Thursday, December 11, 2008

Kids Write About the Holidays

Kids in our Marshall's Place community program got creative in their writing about playing in the snow and spending the holidays with the Sit Stay Read dogs. Click on the doggy drawing to read their stories. I guarantee they'll bring a smile to your face.
Student Winter Stories

Thursday, December 4, 2008

How do You Get Your Message Out There?

For the first time ever I have a bumper sticker on my car--what can I say, the election was a heady time and I threw caution to the wind.

I was feeling pretty good about having my message out there, but then I saw this pick-up truck on my way to work the other day. Wow, how's that for being committed to communicating your message?! My favorite (just above the wheel well) is, "Pick up a book not a gun".

I was so inspired I ordered another bumper sticker. Check it out here. What's your message?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Poem of the Month--A Soldier's Christmas

Perhaps you've read the poem "A Soldier's Christmas" in a forwarded email. It's been circulating on the internet since 2000 but I just received it (thanks, Cheryl) and was moved to tears.

Whatever we believe about war, I think we can all agree with the final two stanzas--standing watch is a duty we all share and letting every person know they matter is important.

Here's a link to the full poem that also gives credit to the author, Michael Marks. The final two stanzas are below.

Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
"Just tell us you love us, and never forget.
To fight for our rights back at home while we're gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.

For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us."

Denise Won!

Congratulations to high schooler, Denise Ferguson, for her winning vehicle sticker design! I can't wait to see that yellow Lab on cars all over Chicago.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Amazing Flu Info

Found this info courtesy of Sasha Dichter, one of my favorite nonprofit bloggers. Turns out Google has been partnering with the CDC on predicting flu activity. By analyzing search term data, Google is able to predict flu trends two weeks ahead of the CDC!

What amazes me is that Google goes way beyond expectations while still working within their mission of "organizing the world's information". Who knows what great things are yet to come?!

You can go to Google and see the predictions by state and read how Google does it. That huge December spike has me thinking I'd better go get that flu shot soon.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Vote for Student Artists!

I just love that we get to vote for the design of our Chicago vehicle city sticker. Every year when I see the creativity of the high school students' designs, I am so impressed.

This year's theme is "Dog Friendly Chicago" and I voted for Denise Ferguson's patriotic design. It evokes not just Chicago, but the incredible victory of President-Elect Obama, the search for a new "First Dog", and our city's love of canines.

Show your support for our talented students--VOTE! And then forward this post. But hurry, voting ends at 5pm on Wednesday.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Do you know how dogs drink?

I must admit I've never given it much thought but it's amazing to see how dogs actually use their tongues when they drink. Check it out for yourself.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sneak Peek at Party Photos

We'll be sending an email announcement tomorrow with the photos from the Sit Stay Read 5th anniversary party but you can get a sneak peek now!

Many thanks to our intrepid photographer, Bill Shomaker, for chronicling the event. Great work, Bill!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Kids Write About President-Elect Obama

We're already seeing the impact of our new President- Elect on the young authors in our Sit Stay Read programs.

Classie wrote her story about Tibbie and Obama in our Cabrini-Green area after-school program on the day of the election (click on the story to enlarge.)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Poem of the Month--History is Made

20081105_Chicago_IL_ElectionNight1540Found the poem below on a great blog by Shasha Dichter about nonprofit fund raising. Goes to show that poetry is all around, we just have to look for it. Sasha goes on to include a wonderful poem by Maya Angelou. Be sure to check it out.

"A friend with a sharp eye saw this handwritten sign in a window in the midst of last night’s election coverage:

rosa sat so
martin could walk so
barack could run so
our children could fly"

BTW, to see President-Elect Obama's photo stream on Flickr, just click on the photo above.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Howl-o-Ween Photos

Howl O Ween 2008
Check-out the doggy Howl-o-ween fun (just click on the photo)! A copy of the Chicken Soup for the Soul book, "Loving our Dogs", is going out to Lauren Johnson, Susan Kennedy, and Jenifer Flynn for sharing their festive pix. It's not too late to share your best shot. Email us your faves and we'll add them to the album!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Farewell to a Good Friend

Saying good-bye has to be the hardest thing about loving and living with our wonderful canine companions.

The beautiful Ginger, Beth Kadow's sweet, sweet Golden, passed away on Tuesday. She was diagnosed with lymphoma a week ago and had her first chemotherapy treatment on Monday but it was too much for her.

I can still remember Beth, as a teen-ager, bringing Ginger into a therapy dog class I was teaching for Rainbow Dogs. Ginger's lovely disposition, combined with Beth's natural, loving skill as a dog handler was incredibly impressive to see. There was really nothing I could teach that amazing duo, but it was a joy to see them get certified and work on so many other canine accomplishments together. I felt very lucky when Beth decided to add Sit Stay Read dog team to their credentials--and, of course, the kids loved Ginger.

Thank you, Beth, for sharing Ginger with all of us.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Puppy Lucy--a Reincarnation?

This lovely pup is one year-old Lucy, latest addition to the family of Sit Stay Read volunteer, Gail Schwab.

As soon as I saw Lucy's photo I was struck by the resemblance to my Max (bottom photo). Certainly the markings are similar but it's those soulful eyes that really got me. Unfortunately, Max is gone but you can meet Lucy at the Sit Stay Read anniversary party at Dogone Fun on Sunday, Nov 16th. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

You've Got to Try This!

AARP 08 Video
Enter your name to see who can bring real change to Washington.
First Name:
Last Name:
Even if you think you know what's going to happen, you won't believe how cool it is.

Chicken Soup for Howl-o-ween

We want to see your dog all decked out for Halloween!

Thanks to the folks at Chicken Soup for the Soul, we have an incentive for you. Email us a photo of your dog dressed-up for Halloween, we'll post them online and draw three names to receive a free copy of their latest book, "Loving Our Dogs". As with all the "Chicken Soup" books, the stories are heartwarming and humorous.

Here's a photo of Shandy to get you in a festive mood. That's us at the first Sit Stay Read school program back in 2003 at Hendrick's Academy. All three dogs wore matching pumpkin costumes on Halloween (courtesy of volunteer, Pat Simpson). I couldn't find a photo of all the dogs together but I'll keep looking.

In the meantime, get out your camera and send us your photos!

School Programs Underway!

It was a busy time at the Sit Stay Read office as we prepared for the mid-October start of our school programs. But all the hard work was worth it when we saw the smiling faces of our students, so glad to have us back in the classroom.

We're in seven schools this year and, as of yesterday, all 15 classes have had their first visit! Yeah teams!

It was great to see old and new friends. Here's our group of volunteers getting ready for their visit to Faraday (only one dog attends the first day dog safety session). That's Allison, our fabulous intern, holding the classroom sign, Jennifer Cristina, Carley and Calvin, Guy Franklin, and Melissa Kennedy, a special visitor from Australia.

Melissa, an English teacher at Scots College, is visiting reading programs in the US to research ways to engage more boys in reading. She was blown away by our program and felt that it equally engages boys and girls.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Hero's Welcome

May all our returning soldiers get this kind of greeting from the people and pets in their lives.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Lots to Learn at Old World Wisconsin

If you're looking for a fun, fall getaway in the midwest, consider a visit to Old World Wisconsin.

My friend, Betsy, and I made the two hour drive this weekend and it was well worth the trip.

You can stroll around and enjoy the countryside, check-out the animals (like the chickens and oxen), and learn about the history of Wisconsin from knowledgeable folks dressed in period costumes--like the school teacher pictured here. I think some dogs would definitely brighten-up that classroom.

A great time for big and little people.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Puppy Max Visits Chicago

Shandy and Bandit had a nice surprise when my niece Susan came to visit from Wisconsin last weekend. They got to meet her new puppy, Max!

Isn't he a cutie? He's sweet as can be but so quick that I couldn't get any photos of him with Shandy or Bandit--all I'd catch was a blur.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bandit Visits the Office

Bandit usually spends his days at home with Richard but last week he dropped into the office for a visit.

He's used to several long walks and at least one play session with his dog friends, so lazing around the office wasn't really his cup of tea. He kept crawling under my desk to try to get Shandy to play, but she's used to her nap time and wasn't having any of it. They were both happy when Richard returned to take Bandit home.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Poem of the Month in Honor of Autumn

Another wonderful poem courtesy of American Life in Poetry. This one by Washington, D.C. poet, Judith Harris, is so good you can almost hear the crunching of leaves.

For your own autumn experience, the Chicago Botanic Garden, pictured here from a few years ago, puts on a lovely show of colors.

Gathering Leaves in Grade School

They were smooth ovals,
and some the shade of potatoes--
some had been moth-eaten
or spotted, the maples
were starched, and crackled
like campfire.

We put them under tracing paper
and rubbed our crayons
over them, X-raying
the spread of their bones
and black, veined catacombs.

We colored them green and brown
and orange, and
cut them out along the edges,
labeling them deciduous
or evergreen.

All day, in the stuffy air of the classroom, with its cockeyed globe, and nautical maps of ocean floors, I watched those leaves

lost in their own worlds
flap on the pins of the bulletin boards:
without branches or roots,
or even a sky to hold on to.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Good Thoughts for Laverne

I am sad to report that our sweet Laverne (pictured here at "her" school with Bears player Josh Beekman) was viciously attacked by a dog outside her front door last week.

The good news is that both she and Jenifer are slowly recovering. We won't know for a while though if Laverne will be up for working with her kids at Lowell next month. Jenifer is hoping that we can ease her into it and that it will help her on the road to recovery, both physically and emotionally.

As you can imagine, this was a terrifying ordeal and I know your good thoughts and positive energy would be appreciated. You can leave a comment here or go to Laverne's page on the Sit Stay Read website and send her an email.

If all goes well, Jenifer will bring Laverne by the office next week to visit Shandy. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Shandy & Lucy Welcome New Volunteers

Folks were meeting and greeting at last night's volunteer orientation.

Shandy and Italian Spinone Lucy (shown with her owner Barbara) were on hand to welcome everyone and demonstrate what our Sit Stay Read dogs do.

Many thanks to our friends at The Anti-Cruelty Society for the use of the auditorium.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Shandy Surveys Chicago Flooding

Flooding rains rocked Chicago this weekend and our north side neighborhood was hit especially hard. As I write I still hear news helicopters flying overhead.

Shandy and I took a walk when the rain stopped a short while ago--here's what we saw (click on photos to enlarge).

The dam on the river at Argyle St. is roaring--there's usually an 8-10 foot drop but, as you can see, it's almost even with the river now. That's Shandy with a new friend, Mugsy, checking out the situation. The final photo shows our girl turning around when she found our path blocked by water. The red circle indicates a "no swimming" sign that is usually about 5 feet above the water.

Mother Nature is very impressive. Hope you're safe and dry.

Shandy and Friends at Home

Nothing nicer than sitting on the deck on a fine September evening and sharing it with friends. Of course, the photo here is from Thursday night, well ahead of the torrential rains we've been getting.

That's (from the foreground) Butkus, Tish, and Bandit all waiting for a treat, with Shandy getting edged out a bit. Aren't they a handsome group?!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Shandy's Newest Trainee

Shandy was very excited to welcome a new addition to the Sit Stay Read office this week. Elizabeth Siegel joined the SSR family as Volunteer Manager.

We're thrilled to have Elizabeth's non-profit experience and joyful personality in the office. She has a lot to contribute to the organization and she's fitting right in.

You won't be surprised to learn that Shandy's been busy training Elizabeth on all the appropriate treat opportunities (if you look carefully, you can just make out a treat in Elizabeth's hand in the photo). These two are well on the way to becoming fast friends.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Our Football Friends--The Chicago Bears!

Was there a lot of hooting and hollering at your house last night for that great Bears game? We were so excited to see offensive lineman Josh Beekman again.

Josh was the favorite Sit Stay Read Guest Reader at Lowell School last year. That's Josh having a heart to heart with SSR dog, Oscar, a greyhound. (Click on the Chicago Bears label below to see more photos from Josh's classroom visit.)

Go Bears! Go Josh! Looking forward to a great season.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Poem of the Month--August

A bit late but worth the wait.


By Mary Oliver

When the blackberries hang
swollen in the woods, in the brambles
nobody owns, I spend

all day among the high
branches, reaching
my ripped arms, thinking

of nothing, cramming
the black honey of summer
into my mouth; all day my body

accepts what it is. In the dark
creeks that run by there is
this thick paw of my life darting among

the black bells, the leaves; there is
this happy tongue.

Shandy's Own Walk of Fame

Well, some new concrete was poured for the sidewalk outside the Sit Stay Read office and I guess you can see what happened.

That's Shandy inspecting her handiwork the day after "the incident". I must admit I do like seeing her paw prints right outside our door. Let's think of it as a welcome mat for canines. Come visit us!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Shandy in the City?

On a lovely walk with Richard and the pups today we came up with the idea for a little game called, "Shandy in the City" (although Bandit is along on this excursion).

Take a look at the four photos here and see if, by the final photo, you can figure out where Shandy might be. Photo #1 is impossible to say; #2 you'd really need to know the path (Niki, do you recognize it?); #3 has a BIG clue (though upside down); and #4 tells the whole story.

This new bike path is on a former railroad right of way just west of Pulaski and runs from Bryn Mawr to Devon. It's become a favorite destination on our summer rides because of all the shade. Rumor has it that once Lincolnwood gets on board to extend it further north, it will link with a five county path system. Come on Lincolnwood, get on the band wagon!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Be Kinder Than Necessary

Here's Sasha and Shandy with the group at Bethel's summer program. It was our final visit and everyone was sorry to see it end.

Isn't that a great sign they have?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Scooter Puppy

I'm not usually a puppy stalker but I've been unable to resist Scooter, the adorable guy seen here.

He's a 4-month old Jack Russell mix and is just sweet as can be. When driving home from the office I quite often see his owner walking him in Ravenswood Manor and I've been tempted to stop. However, in the interest of not looking like a crazy person, I've resisted. But this morning I was just sitting in my car waiting for Jenn's train to arrive and there he was. Yeah! Even Shandy wanted to get out to say hello. He's about to pounce on her and she's getting ready to tell him off--hey, at almost 15, I'm impressed that she still enjoys meeting puppies. Anyway, we got our puppy fix and headed into work.

Monday, August 4, 2008

See Us on the NBC Nightly News!

We're so excited! The NBC Nightly News piece on Sit Stay Read is awesome. If you missed it, it's not too late. Click on the video to view.

Our mailbox is flooded with good wishes and inquiries from folks all over the WORLD (hello Melbourne!) anxious to bring Sit Stay Read programs to kids in their city. We're working on how to provide the highest quality program to kids in need wherever they may be.

Many thanks to all the volunteers, dogs, and NBC staff who've shared the dream of bringing kids and dogs together for reading fun and success.

Stay tuned!!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Anti-Cruelty Society Visit

Shandy visited her roots when she joined Jenn and me for a meeting at The Anti-Cruelty Society last Thursday. I adopted her as a little pup on November 15, 1993 so we'll be celebrating her 15th birthday on September 12th. See how sweet she looked? Don't be fooled though, she was a wild girl. One of these days I'll scan some of the old photos showing her wild side.

The second photo is Shandy with her ACS friends Tammie Buschor and Elliott Serrano after our meeting. How cool is it to be able to bring your dog to meetings?! Thanks so much Tammie and Elliott!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Revi Stops to Smell the Flowers

That's Shandy's friend Revi taking time to stop and smell the flowers.

Though her mom, Betsy, thinks there may have been a bagel in there, I'm going to be more like Revi and take time to smell the flowers (or bagels)!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Sara, Farewell to a Special Dog

We are very sad to report the loss of Sara Schwab, a special Sit Stay Read dog. Sara was a loving, calming presence for so many children in our programs and a faithful companion to Gail and her family.

Sara and Gail were certified as a Sit Stay Read dog team in March 2005 and volunteered at our very first session at Manierre School that fall. They've been there every year since and you can see this wonderful team in action at Manierre last spring in the online local NBC news video.

Our condolences to Sara's family and many friends and admirers. You will be missed, dear one. Nine and a half years was just not enough time.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Fuzzy Spiked Caterpillar

Shandy and I were lounging on the deck the other day (our favorite summer "activity") when I spied this little fuzzy critter.

Haven't seen a caterpillar with spikes before so I tried to find some info online. You won't believe the variety of caterpillars out there--some are darn scary. See for yourself at What's That Bug. I've sent them a request to see if they can identify our find and will keep you posted. Can you name that caterpillar?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Ms. Garcia Visit

When Ms. Garcia (yes, from Lowell School) came to pick-up materials for a community program she's leading for us (how cool is it that our fabulous program teachers volunteer their time over the summer to help more kids learn to read!?) she brought a wonderful surprise guest--her gorgeous niece, Naima.

Not only is she beautiful though, Naima is one smart girl! She's already learning her numbers (ok, so really only one number so far--everything is "dos") and letters.

I really wanted to get a photo of Naima with Shandy and Comiskey (Ms. Garcia's chihuahua) but she's just too fast for me--this is one of the few photos where you can actually see her face--in the others she's just a blur on the move. You'll have to imagine how sweet it was to see her hugging Shandy and giving her kisses.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Mystery Bird

On our walk just now, Shandy and I finally saw the bird Richard's been telling us about. It's been hanging around out back for the last week or so but we're afraid it won't be around for long because it's rather slow (in every sense of the word, sorry to say).

No one seems to know what it is but we've had suggestions of turkey, partridge, and chicken. Anyone know for sure? This is your chance to "name that bird".

Full Moon Jam

Last night's full moon jam at the lake front was the largest I've seen. Drumming and fire twirling are a great way to connect with the energy of the full moon--as lots of folks seem to know. Although there were some dogs there, I didn't think Shandy or Bandit would find it fun so they lounged at home.

It's amazing to me that the city is tolerant of this tribal gathering. There were plenty of police on bikes enjoying the spectacle. The energy of the crowd was very mellow and inclusive.

I understand our thanks for such a gift go to Liz at Spunn. Liz, you must have fabulous powers of persuasion. Many thanks for sharing your passion.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Award Winning Guest Reader

It was so exciting to learn that one of our students' favorite guest readers won a prestigious literary award recently. Read all about the award ceremony adventures of Beth Finke and her seeing eye dog, Hanni, on their blog and be sure to leave your congratulations in a comment--Beth loves to hear from fans and will even share your comments with Hanni.

And if you haven't read "Safe & Sound" yet, be sure to get a copy.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

July Poem of the Month, Pied Beauty

As a lover of dappled sunlight, I was immediately drawn to this poem and was reminded of it today when it was mentioned in my current summer read, "Middlesex".

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things,

For skies of couple-color as a brinded cow,

For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls, finches’ wings’

Landscape plotted and pieced, fold, fallow and plough,

And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange,

Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

With swift, slow, sweet, sour, adazzle, dim.

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change;

Praise him.

---Gerard Manley Hopkins

As a special treat, I found a reading of this month's poem on YouTube. See what you think.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

NBC National News!!

The kids, volunteers, and dogs were all excited to have a crew from the NBC Nightly News visit the summer school program at NTA yesterday!

NBC correspondent Rehema Ellis was there to interview program participants along with NBC producer, Patrice Fletcher, esteemed cameraman, Steve, and his other brother, Steve, sound technician. These incredible professionals put everyone at ease and we can't wait to see the piece on the NBC Nightly News in mid-July. We'll keep you posted on the exact date.

Our Very Own Cupcakes!!

The fabulous Bleeding Heart Bakery has honored Sit Stay Read with our very own charity cupcake!!

The generous folks at Bleeding Heart choose a worthy cause each month and donate $1 from the sale of a specially designed cupcake.

You have to go try this carrot cake confection (how did they know that's my favorite?!) Maybe Shandy and I will see you there, but you have to hurry--it's only for the month of July.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Coyote in the City

Took this photo of a coyote out in the back field from my deck tonight. Almost every night for the past 6 weeks or so he (or she) runs up and down the field.

Lately he's coming out earlier and is sometimes even out in the morning. I'm getting a little concerned for him because he's getting very used to people--that line you see in the foreground is a bike path.

But it sure is cool to get to watch him run and play. At dusk he seems to be chasing moths and will jump straight up in the air to catch one. I'm going to try to get that on video but I make no promises. I tried tonight and have a zillion mosquito bites to show for my effort.

Isn't it amazing when you find a bit of the wild in the heart of the city?

Oh yeah, in case you're wondering, Shandy and Bandit bark like maniacs when they see him (or do they smell him?) At any rate, they let him know he's on their territory. He is unfazed by them and continues to go about his business, which I assume includes eating a lot of rabbits because, like last year with the family of foxes, we've seen absolutely no rabbits this year. Very unusual.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Spaaaa Photos

Nearly 50 guests enjoyed being pampered at our third annual Sit Stay Spa benefit on June 23rd. Take a look at the fun we had at the fabulous Spa Soak. Click on the photo for larger view.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Our Little Sit Stay Spa Helper

SSR Dog Team, Andrea Marino and chihuahua, Charley, joined us in the office yesterday to help assemble the goodie bags for Sit Stay Spa. That's SSR staffer Jenn Dohm looking shocked to see her littlest helper sitting down on the job.

Many thanks to Andrea, Charley, Fiona, and Laurel for lending a hand!