Ms Eustis to see if he could come train with her and receive one of her dogs. He promised to come back to the United States and teach others.

morris-frank-and-buddy-2In 1928 Buddy, the German Shepherd, became the first seeing eye dog in the United States and Mr Frank was the first blind person in the US to use a seeing eye dog! And in 1929 The Seeing Eye Guide Dog School was established in Nashville, Tennesseee. In 1966 the school moved to its present location, Morristown, New Jersey. It is the oldest existing guide dog school in the US.

I came from a Guide Dog school, myself. Southeastern Guide Dogs in Palmetto, Florida.

img338That ultimately was not my destiny, but we stay connnected to the school and continue to raise pups for them. Our little Dogzilla, Electra, is one such pup. And we also like to educate folks about guide dogs.

jolly last day 004This is our friend Mr Allen Preston and his guide dog Jolly doing a presentation at our school. Jolly was a pup that we raised for Southeastern Guide Dogs and ultimately for Mr Preston.

For more information about Guide Dogs visit The National Association of Guide Dog Users website HERE.

For more information about blindness visit the National Federation of the Blind website HERE.

To find out what day to day life is like for a working guide dog team visit Jo and Wiley at their blog Daily Life of a Guide Dog HERE.

Find out more about Michael Jernigan HERE and HERE.

And here is Mr Morris Frank in his own words —

I hope that you will do a little research today and learn what you can about Seeing Eye Dogs and the kind of difference they make in a blind person’s life.

Wishing you a day of thankful independence!
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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A Cheeky Surprise

I recently won a giveaway from the Bookshelf Gargoyle. I was allowed to choose any book I wanted from The Book Depository. I chose to let Gargoyle Bruce do the choosing for me. Gargoyle Bruce resides on a bookshelf in Australia. I’ve learned a lot about Australia through Bruce’s gargoyley eyes. I asked him to choose a book for me that would be a good representative of Australia.

Well, yesterday my book arrived in the mail! And what a fabulously intriguing book it is!

IMG_4887Too Many Cheeky Dogs
Written by Johanna Bell and illustrated by Dion Beasley
Published by Allen & Unwin in 2013

This is a colorful story about color and numbers and days of the week and Australia’s infamous Camp Dogs.

It begins -“On Monday I walked to my auntie’s house and guess what I saw? 1 yellow cheeky dog sleeping on the floor.”  It goes on from there through the days of the week with more and more cheeky dogs being encountered in various activities.

IMG_4888On my first read through of this book, I didn’t know what to think. On one paw it was very funny and fun to read. The illustrations are absolutely outrageous! On the other paw, those illustrations are a bit scary. These cheeky dogs are quite menacing! They have big sharklike teeth and sometimes they are chasing things or getting in big fights. But sometimes they are just smiling and playing – on the playground or on the soccer field. I decided I needed to find out more about cheeky camp dogs. And about this book!

It turns out that the term “camp dog” is used to describe groups of “motley” dogs that hang around Aboriginal communities all across Australia. The term “cheeky” is used for those camp dogs that tend to be aggressive. You can find out a little more about camp dogs HERE.

So, there’s an interesting history behind the cheeky camp dogs, but there is also an interesting back story to the book as well. The illustrator is indeed a remarkable young man who has overcome a great deal to achieve a great deal. Mr Beasley is an Aboriginal gentleman living in the Northern Territory of Australia. He has muscular dystrophy and is profoundly deaf. His disability support educator in school, Ms Joie Boulter, noticed that Dion liked to draw camp dogs and she encouraged this. His sketch books began to fill up. In 2006 Ms Boulter helped Dion start his own Cheeky Dog T-shirt company.

As Mr Beasley’s art career was gaining steam, Ms Johanna Bell, an education researcher, was wanting to create a book about the “lived experiences of remote Indigenous school children.” She found the universal appeal for that book in Dion’s camp dogs. Something that all Indigenous children would be familiar with. Two years later their collaboration, the book, Too Many Cheeky Dogs, hit the book stores.

A side note here — We read this book to our Princesses through Skype and they LOVED it. They did not find those cheeky dogs scary at all. In fact, they have added “cheeky” to their vocabulary. They liked the color and the pictures and guessing what was coming next. All in all it was a good read aloud.

Too Many Cheeky Dogs has a website where you can find out more about the back story, the author and the illustrator. They also have teacher resources and links.

You can read more about Dion Beasley at his T-shirt website HERE.

Now, to go along with my treasure that came in the mail, I found out from another blogger, Jo at Daily Life of a Guide Dog Team, that today, Sunday, January 26, as I write this post, is Australia Day! How serendipitous!  And tomorrow, Monday, January 27, is Multicultural Children’s Book Day! Valarie Budayr at Jump Into a Book and Mia Wenjen at Pragmatic Mom have created this event to promote children’s books that celebrate diversity. I think that this book, my treasure from the mailbox, Too Many Cheeky Dogs, fits in with both of these excellent events. So Happy Australia Day! And follow the links to Multicultural Children’s Book Day and find some fabulous reading material!

See for yourself what the book is all about —

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-11-04/indigenous-books/5068252?section=nt

And check out Too Many Cheeky Dogs!! A fascinating, funny read! Thank you Mr Bruce!!

Happy Reading to all you “cheeky” readers out there!
Rhythm
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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.

Copy of IMG_4335CIMG3474challenger at the library 3-7-08 006IMG_1501

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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My Buddy

My Buddy Walker went to West today and had a big day. He visited the life skills class and had a great time playing games with the boys there. And then he got in some reading in the library with some 3rd graders and some kindergarteners. He says they were all very kind and respectful. The librarian chose a book called My Buddy. This is a book that we actually have in our home library and is one of our favorites.

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It’s written by Audrey Osofsky and illustrated by Ted Rand. It was published by Henry Holt and Co. in 1992. It’s about a boy with muscular dystrophy and his service dog, Buddy.

Walker happens to carry a few pictures with him of his time as a Guide Dog in Training and he shared them with the kids. They thought it was pretty fun that Walker did some of the same things that Buddy did! Like going to a mall!  Buddy knows 60 commands and the kids figured that Walker knows about 30. But they thought that was pretty smart!

We like this book because it’s about a service dog and Walker and I come from that background. This is a really nice book to read with kids that shows them how special service dogs can be. It talks about some of the training that Buddy goes through and also how Buddy and his boy have to train together. At first they had a hard time trusting each other. The boy tied Buddy to his wrist so that they had to spend every moment together. Even taking showers together! I used to take showers with the Mom Person. I liked that. Now I’m too big.

Buddy does a lot of stuff for his boy that makes life easier and more fun. He becomes just like one of “the guys”.

IMG_1742Buddy and the boy go shopping at the mall and Buddy gives the money to the shop lady! That’s not something Walker ever learned! I think this book helps kids appreciate what a dog can do for people. And I think that these kids in West really appreciate our visits. It’s been fun going there.

We couldn’t find any information on the author of this fine little book. Ms Osofsky has written a couple of other books, but seems to be rather elusive! We did find a nice review of My Buddy with a little about how she came to write it. You might check it out here.

For more information about service dogs visit Canine Companions for Independence.

And for Guide Dog information visit Southeastern Guide Dogs, Inc.

And a little video from Canine Companions for Independence —

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.

challenger at the library 3-7-08 001img011CIMG4548img016

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!

Looking Out for Sarah, a guide dog’s job —

Today we’re going to be joining Susanna Leonard Hill and her Perfect Picture Book Friday.

I want to introduce you to my favorite book – Looking Out for Sarah. This book is written and illustrated by Glenna Lang.

Here are some other useful details from the book:
It’s a non-fiction book published in 2001 by Charlesbridge Publishing. It would be suitable reading for kids in kindergarten thru elementary school. And for dogs who care about their people!

My Mom Person got this book for me when I was a wee pup. She read it to me often and told me that this is what my life would be someday. Things didn’t really work out that way tho. I didn’t become a guide dog. But I have an important job just the same. Looking out for my Mom Person!

The book, Looking Out for Sarah, tells us about Perry, the guide dog, and his days taking care of his person, Sarah. It begins in the morning as Perry is waiting for Sarah to wake up. I like when it says, “A wag filled Perry’s tail and traveled up his back.”  He loves his Sarah. Perry guides Sarah through her very busy day, ignoring yummy food on the sidewalk, watching out for obstacles and traffic, and waiting while Sarah does the things she has to do. They go shopping, ride the train, and visit school — just like me!!  But the book isn’t just about how Perry takes care of Sarah — it’s also about how Sarah takes care of Perry. They are a working team, dependent on each other.

This book could provide a good opportunity to have talks about blind people and other people who might be different in some way. They still do all the same stuff everybody does.  There might be a guide dog school near you with puppy raisers or trainers who could come visit your school. We have some puppy raiser friends who love to talk about their pups!  You could get some really good info about blind people and all the cool stuff they have to help them get around in the world from the National Federation of the Blind  . You could also have a talk about our senses and how if one doesn’t work too well, you have to rely on others. You know, dogs have a really really good sense of smell! And here’s one more link to a site that has a lesson plan using another book about a guide dog, Safe and Sound.

Look for Looking Out for Sarah at your library! And check it out! You’ll be glad you did!