Changing of the Guard

or the pup, as the case may be. Yes, our dear Dogzilla, Electra, has gone off to college and a new pup has taken her place. It seemed to be a traumatic event for my Mom Person. She sometimes can be so emotional. But I don’t mind providing the needed comfort. We did have some good times with that crazy pup. I have to admit she was quite entertaining.

For the week before they all went off to Florida there were lots of tears flowing. For that crazy pup!!! But from what I hear, Ms Electra proved to be quite the champ on the trip. My friend, Sarah, at Dr Bruton’s office had a talk with her on our last visit there. I don’t know what exactly was said, but it must have made an impression on Electra. I’m glad she didn’t make a fool of herself.

So Electra is now off to the kennels with a new roommate to lay on. She’ll be getting some top notch schooling and I think that she will probably enjoy that. She always really liked school. Hooray for Electra! And Hooray for us!!

And now there’s a new pup in town. Her name is Marni. My Mom Person puts a lot of stock in names. Names are important. I don’t know what Marni means. It sounds kind of like a flower to me. I seem to remember that there is a movie called Marnie. That Marnie was a liar and a thief. Hmmmm. Maybe I should find a good place to hide my tennis balls. I’ll try to keep that vision of a flower in mind. I must say that Marnie’s Mom did a better job of teaching her some manners than did Ms Electra’s. Marni is pretty flighty like Electra, but much more polite about it. She’s more of a Sparky than an Electra.

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So now it starts all over again. Ah me. Well, maybe now we can get back to bookish things.

If you are at all interested in more of this tale of pups you can visit HERE.

Wishing you the JOY of new adventures!
Your friend
Rhythm
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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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Serenity

The new year has begun. I see everyone making resolutions and talking about all the possiblities and hope that this new year has to offer. I don’t know about making resolutions, but I do have high hopes for my new year. This year that has just flown by like a jet plane has been a time of high energy thanks in part to our high-voltage Electra.

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Who ME?

In this coming year, I will be looking for some peace and quiet – some calm and SERENITY. Last year I was looking for SERENDIPITY, and I found it quite often. It’s a wondrous thing. But this year I’m taking that DIP out and looking for the calm in the storm. Electra will be leaving us at the end of February – going off to college at Southeastern Guide Dogs in Florida. She has been an amusing entertainment, but she makes me tired just watching her. There will be another pup coming home with the folks. I’m hoping with all my heart that it will come with the name SERENITY.

serenityThe dictionary defines SERENITY as the state of being calm, tranquil. What a lovely state to be in. That’s where I’m headed for the next year. However long that may be.

IMG_2802Mr James Taylor is the king of SERENITY. I often put his music on to calm Ms Electra –

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I hope you are able to enjoy some SERENITY in your new year!
Looking for the calm
Rhythm
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National Guide Dog Month

Rhythm in training

Rhythm in training

I’m a little late with this, but September happens to be a special month to celebrate the special works of some special dogs who are trained to assist visually impaired humans. It’s all a GRAND thing! It’s National Guide Dog Month!

To find out more about guide dogs you can check out my post from this time last year – HERE.

Petco is a big sponsor of guide dogs and every year does a fundraising campaign to celebrate National Guide Dog Month. I was actually sponsored by Petco when I was a pup! That means that they made a generous donation to Southeastern Guide Dogs for the privilege of naming one of their pups. That was me!! You can visit their website HERE and find out more about National Guide Dog Month.

img010But today I’m going to tell you about some books. Non-fiction books that will help you and yours learn about guide dogs.

IMG_1268Guide Dogs
by Charles and Linda George
published by Capstone Books in 1998
Content consultant is Carol Lippert Gray – Manager of Public Relations for The Seeing Eye

This is a really nice, easy to read, 48 page book about the history and training of guide dogs. Chapters include – History of Guide Dogs, Best Breeds, Basic Training, Guide Dogs and Their Masters, And Stories About Guide Dogs.

IMG_1267There is also some reference material in the back of the book – a glossary and index to other guide dog material. A very fine little book.

IMG_1261Guide Dogs
Seeing for People Who Can’t
by Alice B. McGinty
a “Dogs Helping People” book published by The Rosen Publishing Group’s PowerKids Press in 1999

This is another fine little chapter book with much of the same information in a more condensed format. Only 24 pages. It also has a glossary and some nice photos. It actually has some of the very same photos as the other book Guide Dogs!

IMG_1269IMG_1265A Guide Dog Puppy Grows Up
written by Caroline Arnold
photographs by Richard Hewett
published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich in 1991

This book is a little different from the other two. It’s about the puppy raising experience from birth to becoming a working guide dog. The book was endorsed by Guide Dogs for the Blind, a guide dog school in San Rafael, California. My Mom Person’s first guide dog pup came from this school a long time ago.

This is not a chapter book but it is a lovely story. In a way, it’s my story! And it’s one of those books that makes the Mom Person cry when she reads it.

IMG_1263Now you might notice that in my pictures today, I am trying to read these books to Ms Electra. This is her future in these books! But she just can’t be serious for one little minute. Ah, me. What’s a teacher to do?! What do you teachers out there do with the class clowns?!

Well, anyway, I would like for you to know that there are quite a few accredited Guide Dog Schools in the United States. You can find a list of all of them HERE on the National Federation of the Blind website. I think if there is one near you, you should go for a visit this month. Hug some puppies! Meet some future guide dogs! Become a puppy raiser!

Have a good weekend! and enjoy the month!
I’m going to go celebrate with some yummy treats!
Rhythm
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The Heart and the Bottle

img449I grew up as a guide dog in training. My 1st year of life was pure bliss living and loving with my family at the 7 Acre Wood. I went EVERYWHERE and did EVERYTHING with my Mom Person. She taught me about the world – the good and the bad. I was a curious pup and she encouraged my curiosity about the world and how best to relate to it. She opened my eyes and my heart to all the wonder and love that the world contained.

img450Then one day we got on a plane and flew far away to Florida. We took my best girl, Brenna, and stayed in a hotel with a whole bunch of other dogs. All my Guide Dog Puppy friends were there. We visited the beach and played in the park and went on a really long walk through town. Then we went off to visit the place where I was born. Southeastern Guide Dogs. My Mom Person had been telling me for some time that I was going off to college to learn how to be a Guide Dog, but I didn’t really get it until I saw the campus. And the next thing I knew, I was being led away by some stranger. I looked back at my Mom Person and she was crying. What was going on?

img338I didn’t see her again for a year. At least that’s what she says. For me it was infinity and beyond. I watched for her everyday. I tried to be a good college student. I did all I was supposed to do, but my heart was locked away.

We have a book by Oliver Jeffers called The Heart and the Bottle that seems to be all about what that year was like for me.

IMG_4094This book was published in 2010 by Philomel Books.

It is the tale of a girl whose life was filled with all the wonders of the world. She shared it all with a man who must be her Dad. They went EVERYWHERE and did EVERYTHING together. But one day he wasn’t there. And he wasn’t ever there again. She wasn’t sure what to do with her heart so she put it in a bottle to keep it safe and hung it around her neck. She was no longer filled with curiosity and the bottle was heavy around her neck. She went through infinity. Then one day she met a little girl who was still curious about the world, and she decided it was time to take her heart out of the bottle. But she didn’t know how. The little girl did know and showed her how. The big girl put her heart back where it belonged and all the wonders of the world came back to her.

You just can’t lock your heart away forever.

After my infinity time (a year) I was brought out of my kennel one day and there was a familiar scent in the air and then a familiar voice calling my name and then I saw her — My Mom Person had come back!  And this is what it was like for me —

Nobody thought to take a video of our reunion, but this is exactly how it was. JOY!!!

And now I spend my days with the Mom Person and we share the wonders of the world together again. Life is Bliss. And my heart is where it is meant to be.

I am truly blessed to have had the life that I have been given. I hope you have found your bliss this Thanksgiving weekend.

Open up your Heart

Rhythm

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Running Blind

We’ve been kind of wrapped up in High School Track lately. A couple of our grand boys are track stars and have just wrapped up a stellar year.

IMG_1595There is a young lady that they encounter at track meets that has caught my attention. I first heard about her when they were running cross country earlier in the year. And now she’s been competing at the regular track meets in running events and pole vault. The thing that is fascinating to me is the fact that this girl is legally blind. (Click this link for more info and a video of her.)

When she runs cross country her teammates wear bells on their shoes. When she’s on the track she runs on the inside lane so she can distinguish between the track and the infield grass. When she pole vaults, she counts steps. People are so incredibly adaptable! I have heard of cross country runners running with guide dogs. I have read about blind people climbing mountains and hiking the Appalachian Trail with a guide dog.  And I’ve read about and seen people with all kinds of obstacles thrown in their paths who manage to live full, inspiring lives.

I come from a heritage of working dogs who are bred to provide support and encouragement to people who are visually impaired. I’m proud of that. Because of that history, I am forever connected to the blind community. We sometimes raise guide dog pups, we have friends who raise guide dog pups, we have friends who use guide dogs. And all those dogs are MY friends! It’s an inspirational world.

At my house, we have quite a library of books about that world. Blind people vaulting over life’s hurdles and climbing life’s mountains. Guide dogs doing what they were bred to do. Guide dog pups learning the ropes. I’ve picked one to share with you that is pretty special. Partly because it’s a good story. And partly because it has Braille overlays!

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The View From Under the Pew was written by Diane Winters Johnson and illustrated by Margaret Freed. It was published by Abingdon Press in 2008. This is the true story of Ms Johnson, an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church, and her guide dog Walter. Walter is a golden retriever whose job is “to guide Pastor Diane through her day so she can do her work of caring for the church.”

The book is a look into a typical week of Pastor Diane’s busy life. As a pastor, Ms Johnson spends time in her office visiting with various people about life issues and church issues and other office things. Walter sleeps under her desk. Pastor Diane also goes to hospitals to visit with sick people. Walter goes with her and helps her navigate the busy streets and hospital halls. They go to church meetings and bible classes. Potluck dinners and quilting bees and choir practice. Walter waits patiently under desks and tables. When Sunday comes, Pastor Diane and Walter go to the front of the church where Pastor Diane stands on the pulpit and Walter stays under the pew. Walter has a view of the whole congregation. All the people that he has seen all through the week. It’s a special view of a special place.

This is a very good book that gives a view of what life is like for a working team of dog and human. And as I said, it is also in Braille. Each page has a plastic overlay with Braille print. Braille is a special way of writing text so that blind people can read with their fingers. I can’t read Braille myself, but it’s pretty cool to look at. Some blind people don’t use Braille and some do.

You can find out more about Braille from the National Braille Press here,

You can find out more about guide dogs from the National Association of Guide Dog Users or Guide Dog Users, Inc.

Here are a couple of videos of interest —

Looking Good!

I had a big day this week! I had an eye exam!

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Every year the ACVO (American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists) Vision for Animals Foundation offers free eye exams for service and therapy dogs. So this year the Mom Person decided that seeing as how I’m starting to get up in years, so to speak, we might as well take advantage of the offer. And Dr. Beaumont says that I have some beautiful perfect eyes! Yay for me! (I had trouble not laughing when she put on those funny goggle things!)

But the experience put me in mind of my long lost days as an almost Guide Dog and a book that we have that is one of the Mom Person’s favorites that always makes her cry and that she gives to just about everybody she knows. It’s about a Guide Dog puppy. The book is called Through Otis’ Eyes, Lessons from a Guide Dog Puppy. It’s written by Patricia Burlin Kennedy and illustrated by Robert Christie.  It was published by Howell Book House in 1998.

This book is kind of an adult picture book, but we have read it with kids of various ages and had some great discussions about the life lessons that it presents. I think that ultimately it is suitable for all ages!

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Otis was a guide dog pup that Ms Kennedy raised for Guiding Eyes for the Blind, Inc., a guide dog school in New York. This book is a thoughtful journey through her year with Otis and a look at the things that she learned from him.  It begins when Otis is a wee pup with “Through Otis’ eyes I see the wonder and excitement of experiencing the world”. It moves on to “that sometimes the needs of others are greater than my own”. And ends with “Through Otis’ eyes I see that finding a purpose beyond myself makes life truly rich”.

Ms Kennedy is a very wise woman and I think that she had a very special bond with her Otis.

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There are 97 pages in this book. On each spread is a simple lesson and a beautiful picture of Otis. And at the end of the book is a list of all the Guide Dog Schools and Associations in the United States. (I know that there are also Guide Dog Schools in other countries around the world). Ms Kennedy and Mr Christie both got it all absolutely right. And the Mom Person is crying right now just thinking about Otis.

So if you don’t mind a few tears, I highly recommend this book!

For more information about guide dogs visit  the National Association of Guide Dog Users at their website.

You can find teacher resources and activities about eyes and vision at the American Optometrist Association website.

Be sure and check out more great picture books and resources at Susanna Hill’s!

And now lets see what the world looks like through a guide dogs eyes —

Sally Gets a Job

Our Perfect Picture Book Friday Pick this week is Sally Gets a Job written and illustrated by Stephen Huneck.

This is a fiction book published in 2008 by Abrams Books for Young Readers. It is suitable for ages 6 and up.

From the 1st page — “There they go, off to work and school. I wish I could go, too. Maybe I should get a job.”

Thus begins Sally’s musings about what would be the perfect job for her. Maybe she could drive a school bus, or be a teacher. Maybe a lifeguard at the beach. Maybe an archeologist or a pro ball player. So many options!

In real life there really are lots of dogs doing very important work. There are guide dogs for visually impaired people, service dogs for people with other needs, search and rescue dogs, drug sniffing dogs, bomb detection dogs, guard dogs, hunting dogs, show dogs.

I myself am a working dog with multiple titles — therapy dog, library dog, reading dog, school dog. And much like Sally, I have often dreamed about other jobs that I could do —

I have been a teacher and library dog, a farm dog, an actor, a rally competitor. It might be fun to be a fire dog. But like Sally in her book, I have found that the best job in the world is —

Taking care of my family!

There are lots of “Sally” books. She’s a very busy dog. She’s one of my very favorite book characters. And her Dad Person who was also her author and illustrator was an incredible artist using hand carved wood blocks. Mr Huneck died in 2010 but his influence on the dog and art worlds is huge. His home in Vermont has become a haven for dogs and their owners. It is called Dog Mountain. And on the mountain is a unique chapel called Dog Chapel. Dog Mountain is open to the public and they often have special events there.

If you were to read this book in your classroom it could open up lots of discussion about jobs that dogs do for people. And then you might talk about what jobs the kids’ dogs do for them. We have these talks a lot when I go to school. And there are probably dog groups of some kind in your area that probably have members that would LOVE to come visit a classroom. Dog people LOVE sharing their dogs!
Some resources that you might look into  —

Therapy Dogs International, Delta Society, Canine Companions for Independence
Guide Dog Users, Search and Rescue Dogs, Police Dogs, American Kennel Club.

So what does your dog do for you? Think on that!

And go check out Sally Gets a Job — and all the other Sally books!
And then check out the other PPBF books at Susanna Hill’s place!

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!