Garanimals Blog

Archive for the ‘susan bearman’ tag

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

Pin It

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.


Pin It

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, 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.


Pin It

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.

Pin It

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.

Pin It

August 15th, 2012 at 10:18 am

Preventing Salmonella Infections

Salmonella infections pop up in the news every now and again. The disease can be picked up from contaminated food or water, and from animal feces, particularly from reptiles and poultry.

The severe flu-like symptoms of salmonellosis include stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, aches, fever, bloody diarrhea, and dehydration. Not fun. Young children are particularly vulnerable because small exposures can infect immature immune symptoms and their hygiene habits aren’t always great.

Salmonella in Food

Food can be infected with salmonella, often from improper handling. Here are a few things you can do:

  • Wash hands before and after preparing food.
  • Cook meat, seafood, and eggs before serving, and use pasteurized eggs.
  • Separate raw meats and eggs from other foods.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables well.
  • Use separate cutting boards for meats and fruits/vegetables.

Salmonella in Animals

Small turtles have been associated with salmonella and it is illegal in the United States to sell turtles with shells smaller than four inches. Backyard chicken coops, birds, and amphibians and reptiles can also carry salmonella. Luckily, most diseases humans can contract from animals, including salmonella, are preventable:

  • Never let small children handle animals unattended.
  • Always wash hands before and after handling animals.
  • Supervise children washing their hands to make sure they do it well.
  • Remind children to keep hands out of their mouths.
  • After cleaning cages, tanks, or other animal habitats, wash the cleanup area, change clothes, then wash hands again.

Many classrooms have pets or egg-hatching projects. Ask your child’s teacher about the rules and make sure good procedures are in place. Consider volunteering to teach proper hand-washing skills. One easy trick is to sing the whole Alphabet Song while washing hands so kids learn to give it enough time and attention. A little common sense and a lot of soap and water can keep everyone healthy.

Related Picture Books

Germs by Judy Oetting
Wash Your Hands by Tony Ross

Photo credit: Chick on The Farm II by edenpictures 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.

Pin It

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.


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, or

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.

Pin It

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.

Pin It

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.

Pin It

July 11th, 2012 at 9:35 am

Best First Pets for Kids/Small Animal Category

Probably the most frequently asked question my husband gets in his pet store is “What’s a good first pet for our family.” The answer is … it depends. Different families are drawn to different animals. I have one friend who loves anything with fur, but freaks out over feathers and fins. Obviously, suggesting a beta fish to her would be a bad plan.

For mammal lovers like my friend, a guinea pig makes a great first pet. Cavia porcellus, or cavies, are not related to pigs at all. They are actually rodents. The three most common breeds are the smooth-coated, with short, glossy fur; the Abyssinian, whose hair grows in fluffy tufts all over the body, and the Peruvian, with long, silky hair that flows to the ground.

A bit larger, slower, and calmer than many other small pets, guinea pigs are good choices for all but the youngest children. They are not as wriggly as smaller animals, such as gerbils, and will sit for hours in your lap. A favorite classroom pet, these docile animals enjoy being combed and groomed, too. They are very social and tend to do best in same-sex pairs.

All pets are a commitment, but owning a guinea pig doesn’t take a lot of special knowledge. A tank with a tight fitting mesh top or a smooth-bottomed cage makes a good habitat. Mesh or wire bottom cages can catch a guinea pig’s feet and cause sores. One interesting fact about guinea pigs is that their teeth never stop growing, so you will want to provide some hay and wood toys to chew on and keep their teeth from overgrowing.

Food requirements include alfalfa-based pellets and a daily vitamin C treat, available as tablets, which are much easier to manage than drops. You should also provide up to two cups a day of salad (romaine lettuce only), carrots, oranges, strawberries, grapes, and other fruits and veggies. Clean the water bottle daily and provide fresh water. Once a week, dump the old bedding, wash and dry the cage bottom, and put in a new layer of dust-free bedding.

Add a little love and cuddling, and your cavy will bring some animal fun to your family for three to seven years.

Related Picture Books

Oh, Theodore! by Susan Katz
Sammy the Classroom Guinea Pig by Alix Berenzy

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.

Pin It