Stanley, Wonder Dog

Stanley, School Dog Extraordinaire
My friend Patsy works at a local primary school and is mother to a miniature black schnauzer called Stanley. He is still a young puppy but very well behaved and friendly. Patsy is a very persuasive person… and submitted a request to the school board to allow Stanley to attend school with her as the school mascot.

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After careful consideration, Stanley was accepted. He now goes to school most days and needless to say, is a popular character with the children. Well done to the school for seeing Stanley’s potential.
There is a great deal of research that indicates dogs and cats really assist children with reading and so it is hoped that Stanley will become a reading dog and a reward for good behaviour in the classroom.

But Why Dogs?
Learning to read is often less about intellectual limitation than about overcoming fears. Animals are ideal reading companions because they:
Help increase relaxation and lower blood pressure
• Listen attentively
• Do not judge, laugh, or criticize
• Allow children to proceed at their own pace
• Are less intimidating than peers

When a R.E.A.D. dog is listening, the environment is transformed, a child’s dread is replaced by eager anticipation, and learning occurs. The handler is a skilled facilitator, too – shifting performance pressure off the child and providing support, while the child gets the supervised reading practice necessary to build vocabulary, increase understanding of the material, and gain fluency as a reader.

The Results Are Significant
Participating kids make enormous strides in reading communication skills while, along the way, building self-esteem, confidence, and social skills. And there are bonus benefits – performance in other subjects tends to improve, as does attendance, and even personal hygiene.

Dogs are tops at helping kids read

At the Adore Animals Foundation, we do a lot of research into the benefits of animals on humans, especially on children – so much research in fact, we wrote a book about it – but here’s a new one for the books, literally.
Dogs are helping kids to read.
But dogs can’t read, I hear you say! True, they can’t (well not that we know of – yet), but studies have proven that dogs are instrumental in helping kids relax so they can concentrate on reading. And there’s even a library program, aptly named Books & Barks that’s been proving this since 2006.

According to the Northern Virginia Daily in the United States, the Books & Barks program at Samuels Public Library is proving so successful and so popular, they’ve now got a dog-assist waiting list.

So how does it work? According to Samuel’s Youth Services Supervisor Michal Ashby, the dogs help kids overcome their nervousness about reading, allowing them to feel at ease so they can open their mind to reading.
It sounds simple and it is. Dogs have a natural ability to make most people at ease, and with kids, patting or stroking the dog often helps them to relax right away.
Says Michal, ‘Scientific research has proven in studies about reading that one of the main issues of children – when they’re struggling with learning to read – is [that] they get tremendous anxiety, and by having a comforting animal next to them, as their anxiety declines, their reading ability progresses.’

The other good news is that the dogs love it too. Dog owner Pam Ostermeier has been involved in the program since its inception and says, ‘They [the dogs] love to be with the kids… They love the kids. They love coming. They get so excited when they see us putting on our uniforms.’
And of course there’s the added bonus that we’re only too aware of at the Adore Animals Foundation.
I often hear from parents that not only is it [the program] changing their child’s life because it’s improving their reading skills, but it may be that special relationship that they’ve developed with the dog helped them deal with a difficult part of their life,’ says Michal. ‘In other words, I think it does so much more than just helping reading. There’s animal therapy in there and a little bit of everything.’

To read the full article by Ben Orcutt at click on this link

The Berks Animal Rescue League in Berks County, PA, is offers a program that I wish all shelters would consider…they allow children to come to the shelter to read to their homeless cats to help soothe the shelter cats. Through their program called ‘Book Buddies’, children in grades 1-8 who are able to read at any level can sign up at the front desk of the shelter to read to the cats in their adoption room.
The program helps children improve their reading skills while also helping the shelter animals. Cats find the rhythmic sound of a voice very comforting and soothing.


4 Ways Dogs Help Kids to Read
By Webvet | Animal Nation
Boy reading with dog
Can reading to a dog raise children’s reading levels? According to studies on the subject a young student’s reading scores can advance significantly – two to four grade levels – by reading to a dog for just 20 minutes a week throughout the school year (40 weeks).

Children who read to dogs have less absenteeism, visit the library more often, and improve their grades on report cards. Also, children with low self-esteem are often more willing to interact with an animal than with another person. Pets can also teach children empathy and compassion.

Getting kids excited about reading

“We didn’t invent the concept of a child reading to a pet, but we were the first to use the structure,” said Kathy Klotz, executive director of the Reading Education Assistance Dogs program (R.E.A.D.). She refers to depictions of people reading to dogs in Victorian times, and she has heard several adults admit that they used to read to their dog in the closet as a child. “There is no question that children are terribly eager to read to a dog.”

Parents don’t necessarily have to wait until a program like R.E.A.D. comes to their child’s school. They can try this at home with their children, Klotz said, as long as the dog or cat is trained and able to stay calm for at least 20 minutes while the child reads to it.

Dog days of school

Several schools have implemented visitation programs that bring trained therapy dogs as a way to encourage children’s reading, but it is still a rare practice. At the last count less than 3,000 children have participated in the R.E.A.D program since its inception in 1999.

Mary Renck Jalongo studied this practice and wrote about it in a recent issue of the journal “Childhood Education.”

“When children were asked to read aloud under three conditions (to a peer, to an adult, and to a therapy dog), the presence of a therapy dog reduced children’s blood pressure and heart rate to normal levels and diminished other observable signs of anxiety,” Renck Jalongo said.

“Working with animals is remarkably effective with students who have attentional difficulties, disruptive behaviors or a general lack of interest in reading.”

reading by m00nbugg

A special connection

The special connection between troubled children and animals was not lost on Samuel B. Ross, Jr., founder of Green Chimneys in Brewster, N.Y., a residential treatment program for children with emotional, behavioral and learning challenges. The 75-acre farm has a menagerie of 300 animals for 192 children, ages 6 to 18, to interact with. These are all children who have not been accepted back to a public school.

“The children heal the animals, and the animals heal the children,” Ross said. “They learn they’re capable of doing something productive, having been told they’re a failure earlier. Here, they find out this is not entirely true.”

Game plan

R.E.A.D recommends that 20 minutes be set aside each week for struggling readers to practice reading aloud to a dog. Using the standard 180 school days, or about 40 weeks, this adds approximately 14 hours of supervised practice in reading aloud. Enjoyment is essential because low-ability readers learn words incidentally when they are reading for fun.

Success in attitude and academics among reluctant readers can be found by reading to those who offer unconditional respect and attention. Typically, they have four legs.

The Guardian:
When children read to him, Danny does not criticise or correct their pronunciation. He just nods and pricks up an ear, although sometimes he closes his eyes and appears not to be listening.

Kids calm shelter cats and dogs by reading to them

Have a good week everyone. FG


Knowing your neighbours makes you happier.

Getting to know the people who live nearby helps create a sense of belonging and shared identity in our local area. It also helps to strengthen connections and trust in our wider communities and contributes to a happier neighbourhood for everyone.”

Even better, the more at home we are, the more likely we are to give something back.

The more we look after our properties and green spaces, the more we use our bikes and go by public transport, the cleaner and more beautiful our streets will be.

I live in a long drive with 6 houses in it. We know our neighbours to wave to and occasionally chat but when I was working it never seemed the right time to invite people over. I ran into one of my neighbours in a craft shop. Liz and her husband have three children ranging in age from 4 to 10. I asked her and her little preschooler over for morning tea today. I knocked together some Anzac biscuits which turned into muesli biscuits because the Other Half had used all the rolled oats in his muesli.


How lovely it was to see the little boy playing  with Sam’s lego and books. We had a great time chatting and discussing gardens, recipes and eco villages.  Liz brought me violets. They are my most favourite flowers in the universe.


I gave them a …wait for it…surprise surprise… a dish cloth. 

Sadly for me anyway,  it’s the end of my poetry writing MOOC but I am coat tailing on one called Creativity and Innovation from Pennsylvania Uni and have signed up for a fiction one from Iowa starting in September.

Have a great weekend everyone. FG


A Blissful Day in August

It is nearly 4:30 and  I don’t know where the day has gone. Yoga, dishcloth, garden bed, planting, cooking, shopping…

After yoga I like to do a spot of knitting. Am I becoming obsessed????
Dinner: bean, celery salad stuffed into an avocado with salmon and some tuna on the side with the left over apple salad. Possibly a bit too fishy but yummy just the same.
Overgrown garden bed needing some attention.
All weeded and re-composted.
Lettuces, celery, micro-greens, baby spinach all in bed
A plug for Patch from Scratch who came in one  day while we were at work and three lovely garden beds filled with organic goody soil miraculously appeared.

I couldn’t resist a few non-edible items on the joint account….

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I also refilled all the fruit bowls and came home with a banana box. Every one is happy.


And a word of wisdom via my friend Patsy.



Happy Friday! FG

Blue girl with kitten

I wish I was a zen type, calm, knowing, thoughtful, quiet, measured, intelligent, but I’m not. I’m shouty and sweaty and opinionated, a jersey-on-inside-out sort of woman with entrails in the dust after a day with people. I think that is why i love being alone and at home, knitting and cleaning and writing.  I have discovered I like cleaning tasks. Is that a worry???? Today i cleaned under the sink where the rubbish bin and the compost bucket are. I get unreasonable pleasure form looking at this clean surface. Am I going mad???

I also like cooking. Today it was a Heggie version of cumin and carrot soup with a Libby Weaver apply, walnut and mung bean salad with ginger dressing.

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Sadly, this week was our last poetry assignment and it was to write a prose poem. I wrote about an incident that has stayed with me since I was a teenager because I was humiliatingly exposed as having “no taste” by my “friend” from school. Even thinking about it today brings back the painful memory of embarrassment. I hope you like it.

Blue girl with kitten

My mother and I had made a cautious treaty of sorts, masking teenage contempt on my part, passivity and what the neighbours thought on hers, to do up the bedroom recently gleefully vacated by two sisters and left lonely only to me, the honey-trapped. A futile and economic attempt to coerce me to stay, the youngest of six, the baby and a skite with it. A diary by the bedside spilling sixteen secrets when socks should have been pulled up and a lot less of being full of herself.

In shared and unique conspiracy we stood in awe and awkwardness at the end of the expensive, hushed furniture shop for snobs. There at the end she imperceptibly nodded royally at us in her blue gown. Her alabaster breast smooth, her coiffured hair recently prepared especially, her cute kitten held just so for the artist. We had been chosen, the crowd behind us gasped and laughed. The sound went unheard. Proudly we cashed up and purchased her in her plastic moulded gilt frame. For a split second, sophisticated, mother of coal-miners in Windermere and daughter of Roslyn.

A school friend, who knew everything accompanied by her clever arty and good looking boyfriend arrived by invitation to appraise. Later, he became famous. The blue girl was already regretful and balanced awkwardly and ungraciously on a chair in the dining room above the flowered carpet, lime green and vulgar yellow in the cold brick bungalow in Roslyn. Too small for six kids. It was something of a come down for her. With a little pride and their prejudice I introduced her, without curtsying of course. This was modern times. I saw them turn away with smarmy, smart-assed smirks behind their hands and in their met eyes. I died.

I, the boiled peasant girl, in stained calico and smelling of onions, who knew nothing, no one, eyes down, dishpan hands, dirt under the nails, a cleft palate, backed away, bowed from the blue girl’s disdain as though I should have known. I showed them the back door. I knew where that was.

But like the girl in the turquoise frills and flounces on arriving at the school ball to see the cool girl in the black, silk sheath how could I know? How could she?

Feel free to share your own memories of the crippling incidents of the teenage years. Yay, it’s good to be old!  FG

Every Girl’s Dream- An Organised Closet

Last week’e poetry assignment was to write a sonic poem. As far As I could understand that was just using associated sounds to put together the poem. In the last week I have clearly been watching too much Living Channel ans I wrote down two phrases I thought were ridiculous.

Every girl’s dream-an organised closet

Your number 1 enemy-clutter!

Now while I would like to have a tidy wardrobe and less clutter, they are not life changing events and if that is all you have to worry about in terms of your number one enemy I’d say we’re OK.

 I chose the first phrase for my sonic poem and below are the words I started with:

close it, closest, closeted, organ, cossetted,am,eyes, man, galvanised,eve, grills, ills, damn, am ankle, anklet,manacle, maniacal, magical,cloistered,claustrophobic, catastrophe,trophy, crocheted,strophic, shut up, ossify,shut trap,rapture,departure,cache, drone, done , concreted,clap trap, open it up.

here’s the poem:

Every Girls’ Dream- an organised closet

 Galvanised to close it Eve

Shut down the grills, manacle the ankles

Cloister the organs in claustrophobic atrophy.

Shut up the trophy, cossetted to ossify,

Concreted, crocheted, clap trap rapture.


Man-eyed, maniacal departure,

Cache the drone, the ill crone done

To keep the trap shut, the flap closed.

The hatch catch shuttered.

You’re the closest, damn it, Adam, open it.


Sue Heggie

Have a great week wherever you are, Spring is on its way here and I know I should be grateful but hay fever arrives at the same time. I prefer my magnolias and orchids as De Gournay wallpaper. A mere 900 dollars per drop. FG

de gournay


Poetry with a constraint

The exercise for the Iowa mooc  this week was to apply a constraint to a poem. It could be anything, a specific form, not using any “e”s, rhyming couplets, time-based constraint, only using book titles in your library etc.

I chose to use the declension of war in Latin for my constraint. I was hopeless at it at school and failed School Certificate, as it was known then.  I had very little idea what the teacher was talking about nearly all of the time. I do remember there was a lot of wasting done by longboats and I certainly remember having to chant the declensions.

The declension of war is easy to do in a silly way as Bellum becomes blum and it ends up as blum blum bli blarum blis blis and the word really doesn’t sound like a warring kind of word.

Teaching was easy in those days, each day, the teacher would just turn to the next page in the book. I don’t recall any marking ever being done.  The first day we had to learn Otago Girls’ High School motto.

 Recti Cultus Pectora Roborant – the right sort of training makes the heart as strong as oak. Very English 🙂

The books were very dreary.

We were forced to do embroidery and had to go next door to an old house where we toiled under a picture of the lace maker while the gas fire hissed.

The diminutive Mrs Lacelles would make the colour choice of our silks very clear, “No canary yellow girls, no canary yellow.” Every one began with a sampler bag. I still have mine. I’m guessing she didn’t like my orange colours either. You may scoff but I toiled over this for a year.  By fifth form I was so despairing that I paid Julia Davies $10 to finish my supper cloth.

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Do get on with it, I hear you say… so the poem with a constraint:

 The Latin Declension of War

I can’t learn it, I never understand what the teacher is meaning.
Main Forms: Bellum, Belli
Gender: Neuter
Declension: Second
Nominative Plural
yes we need to name them all the Somme, the Napoleonic, the Syrian conflict, the Final Solution, Vietnam, Rwanda, Syria, Israel, Palestine, Khmer Rouge, all this laying waste. I can’t do it, there isn’t enough space, even for one century, I’ll never remember it.

no, not beautiful, just boys crying out for their mothers, or children dying or sisters or grandmothers, the whole family I suppose. Well it is plural so that must be right.

Genitive Plural
rhymes with decorum, die politely, Dulce et Decorum Est
and forum
But no one wants to talk about it

Dative Plural
1904, 1914, 1939, 1946 1950, 1956, 1965, 67, 73, 80, 91
too many dates I am worried I’ll miss someone’s favourite and I’ve just done some in one century. Is it multi-choice Miss?

Locative Plural
rhymes with hell is where the you live, ringing like the clappers, not to raise the dead. Do we need to learn all the places?

Accusative Plural
a good name for a dog and accusing, they did it, they did it first. I won’t get any marks for mentioning the dog.

Ablative Plural
abject, abortive abominable, aggravated, appalling, aggrandisement, again and again. I can’t remember what ablative means.

Vocative Plural
voice it then, beautiful, no bella,
just tell it like it is.

When is the exam Miss? Do we need to be able to decline Amare as well? Miss?

Sue Heggie

Have a good weekend everyone, this is my weekend reading.