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Archive for the ‘Susan Bearman’ Category

September 26th, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Best First Pets/Bird Category

Parakeets (Budgerigars or Budgies, as they are sometimes called) make great first pets for families. There are more than 120 species of parakeets and they come in a rainbow of colors. The word “parakeet” means long tail, and these small members of the parrot family can live 15-25 years.

Parakeets are lively pets with big personalities. They are also good talkers and do best at mimicking the higher pitched voices of women and children, which delights little ones. Parakeets tend to be much quieter than other birds, which will please your neighbors.

Their small size makes them more economical pets than larger parrots, as they require smaller, less expensive cages and toys.

While many birds tend to bond strongly with only one person, parakeets are vey social and can get to know the whole family. When given lots of love and attention, they tame quickly.

The best way to start is to wrap your parakeet in a small towel with only its head exposed. Cup him gently in one hand and scratch the back of his head with the other. As he calms down, pick up a small piece of apple or grape with your free hand and slowly release the tension on the towel. He’ll end up sitting in your other hand enjoying his treat before you know it.

Related Picture Books
Brian’s Bird by Patricia A. Davis
Parakeets (Pet Care for Kids) by Kathryn Stevens

Photo credit: Bedroom Eyes by PuppiesAreProzac via a Creative Commons license.

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September 19th, 2012 at 5:00 am

All You Need is Love … and Patience

In 2009, my friend Angela and her family adopted a nine-month-old Vizsla from the Chicago Canine Rescue. “We had had a Viszla before and loved the breed,” said Angela. “This dog needed a home.”

Houdini had been neglected and then abandoned. “He was about 20 pounds underweight,” Angela told me. “And he had been given the name ‘Houdini’ for a reason. He could not be crated (he would tear the crate apart) and could jump a six-foot fence.” The family and shelter were afraid he would run away.

It turns out that Houdini did not want to escape. “It was just the opposite,” said Angela. “He wanted to be with us all the time.”

Unfortunately, school and work prevented them from being with Houdini 24/7. He was not happy and became destructive. “He ate a batting glove, Tupperware, my husband’s shoes, and the hands and feet off of 22 Barbie dolls,” said Angela.

Rather than giving up on Houdini, they called in an expert—an animal behaviorist. She sent Houdini and the family to obedience school. She recommended that he sleep in his own space in the house, rather than with a family member. They also learned to keep him busy, with things like puzzle toys that made him work for his food. They exercised him with long walks or runs every day. He was eventually even prescribed some medication to deal with his anxiety.

“The behaviorist said that if we worked with him for a year, he’d be a great dog,” said Angela. “She was right. It took a lot of patience, but he is an excellent companion and very protective. He even prevented a burglary in our home. We adore him. And he adores us. You can see it in his eyes.”

For more information on bringing a rescue dog into your family, click here.

Related Picture Books
Before You Were Mine by Maribeth Boelts
The Stray Dog: From a True Story by Reiko Sassa by Marc Simont

photo credit: Houdini by Matt Dinerstein

Susan Bearman is the author of the Animal Store Alphabet Book. She also writes at Two Kinds of People and The Animal Store Blog

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September 12th, 2012 at 5:00 am

Julia Child’s Life with Cats

This year is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Julia Child, the beloved French Chef. But did you know that Julia was also a cat fancier?

Authors Patricia Barey and Therese Burson have written about this life-long love affair in their new book, Julia’s Cats: Julia Child’s Life in the Company of Cats.

“About six years ago, I read a biography on Julia Child and was intrigued by a black and white photo of her in Paris with a kitten in her lap,” said Burson. That curiosity spawned a whole book.

“When Julia and her husband Paul moved to France,” said Barey, “a maid brought a cat into their home to be a mouser, and Julia fell in love. At first she called the kitten Minou, which means ‘kittycat’ in French, but when they found out it was a female, she became Minette. Most of her cats were named some version of Minou.”

Pat and Terry pored over Julia’s papers at the Schlesinger Library in Cambridge, MA, where they found hundreds of pictures of cats taken by Paul, an amateur photographer. “We also found a treasure trove of correspondence,” said Terry. “Both Julia and Paul were wonderful letter writers and wrote about everything, including the antics of their various cats.”

I asked Terry to share her favorite story of Julia and her cats. “Julia traveled so much that she didn’t always own a cat, but always doted on them. One day, her housekeeper in Cambridge brought her a kitten. That house had a rather elaborate alarm system, and Julia couldn’t seem to train the cat not to set off the burglar alarm. She reluctantly gave the cat to her sister, Dorothy, in California. But every time she called Dorothy, Julia would ask to be put on speaker phone so the cat wouldn’t forget her voice.”

In fact, that became Julia’s calling card of sorts. When she would reach a friend’s voice mail, she would leave this simple message: “Meow.”

When Julia retired to California, the apartment she lived in didn’t allow pets. She abided by the rules for a while, but at age 91, she got a kitten. When Julia Child passed away later that year, they found that cat, also named Minou, curled up on her bed.

Related Picture Books
Minette’s Feast: The Delicious Story of Julia Child and Her Cat by Susanna Reich
Les Oeufs Verts au Jambon: The French Edition of Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss

Susan Bearman also writes at Two Kinds of PeopleMike&Ollie: 24-weekers Who Beat the Odds and The Animal Store Blogas well as being a regular contributor to The Chicago Moms and Technorati.

 

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September 5th, 2012 at 5:00 am

Pets and Nursing Homes

For years, my husband Kenn has taken animals from his pet store to visit nursing homes and day centers for the elderly. He has seen first hand how seniors brighten up when they interact with his animals.

According to SkilledNursingFacilities.org, seniors get noticeable health benefits from interacting with animals. “Lowered blood pressure and stress levels have been the most researched and noted. Other effects are increased sense of security, increased communication, and even a slight lessening of the progress of dementia.”

A close family member of ours has been diagnosed with Alzheimers and now lives on a dementia unit. Kenn visits once a week and often takes our soft-coated Wheaton terrier, Hazel, along. Last week, I went too.

Kenn loves his Hawaiian shirts and bought a matching one for Hazel, so they looked pretty cute together. From the minute we walked into the lobby, people started to laugh and clap for them. Hazel was amazingly patient, walking calmly from one resident to the next, letting everyone pet her.

I’m not sure what brought out the biggest smiles: the matching Hawaiian shirts or the joy of petting our puppy, but it was clear that everyone loved Hazel.

If you have a friend or family member living in a nursing home, ask if you can bring your well-behaved pet for a visit. There are also many programs around the country, like Wags for Hope in Frederick, MD, that train volunteers and their animals to visit nursing homes. What a wonderful way for the whole family to give back to the seniors in your community.

Related Picture Books
Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox
Sunshine Home by Eve Bunting

Susan Bearman also writes at Two Kinds of PeopleMike&Ollie: 24-weekers Who Beat the Odds and The Animal Store Blogas well as being a regular contributor to The Chicago Moms and Technorati.

 

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August 29th, 2012 at 8:19 am

Red Fox in the Neighborhood

Our town borders Chicago and we are very urban, so I’m always surprised to see real wildlife. In addition to bunnies, squirrels, opossums and skunks, bigger critters have moved in.

We’ve been visited by several deer (including a huge buck that I saw jump over our fence) and a couple of coyotes. This spring, a red fox family moved into the neighborhood. My son made the first sighting on the way home from school and texted everyone about it.

I met Mr. Fox a few days later, when I stepped out one morning and there he was, sitting on our front lawn under the shade of our elm tree. Our street gets lots of foot traffic, but Mr. Fox didn’t seem to mind. He and his family became the talk of the town and even landed a role on a YouTube video (fair warning—it’s supper time for the fox, so the video is a little graphic).

I did some research and it’s not uncommon for the red fox to show up in urban areas. Apparently, as the coyote population has increased in Illinois, red foxes are moving into cities to avoid competing with the coyotes for food or becoming their prey. You would think with foxes in town, our bunny population would be declining, but my gardening friends say that hasn’t happened.

The kids in the neighborhood have had a blast watching the foxes. I taught a creative writing summer camp and our group ran into the fox on one of our weekly trips to the library. Some of my campers wrote about it and drew pictures. Even in the city, you never know what wild things you might encounter.

Related Picture Books
Hello, Red Fox by Eric Carle
Red Fox at Hickory Lane by Kathleen M. Hollenbeck

Susan Bearman also writes at Two Kinds of PeopleMike&Ollie: 24-weekers Who Beat the Odds and The Animal Store Blogas well as being a regular contributor to The Chicago Moms and Technorati.

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August 22nd, 2012 at 5:00 am

Big Time Fun at Circus World

Forty miles north of Madison, in Baraboo, Wisconsin, you’ll find the original site of the Ringling Bros. Circus, now home to Circus World—part museum, part circus adventure. Our weekend visit enthralled even my hard-to-impress teens.

In addition to typical museum exhibits, a day at Circus World is sprinkled with interactive things to do and see, including:

 

  • A live magic show in a brand new “Theatre of Illusion” featuring magician Tristan Crist.
  • Pony and elephant rides.
  • Circus workshop where kids practice tightrope walking and juggling.
  • The largest collection of restored circus wagons in the world.
  • A play park.
  • A working carousel.

We arrived at 1:00 and, when the park closed at 6:00 p.m., we all wished we had more time.

The most exciting part of the day was the big top, an intimate, one-ring circus. The performers pulled volunteers from the audience, and all the kids were invited down to the ring at the end of the show. My kids giggled at the Pekinese puppy show and clowns’ crazy antics. In this age of virtual experiences, seeing live acts with people who have learned their craft over many generations is still a thrill.

A Wisconsin family with three little kids sat right in front of us, on the edge of their seats. Rachael, age four, told me she loved Lady Dancer, the dancing horse, best. “The lady looked like a fairy princess,” she said. Her big brother, Jake (age 5), was much more impressed with the elephants. “I got to ride the old one,” said Jake. “He was really smooth.”

Circus World is open year around and reasonably priced, so next time you’re in the Midwest, add Baraboo to your itinerary. And Jake is right. The elephants are the coolest part.

Related Picture Books
Circus by Lois Ehlert
If I Ran the Circus by Dr. Seuss

Susan Bearman also writes at Two Kinds of PeopleMike&Ollie: 24-weekers Who Beat the Odds and The Animal Store Blogas well as being a regular contributor to The Chicago Moms and Technorati.

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August 8th, 2012 at 10:36 am

Best First Pets for Kids/Fish Category

“Goldfish are boring,” said my son when my daughter won our first fish, Honey, at a carnival. “They all look exactly alike.” This part is definitely not true. Goldfish come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colors (including gold, red, orange, yellow, black, white, silver, and calico patterns). They can be plain (like common goldfish) or fancy (like Oranda).

Goldfish can make great first pets for young families. They don’t require a huge investment of time or money. Time-release feeders allow you to go away for short trips without having to find a pet sitter. Most rental properties will allow fish, even if they don’t allow other pets. Plus no walking and no shedding, which makes them a win-win in my book.

Goldfish have been kept as pets for more than a thousand years. They are a type of carp that have been selectively bred for color and other characteristics. With hundreds of varieties available, goldfish are the most common pet fish. Here are a few more interesting facts:

  • Goldfish were first bred as pets in China.
  • They can be kept in bowls (although this is not recommended), aquariums, or even outdoor ponds (depending on the variety).
  • Goldfish can live to be 12-20 years old (the world’s oldest goldfish lived to age 43).
  • Goldfish can grow to 12-18 inches.
  • Goldfish can actually be trained to perform tricks.

My kids really loved Honey. She was our first pet and we enjoyed her company for almost five years. If you’re looking to take the plunge into pet ownership, I’m telling you, a couple of goldfish are a great place to jump in. If you want a little help selling the idea to your kids, check out these books.

Related Picture Books
Memoirs of a Goldfish by Devin Scillian
Not Norman: A Goldfish Story by Kelly Bennett

Susan Bearman also writes at Two Kinds of PeopleMike&Ollie: 24-weekers Who Beat the Odds and The Animal Store Blogas well as being a regular contributor to The Chicago Moms and Technorati.

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August 1st, 2012 at 7:26 am

Animals and the Olympics

The best athletes in the world have gathered in London for the Olympics and many of us are gathered around our televisions cheering them on. Nearly 11,000 athletes paraded into Olympic Stadium during the opening ceremonies, along with 70 sheep, 12 horses, 10 chickens, 10 ducks, nine geese, three cows, two goats and three sheepdogs. No, these animals are not competitors; they were just part of the “Isles of Wonder” theme of the ceremonies.

But several events at this year’s summer games will feature animal athletes working in conjunction with human athletes. More than 200 horses from 40 countries are scheduled to compete.

Equestrian Events

In the ancient Olympics, chariot racing and horseback riding were key events. Equestrian competitions have been part of the modern Olympics since 1900 and this year will include six events:

  • Eventing, Team Competition
  • Eventing, Individual Competition
  • Dressage, Team Competition
  • Dressage, Individual Competition
  • Olympic Show Jumping, Team Competition
  • Olympic Show Jumping, Individual Competition

In Eventing, (sometimes called horse trials), horses and riders are tested over four days in cross country jumping, dressage, and stadium jumping.

Dressage (sometimes called “horse dancing” or “horse ballet”) is essentially a test of how well a horse and rider have trained to work together. They are judged by a panel of seven international judges on a number of predetermined movements defined by the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI), the governing body for equestrian events. In a little celebrity news, Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann, has a horse named Rafalca that is competing as part of the US men’s dressage team.

Olympic Show Jumping takes place in a riding ring laid out with 10 to 16 jumps. The courses are elaborate and colorful, and the horse/rider team is judged on the fewest jumps knocked down, fewest penalties called, and fastest times.

Pentathlon

The only other Olympic event that features animals is the modern pentathlon, which includes show jumping on horseback (as well as epee fencing, pistol shooting, cross-country running and freestyle swimming).

I hope you and your family are having as much fun watching the athletes compete—human and equine—as we are. For more information on all things Olympic, visit teamusa.org, olympic.org or nbcolympics.com.

Related picture books
G is for Gold Medal: An Olympics Alphabet by Brad Herzog
Horse: The Essential Guide for Young Equestrians by Libby Hamilton

Susan Bearman also writes at Two Kinds of PeopleMike&Ollie: 24-weekers Who Beat the Odds and The Animal Store Blogas well as being a regular contributor to The Chicago Moms and Technorati.

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July 25th, 2012 at 5:00 am

Dog Days of Summer

Today’s forecast here in Chicago calls for a high of 93°F. According to one local meteorologist, we are on a record-pace for days in the 90s this summer. I make it habit to avoid complaining about the heat. In my mind, that would preclude me from complaining about the cold in February, and I would much rather complain about that.

But for most people, these are the “dog days” of summer. I know what the idiom means—the long, hot, sultry weeks between the beginning of July and the middle of August, but I’ve always wondered where the phrase came from. So, here’s the scoop.

The dog days of summer are actually named after Sirius, the Dog Star. During this time of year, Sirius (the brightest star in the sky), is very close to the sun. The ancient Romans and Egyptians believed that when Sirius and the sun were in conjunction, Sirius added its heat to the sun, causing the blistering hot days of summer (at least in the Northern hemisphere; in the southern hemisphere, the dog days of summer fall in January and February).

I’m not at all surprised that these are called the “dog days”, because when anything goes wrong in our house, my kids blame it on the dog.

To make it up to our poor maligned canine friends, you might like to know that July is also dog house repair month. So, take a little time and put a little elbow grease into fixing up your puppy’s palace.

And when you’re done, reward yourself with a frankfurter, because July also happens to be National Hog Dog month. You can find out anything you ever wanted to know about hot dogs (and then some) at Hot Dog City, sponsored by the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council. This year’s winning slogan—”Hot Dogs: Relish the Moment.” We take our hot dogs very seriously here in the Windy City. This is how you eat a hot dog, Chicago style:

  • yellow mustard (as Chicago native Joe Montegna says, Never Put Ketchup on a Hot Dog)
  • two tomato wedges
  • pickle spear or slice
  • two sport peppers
  • “neon” green relish
  • fresh chopped onions
  • dash of celery salt
  • poppyseed bun

Enjoy the rest of your summer, even the dog days, and check back again in February, when we’ll talk about three dog nights.

Related Picture Books
One Hot Summer Day by Nina Crews
Hot Diggity Dog: The History of the Hot Dog by Adrienne Sylver

Photo credit: Chicago hot dog by Jeremy Keith via a Creative Commons license.

Susan Bearman also writes at Two Kinds of PeopleMike&Ollie: 24-weekers Who Beat the Odds and The Animal Store Blogas well as being a regular contributor to The Chicago Moms and Technorati.

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July 18th, 2012 at 5:00 am

Exercising with Pets

We’ve all read about the obesity epidemic here in the US, and how it affects not only humans, but animals as well.

The good news is that pet ownership can be a great tool for losing weight and improving your health. Pets make great exercise pals: they’re always available on your schedule, hardly ever complain, and are willing to listen to your problems—a free therapist and fitness guru all rolled into one.

The most obvious and easiest pet-related exercise is walking your dog. One 30-minute walk a day or two 15-minute walks will get you both on the path toward a healthier lifestyle. It may take a little time to develop the habit in a sedentary animal. Choose a comfortable time of day for both of you, and you’re more likely to stick with it.

Don’t have a dog, or live in a building that doesn’t allow pets? No problem. Check out programs like Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound, a non-profit organization that pairs homeless dogs with willing walkers.

Lots of exercise facilities are providing classes for pets and their humans, like Doga (yep, that’s dog + yoga = Doga). Check with your local vet or gym for pet-related exercise programs. The ASPCA offers these great kid/pet activities divided into age groups.

Dogs aren’t the only pets that are leash-friendly. Your local pet shop can outfit you with the right kind of harness to walk your rabbit, ferret, or iguana.

Any cat lovers out there? I thought this idea was great: attach a laser light or a string with a pompom to you while you do step aerobics or similar exercise at home to get your kitty moving, too. Our cats can’t resist the laser pen.

This Arthritis Today article encourages cat owners to observe emulate cat stretches to improve health and flexibility. How often do you stretch compared to your cat?

Catch and Frisbee are great games to get both you and your animal more active. Or set up a bubble machine and see who can pop the most bubbles—your pet, your kids, or you. Here are a few more exercises designed to do with your pet.

Things to remember when exercising with animals:

  • Be very careful to keep all animals away from mechanized exercise equipment, such as treadmills.
  • When out for a walk or run, keep your pet on a short leash.
  • Avoid blacktop and concrete on hot days, which can burn your pet’s paws.
  • Don’t forget to provide water for your pet, as well as yourself.
  • Watch for signs of over-exertion. Start slowly and build endurance.
  • Be extremely careful when biking or blading with your dog. A Springer or Walkydog device attached to your bike can make cycling a much safer activity for both of you.

Exercising with your pet is fun and beneficial for both of you. Make a play date today.

Related Books for Kids
Having Fun with Your Dog — ASPCA Books for Kids
You Are a Lion! And Other Fun Yoga Poses by Taeeun Yoo

Susan Bearman also writes at Two Kinds of PeopleMike&Ollie: 24-weekers Who Beat the Odds and The Animal Store Blogas well as being a regular contributor to The Chicago Moms and Technorati.

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