Monday, December 31, 2007

Shandy's Good News

After a lot of ups and downs, it finally looks like Shandy girl is on the way to a full recovery. Yeah!

She's been much more like her old self--wanting to play, eat, go for walks--and best of all, we just heard from Dr. Wolf at Mayfair that the liver and spleen biopsies were benign. Great news all around.

Thanks so much for all your good wishes. It really helps to know other people are thinking about her too.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Shandy Day 5

At 14 I guess it's to be expected, but Shandy's recovery is going very slowly. She's still not herself and seems very depressed. I'm hoping that's partly due to the pain medication but it's hard to tell.

She did get to see some of her friends yesterday when we were out for a walk and it was really great to see her wag her tail. We're hoping to see more improvement today.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Shandy's Home!

We got a call yesterday to pick Shandy up around 5pm and, boy, were we happy. She was still very depressed at the vet's and they thought it would be best to get her home.

It was scary to see her so sad and she didn't perk-up right away, but Bandit was sure happy to see her. He put his head in her crate and just kept wagging his tail.

By 8:00 she was ready for some chicken and then she crawled under the sofa (her favorite spot) and slept until bedtime. This morning she went down the front stairs on her own and we walked through the park a bit. She just had some chicken and rice and we're hoping for a good day.

Thanks so much for all your positive thoughts and energy.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Shandy On The Mend

It was so good to see Shandy this morning. She's slowly coming around and we're really hoping she can come home tonight.

She did eat the chicken I brought for her. Yeah! I thought there was more than she'd eat but she wanted all of it and the vet said that was fine. They were just glad to see her eating because she wouldn't eat for them.

Look at that photo of her in the snow last Sunday. What a difference a week makes. She loves new snow and was playing like a puppy. Right after I snapped this photo she took off running across the field.

She looked so cute I even tried my hand at video and uploaded it to YouTube. Click here to take a look but keep in mind this is my first ever attempt and I hadn't intended it for "public" view. I sound like an idiot on the audio but we had fun. Oh yeah, I also learned that you can't turn the camera during taping--if you start in a vertical format, don't switch to horizontal midway. Duh. I believe that's why the picture looks a bit distorted.

Just called for a Shandy update. She kept her food down and, for the first time, perked-up a bit when they took her out for a walk. We'll check with the vet around 6PM to find out if she can come home.

Prayers for Shandy

It's been a rough few days for our Shandy girl. She had surgery yesterday to remove her spleen and untwist her intestines. Dr. Mike also found her liver enlarged and removed a piece to biopsy. On top of all that, we're not even looking at the secondary problem of her heart not looking good.

She's still recovering at the emergency vet's and they say her vitals are normal but she's very depressed. I'm getting ready to bring her some chicken (her favorite food) and will bring her Sit Stay Read blanket so we can sit on the floor and spend some time together. I'm hoping her SSR blanket will work its magic--she always gets excited when she knows she's going to a program. I might even see if she wants to wear her bandana.

Please keep Shandy in your thoughts and prayers.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Amazing Paperwhites

Each year for Christmas my friend, Betsy, gives me a vase with flowering bulbs that soon bloom with a taste of spring. Could be paperwhites (a type of narcissus) or perhaps an amaryllis.

This year's vase, with dogs on it, was perfect for the SSR office so I brought it in and have really been struck by how amazingly fast the paperwhites grow. When I received them on Saturday, they were well below the top of the vase. The photos here show them on Monday and then a week later. I swear, if they were sitting on my desk I'd actually be able to see them growing.

BTW, I found a tip on the web for keeping forced bulbs from falling over--give them tequila (really). It's too late for mine this year but check it out here. Very interesting.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Beary Grateful Shandy

That's Shandy with the latest addition to the Sit Stay Read family. Our new furry friend, "Read Teddy", was delivered today along with a very generous $10,000 check from the Build-A-Bear Workshop Bear Hugs Foundation!

The wonderful folks at Build-A-Bear Workshop do even more than make it possible for Shandy and her friends to help kids learn to read. With the sale of each Read Teddy, one dollar is donated to literacy programs throughout the United States and Canada.

Our Teddy is nicely dressed in her SSR bandana but check-out Build-A-Bear Workshop for some of the outfits on her friends. "Rock Star Read Teddy" is quite something but I'm a sucker for leopard print so the "So Stylish" outfit is the one that really tempts me. Of course Shandy would need to coordinate and, since she refuses to wear anything but her SSR bandana, that means no outfits for Teddy.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Brady the Cow Dog

Brady stopped by the office yesterday with his mom, SSR volunteer, Nancy Hollander. As you can see, he was wearing his fancy holiday collar. The red really sets off his cow-like coloring, don't you think?

Brady seems to like his collar but Shandy was unimpressed (even though it has bells!) I think she was just happy that I didn't have her try it on--she acts like she's being tortured if she has to wear anything other than her SSR bandana.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Owl & Crows

As I was typing that last post a group of crows were making quite a racket out back. I finally went to see what all the excitement was about and saw them harassing an owl. Couldn't get a good photo but that's the owl in the green circle.

The crows kept cawing and getting closer to him until he finally flew away and then they chased him. Nature at work right here in the big city. I love it!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Miss Alice

Shandy and I visited Wheaten Terrier, Alice Bea, at her house yesterday but I forgot to take a photo.

Luckily, Alice often accompanies her mom, SSR board president MK Czerwiec, to the office so I happened to have this great picture. Such a happy face--and that blue really makes a great background for her. No doubt about it, she's a glamor girl.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Reindog Parade

Many thanks to Susan Kennedy (standing behind SSR sign in photo) and Jenna Kelsey for braving the weather to help staff our table at the Reindog Parade today.

Nancy Hollander and Brady, one of our newest SSR dog teams, came out to enjoy the festivities, too. Be sure to check-out Brady's bio to learn more about this great guy!

There were lots of adorable holiday costumes at the parade, as evidenced by the tiniest reindeer/dachsund pictured here and the Nutcracker Lhasa. So cute.

It was mighty cold at the Botanic Garden today. Let's hope for better weather for next year's parade.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Michael's First Office Visit

That's the gorgeous Michael Patrick Murphy on his first visit to the SSR office. Have you ever seen more beautiful eyes?

He was mesmerized by the quilt so I had to turn him around quickly to get the photo of me holding him. It's hard to believe he's already 15 weeks old until you see how much he's grown (click on the label link below to check-out the previous photos).

Oh yeah, it was great to see Michael's mom, Sarah, too. All is well in the Murphy household. We'll be hoping for another visit soon!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Open Books

Shandy and I had a great visit yesterday with Erin Walter from Open Books. This new organization is building Chicago's first nonprofit used book store to support literacy.

Sounds exciting! We look forward to partnering with Open Books for some fun reading dog events. We'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Chicago Bears Visit Sit Stay Read

It was an exciting day for the kids and dog teams at Lowell School today when Chicago Bears rookie lineman, Joshua Beekman, visited the program.

That's Josh with Sit Stay Read dog, Lucy, as he gets ready to head into the school to read the book, "Corduroy" to the second graders. The kids loved hearing about how Josh's mom used to read him the book about a little stuffed bear who's missing a button on his overalls and is looking for a real home of his own.

Josh visited three classrooms and at the end of each visit the kids clamored for his autograph and didn't want to let him go.

We're grateful to Bears Care for their generosity in arranging for this very special visit and for their support, which makes Sit Stay Read programs possible. Josh is a wonderful role model and he did a great job of letting the students know the importance of reading and getting an education

Monday, November 12, 2007

Denali, Farewell to a Friend

We were very sad to learn today that Denali, Bandit's first best friend, died unexpectedly last week from an infection. She was only five years old.

They were just puppies in the photo of them playing together and Bandit is getting the better of her but as they grew, Richard would tell Bandit, "She's bigger, faster, and smarter, than you Bandit. You don't stand a chance." But Bandit didn't care. He loved playing with his friend, Denali.

The hardest part about loving a dog is knowing that one day they'll be gone. But how lucky we are to have them when we do.

Denali didn't get to be a Sit Stay Read dog but she contributes to all our programs. Her mom, Lee Rigby, was one of our first volunteers and, although Lee and her family moved to the east coast, we still use photos of Denali in our dog safety talk. The kids love to learn that the little puppy curled up asleep is the same big dog that's playing tug of war.

Thank you Lee and Graham for sharing Denali with us and all the kids in our programs.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

We've Been Blogged!

We're so excited! Beth and Hanni (BTW, rhymes with "Bonnie") wrote about our meeting on their blog. Be sure to check it out to read all about their book tour adventures.

To learn more about the organization that trained Hanni, go to The Seeing Eye. Their mission, as stated on their website, is "to enhance the independence, dignity, and self-confidence of blind people through the use of Seeing Eye dogs." After meeting Beth and Hanni, I have to say that they're doing a great job of achieving that mission.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Meeting a Dog Hero

That's Beth Finke and her Seeing Eye Dog, Hanni, at Barnes & Noble this afternoon. Beth is the author of a great new children's book, "Beth and Hanni, Safe and Sound". It's a wonderful story all about what it's like for Hanni to be a Seeing Eye dog. We're hoping that Beth and Hanni will be Guest Readers at a Sit Stay Read school and share their story with the kids.

After reading the book and hearing Beth speak, I'm convinced these very special Seeing Eye Dogs are true heroes. Check-out Beth's website and see what you think.

Although Shandy couldn't go with me today I'm sure she and Hanni would get along well. Who knows, the two working girls might have lots to talk about.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

SSR Volunteer Dinner

It was a fun time at Marcello's last night for the Annual Volunteer Dinner. Thanks to all the volunteers who attended and made it a great evening.

Here are a couple of photos. We'll post more when we get the CD from our fearless photographer, Margo.

NOTE: Click here to see all the photos.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Principal For A Day

I was very excited to be Principal For A Day at National Teachers Academy today! Although Shandy couldn't participate (bummer), it was great to spend time at our partner school and learn more about the wonderful opportunities they create for the students.

It was obvious that a lot of thought and care went into today's program. Many thanks to (real) principal, Amy Rome, and Sarah Mayeda of NTA for a memorable experience. I especially enjoyed getting a tour of the school from eighth-graders, Natasha and Darryn. They were wonderful ambassadors for the school and I hope to see these bright stars again and hear which high schools they test into.

After spending the morning at their respective schools, all the PFAD's were invited to a luncheon at the Hilton Hotel. The photo here shows the ballroom dancers from Hamilton Elementary entertaining the crowd at the luncheon. If you look closely, on the right hand edge you can see Mayor Daley and celebrity PFAD, David Schwimmer.

Wish I had photos from the school to share but I was so caught up in the activities that I forgot to take pictures.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Shandy at School

Shandy and I were a sub dog team this week and had a wonderful time.

When Shandy sees her Sit Stay Read bandanna she knows it's time for school and she can't wait to get there.

She's always loved kids (that's why we got started in therapy dog work) but combine that with getting treats and she's in heaven. Here she's listening to a second-grader read Pizza For Sam. Shandy can totally relate because she loves cheese.

The second photo shows our great new classroom posters designed just for us by Jeff Carlson (who is happily owned by a French bulldog named Sammy Davis Jr. Jr.) Be sure to check-out more of Jeff's work on his website

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Introducing Michael Patrick Murphy

It is my great pleasure to present the latest addition to the Sit Stay Read family, Michael Patrick Murphy. Mikey is the son of Sit Stay Read co-founder, Sarah Murphy and her husband, Tim.

This gorgeous guy was born on August 14th and is, of course, an absolute joy. Even Sammy (you can see him in the bottom corner of the second photo--click on it to see larger version) doesn't mind sharing his family with a new little brother.

If all goes well, Mikey will make his official debut at the SSR Volunteer Dinner on Nov 6th. Be sure to let Kottie know you'll be attending--you won't want to miss meeting Mikey!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Lab Day at the Office

Baguette and Maggie stopped by the office today with board member, Rick Johnson. You may have seen Maggie in school programs with Lauren or Baguette with Rick in community programs.

Baguette's trying to use sheer willpower to get those treats to fall off the stool while Maggie's convinced a good down stay will do the trick (she was right).

These two bring smiles wherever they go.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sunday Afternoon at the Cemetery in Forest Park

We took a trip back in time today at the Tale of the Tombstones walk by The Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest.

Just like a lot of families at the turn of the century, we spent the day at the cemetery.

Unfortunately, dogs aren't allowed but other than that, it's a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.

The Forest Home Cemetery has lots of interesting people buried there and the historical society has actors portray some of them--that's Emma Goldman pictured here.

It's a great way to get a glimpse into the past, learn some tidbits about the area and people. Did you know Billy Sunday (who couldn't shut down our toddlin' town) was a baseball player before getting born again?

Mark your calendar for next year's Tale of the Tombstone on October 19, 2008 and maybe we'll see you there!

Friday, October 19, 2007

High School Helpers

Shandy and I received a lovely surprise today in the form of a letter from two high school students (that's the letter with Shandy.)

Sean and Kelsey attend Marlboro High School in New York and they wrote to let us know that they are advocates for children's literacy rates. As part of their Transitions class they chose Sit Stay Read to be the beneficiary of their book drive. In addition to books these great kids will be collecting money and gift card donations to help our Sit Stay Read students improve their reading fluency.

Our hats are off to you, Sean and Kelsey. Thank you for honoring Sit Stay Read. We greatly appreciate your support!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Dillon, Good-Bye to a Dear Friend

We just received the sad news from Jan that Dillon was put to rest yesterday. He was slipping away and the reality was that he wasn't going to get better. Jan sends her thanks for your thoughts and prayers.

For anyone who knew Dillon, I don't have to tell you how much he'll be missed in the programs. His gentle presence was a great comfort to young readers.

Many thanks to Dillon for his hours of work and to Jan for sharing this special dog with so many.

Ravensquare Neighborhood

Shandy and I call the Ravenswood/Lincoln Square neighborhood home and were excited to learn about a new website. Check-out Ravensquare for all kind of information about the area.

The site was put together by SSR volunteer, Anita Fontana's husband, Paco Aramburu. Kudos to Paco and thanks for including a link to Sit Stay Read!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Dillon Update

Jan reports that Dillon has not yet shown any signs of improvement and seems a bit more distant. He has an appointment with a neurologist on Friday and I know we'll all be hoping for some good news.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Sit Stay Spa Success

Many thanks to all our guests, partners, and volunteers for making Monday's Sit Stay Spa benefit at Spa Soak a great success!

It was a people-only event but Shandy was excited to learn that the winner of the deluxe doggie raffle prize (valued at over $300) was her friend, Beenie Man's, aunt--Connie Stalf (pictured here with Beenie's mom, Teri Stalf).

Connie was hoping to win the fabulous pet stroller and dog goodies to give to Teri for Christmas but we think the cat's out of the bag, so to speak. Teri and Connie were both thrilled and immediately took the stroller for a test run.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Dillon Update

This is today's latest from Jan.

Dillon is home and I think he is happy about that. Eats well and seems comfortable. The Doctor said he is not in pain. We are still waiting for tests, but now it seems like his immune system is fighting itself. He has lots of pills and we wait to see if the infection can be stopped. He still doesn't have use of his back legs. We have an appointment in 2 weeks. It's rough right now. I will keep you posted on any progress.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Getting Ready for Sit Stay Spa Benefit

Shandy and I walked over to Central Bark today to pick-up their generous donation to the Sit Stay Spa raffle. Shandy loves to go visit Bonnie, Central Bark's owner. She's not even paying attention to the gift basket of doggie goodies next to her in the photo because she's too busy watching Bonnie (who always comes through with a treat).

If you haven't already made your reservations, call your girlfriends and plan to have a blast with us on Monday at Spa Soak. Questions? Just give us a call. 773 545 6629

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Dillon, Sit Stay Read Dog, Needs Your Prayers

As you can see, Dillon, one of Shandy's Sit Stay Read volunteer friends, is a beautiful Sheltie. He passed his SSR test in 2005 and has brought much joy to children in our school programs ever since.

Dillon and his owner, Jan Glure, were scheduled to start the program at Sumner this fall but early this week we learned that Dillon was suddenly unable to walk. Jan is keeping us posted and it now looks like it may be an infection in his spine. He's being treated and will go home from the vet's tomorrow.

Please include Dillon in your prayers and send good wishes his way. We'll post Jan's updates here so you'll know how he's doing and we hope to have good news for you soon.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Full Moon Fire Twirling

Hope you enjoyed the gorgeous full moon last night.

Though Shandy didn't seem to notice, I'm sure, like most animals, she's much more aware of the phases of the moon than we mere humans.

We went to the lakefront to watch the moon rise over the water while listening to drumming and enjoying fire twirlers, like the one pictured here. If you haven't experienced the celebration, it's worth putting on your calendar. You can find more info at Check it out.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Visiting Woodstock

Took a drive to Woodstock, IL yesterday for a book party. Craig Pierce, an admirer of Shandy and a favorite Guest Reader for our school programs, was launching his new book at the Woodstock Opera House.

It was a great time and the new book by Craig and illustrator, Tony Santiago, is lots of fun. It's called "Sit. Stay. Work. Play. All Dogs Have Their Day". Here's a link to their new Blue Collar Pups website.

I highly recommend a visit to see the lovely town of Woodstock. It's where they filmed the movie, Groundhog Day and they have the Dick Tracy Museum (see photo).

Coincidentally, Rick Kogan wrote about the town in today's Chicago Tribune. He does a much better job of singing the virtues of Woodstock so check-out his Sidewalks column in the magazine section or read it online. Then go see it for yourself. In a couple of weeks the trees will be changing color, an added incentive to take a drive in the country.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Columbus Park Photos

Here are the photos from yesterday's tour of the Columbus Park refectory (Did you know that a refectory is a dining hall, usually in a monastery? Me neither.)

If we can persuade the powers that be, the dogs would be in the outdoor pavilion area and the hall would be for lunch and the school program Reading Rewards presentation. It would be great to have such a nice place for the kids to celebrate. Keep your fingers crossed!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Walk in the Park

Hope you're enjoying this wonderful weather. Shandy and I went to Columbus Park today and enjoyed a lovely walk down their nature trail.

I went for a tour to see if the refectory there might be good for our first all-school Reading Rewards celebration and Shandy went along for the ride. It's a gorgeous place and I'm hoping it will work for us. I must admit, I didn't realize how much room we'd need to host all 250 of our school program kids. Wow. It will be a lot of work but it's going to be such fun.

Tomorrow I'll post some pix of the facility.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

New Dog Teams

Shandy lent moral support to the four dog teams at last night's test at Central Bark and all the teams passed!

From left to right, that's Marilyn Taylor with Bear-Bear, Margo McFarland with Lucky, Carley Jurishica with Calvin, and Mary Lu Johnston with Luke.

Congratulations to our newest dog teams! Look for them in a program soon.

Our Famous Dogs

Exciting news! Look for Shandy in the Sep/Oct issue of Bark magazine. The online version isn't posted yet so, if you're not a subscriber, you'll have to go to the newsstand. This is a great magazine and I'm thrilled that they included my girl in their story on reading assistance dogs.

SSR volunteer, Betsy Lane, had a nice surprise when her gorgeous German Shepard Dog, Biscuit, was featured in a mailing from photographer, David Sutton (voted "Best Pet Photographer in America" by Forbes FYI). You can see Biscuit on the Sutton Studio website.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Wine Dogs

After a week vacation, it's back to work for both Shandy and me tomorrow. While I relaxed in the gorgeous Sonoma and Napa valleys (for more photos, click here) Shandy and Bandit were lucky enough to spend the week at home with their friend Judit.

Found a wonderful book at one of the wineries. It's called "Wine Dogs" and, though it doesn't do it justice, you can check out the website at The photographs are fabulous and we saw one of the featured dogs at the Benziger Winery. The book will be in the Sit Stay Read office so take a look next time you visit.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Lee and Gavin Visit Shandy

That's Lee Rigby and her son, Gavin, reading a book in the SSR office. And that's Shandy sneaking a taste of Gavin's soy milk. Every time he put his cup down she was into it. But Gavin didn't mind--he's good at sharing.

Lee was one of the very first SSR volunteers and is still a big supporter of the programs. She now lives in New Hampshire with her husband, Graham, another SSR fan.

Thanks so much for visiting, Lee! Oh, and that's Gavin reading about the SSR values. Just kidding. He's actually pointing out the O's in every word. Pretty impressive for being 20 months old!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Holiday Pix

Shandy had a wonderful holiday. She spent more time than usual on the deck, enjoying the great weather and we took several nice walks through the park.

The sunflowers at the Botanic Garden are glorious right now and worth a trip. Although Shandy can only go to the garden for the December Reindog Parade (look for the SSR booth), we go quite regularly while she relaxes at home.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Getting Ready for Labor Day

Shandy's in her usual spot, under my desk, getting into holiday mode by taking it easy. No doubt she's saving her energy to gear-up for back to school time.

Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday weekend. Get out, enjoy, and read something fun.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Dog Visitors

As promised, here are Shandy's visitors from yesterday.

That's Guy Franklin's adorable terrier mix, Pierre, with SSR Board Prez, MK Czerwiec (aka Comic Nurse) and Pat's Lhasa's, Rudy and Ted.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Old and New Friends

Shandy and I just got home from work so we had a long day but it was great.

We had a fun reunion of the Hendricks Academy volunteers for lunch. Pat Simpson, one of the first SSR volunteers, and her husband, Doug, became RVer's last year and were back in town for a visit. They came to the office with the boys--Lhasa's, Ted and Rudy, and we were joined by Elaine, MK, Guy, and Pierre (see Pierre & Rudy's bios on the SSR website) for pizza and lots of laughs.

Then Brian Gregory, another old friend, stopped by to see the new office and visit for a bit. Such fun to be with old friends.

Finally, this evening was the volunteer orientation and Shandy met some new friends and potential volunteers. Hillary and Coquette were scheduled to be the demo dog team but Hillary was stuck in Philly on business so Shandy filled-in for Coquette.

Hope your day was filled with friends old and new! Tomorrow--pictures of Ted, Rudy and Pierre.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Missing Sabrina

It's a sad day for Shandy and me at the office today. We just learned from Sonia Ravin, that her lovely Sabrina died yesterday. Sabrina and Shandy were the matriarchs of Sit Stay Read and seemed to acknowledge each other as such when they worked together. No rowdy puppiness for these grande dames.

Sabrina's gentle, loving presence is a loss to the kids who won't have the chance to read with her. Our hearts go out to Sonia and the many friends who mourn the loss of this wonderful dog.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Teacher Orientation

Today was Teacher Orientation at the office so Shandy was a busy girl. She got to see her old friends and meet teachers from this year's two new schools.

In addition to being the official greeter, there were the snacks to watch over. She kept hoping for a piece of cheese to fall on the floor but she had to settle for a dog treat instead.

The teachers were nice enough to pose for a photo for Shandy's blog. Many thanks. Shandy and her friends look forward to being back in your classrooms again!