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Yesterday, I worked as a substitute teacher at the Primary Learning Center in Brick, NJ.  PLC, as it is called, is a unique center dedicated exclusively to the education of Kindergarten-age children.  All children at that grade level are educated under one roof before going on to one of seven elementary schools next September. Picture an endless stream of five and six years old pouring down the hallway as the bell rings, it’s quite a sight!

Entering the classroom, the talk quickly turned to dogs (of course).  I asked Mary Ann, a paraprofessional I would be spending the day with, about the prospect of a Service Dog ever gracing the corridors or PLC.  A dog-lover, she excitedly said she thought it would be great, however, the issue of allergies quickly came up.

The other day, in response to my post, I received a nice comment from Jennifer who has twins diagnosed with Autism.  Jennifer was able to obtain a Service Dog for her children from 4PawsforAbility in Xenia, Ohio, founded by a woman named Karen Shirk.  Jennifer’s family is very happy with their dog, Barkley.  He is welcome almost anywhere, except in the school system, unfortunately.  Jennifer must battle for the right for Barkley to attend class with the twins, something the Board of Education seems very opposed to.

There are several issues at hand here, but hopefully, those districts that have allowed Therapy and Service dogs into their schools, will come forward and share how they have found solutions.  Are certain “non-allergenic” breeds preferable?  Are separate areas of a room, or building, able to accommodate them?  Do you let parents make a choice if they want their children in a class where a dog is allowed?

And of course, these are tough questions for school systems that are facing huge budget cuts, and layoffs.  Yesterday I was told that as of next year, all “specials” like art, music, and science, will be discontinued at PLC, and the Library, the heart of the school, is in danger of being discontinued (I would have to confirm that).  But you get the picture.  Times are not great for the educational future of kids in New Jersey, and elsewhere.

Captain William Judy, the man who founded National Dog Week in the wake of the Great Depression, extolled the positive influence pets can have on our young when he wrote, “…the dog is also an excellent teacher for children in that he aids in their character building.” He went on to say, ” Caring for animals, which depend knowingly upon humans, pulls a child or an adult out of his selfishness and away from his own narrow cell.”

In my last post I wrote about Robbie Drescher and his Therapy Dog, Parker, an excellent example of what Judy was trying to say.  A dog, languishing in an animal shelter is selected and trained by inmates trying to make a positive impact on society.  This special dog then goes on to help, and inspire, a young man who hopes to someday be able to walk alongside  his loyal companion.

Please continue to send me your thoughts, concerns, and solutions on this topic. Pst39crd@aol.com

Welcome to my Blog…a place for humans who have a “Weekness” for Dogs…To read more, please see ABOUT.

Today, in some sections of the nation, citizens will be celebrating Kiss Your Mate Day, and Love a Teen Day, but as April showers are coming to an end, and with May flowers set to bloom, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that April is National Autism Awareness Month.  That got my brain wagging about service dogs, and the role they can play in helping young children with autism, and those with physical challenges.

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting 14-year old Robbie Drescher, at a fund-raiser held on his behalf in Brick, New Jersey.  Robbie, who is not autistic,  is in a wheelchair due to a spinal injury that occurred last December.  I was told Robbie had just acquired a service dog named Parker.  Parker, a mixed-breed, was trained to be a Service Dog by two inmates in the Virginia Correctional System, through the PenPal Program.  When I asked Robbie about Parker, his eyes lit up and he told me that, “Parker is a good dog, he stays by my side, and doesn’t bark too much.”  According to Robbie’s mom, Sharon, the two are bonding well and they have promised to keep me posted on their developing friendship.  I will be writing about those inmates, too, and the PenPal Program soon, for a Newark Pets Examiner article.

But his got me thinking, also, about how Service Dogs can assist young people with autism.  And they do.  In 2002, Priscilla Taylor, a special education teacher and dog-lover founded the Autism Service Dogs of America (ASDA), a non-profit, community-based organization headquartered in Oregon that provides uniquely trained dogs to help children with autism and their families. 

Priscilla received her training through the Assistance Dog Institute, (ADI), the only academic institute dedicated to the advanced education and research in the time-less human canine relationship.  Through their program, offered through the Bergin University of Canine Studies, trainers and educators can enroll for undergrad and graduate programs that advance, and promote the knowledge of and the use of Service and Companion dogs.

Acquiring a service dog is no easy task.  The ASDA carefully screen dogs like Golden retrievers, and Labs, and then the arduous, but rewarding task of training, and pairing begins.  Children must be at least five years old to apply for one of these dogs, and the process of readying the dog to fit in with the child and their families can take approximately one year. 

These trained dogs are permitted to go everywhere with the child, including into the classroom.  There, the dog can help reduce emotional stress often experience by a student diagnosed with autism that can often lead to outbursts, and encourages the child to have more positive social interactions with others.

I have had the experience of working with young children diagnosed with autism and it can be a long, lonely day for them, and their overworked paraprofessionals, and teachers.  Although I have never witnessed a Service Dog working with one of these students, I would love to see how it is done, firsthand.  I think, under the right conditions, a loving, and attentive dog would be appreciated not just by the children, but by the staff employed to educate these students with special needs.

Please, if you know of young people who are benefitting from the use of a Service, or Companion Dog, please feel free to share their stories with me at pst39crd@aol.

You know I love that phrase about the timeless human canine relationship. With so many budget cutbacks, and layoffs in the Educational Sector, I am afraid that these positive contributions of  man’s best friend will once again be overshadowed by economic conditions.  Unfortunately, we as a nation, are dealing with similar conditions that existed when William Judy first  launched National Dog Week back in 1928.  By honoring National Dog Week the last week in September, even in small ways, we can keep the “promise of the dog,” alive and well.

Spring is here, and people want to get out and enjoy themselves after a long, especially harsh winter.  There are so many things happening, it’s difficult to keep up!  If you are an organization dedicated to animal welfare in New Jersey, or know of someone who is, please encourage them to contact me about their events at pst39crd@aol.com.

This morning, as you might have read in my Newark Pets Examiner article, there was a Beach to Bay Run held at the Brick Beach III, to benefit the Jersey Shore Animal Center (www.Jerseyshoreanimalcenter.org).  With weather like this, over 300 runners were sure to have enjoyed some sun and exercise, and making life better for some shelter pets.

Also today, I see that there was a Bulldog Bash being held at the Second Avenue Beach in Belmar, New Jersey. All well-behaved, leashed bulldogs and there humans were welcomed. The event was held by the MidAtlantic Bulldog Rescue group.  Later this evening, Wag On Inn Rescue will hold its Melodies of Love fundraiser at the Steven Crane House Museum in Asbury Park, from 6:30-11:00. Admittance is $15.00/person,  and includes dinner, and music.  Proceeds will benefit the Wag On Inn Rescue. (908) 907-2603.

Whether it’s running on the beach, parading your favorite dog, bull, or otherwise, or eating and listening to show tunes and opera, our animals get us out of our ruts, and keep us going, allowing us to enjoy life, while doing some good in the world.  Even if you don’t, or can’t, have a pet, these events are nice ways to get out and circulate.

Note to Big Pine Bark Park ( Florida Keys) supporters who are reading this blog.  Please let me know how your plans are coming along!

Tomorrow, I will be hanging some of my art at the ArtHouse in Asbury Park (700 Emory Street) for an event that begins at 2:00.  Art will remain hanging during the week.  Admission is free and a portion of all sales will benefit various charities.  This event has been made possible by Laura Brunetti of Estrella Studio.

My apologies for not writing here in a week.  I’ve accepted a position as an Examiner (Newark Travels with Pets) at Examiner.com, and I’ve been busy learning the ropes. I learned of the position  while visiting the Dog Writers Association of America’s  (DWAA) site.  As an Examiner, I will be writing about pet-related subjects in New Jersey.  You can view the first two posts on my Facebook page.  I am listed as Lisa Begin Kruysman (no hyphen).  When an article is published, I will be sending it directly to my page. 

This Blog will continue to focus on the writing of my National Dog Week Project.  I’ve kept it on a short leash lately, trying to make progress each day.  I will also Blog about pet-related issues from other areas of the world, and include some information on the topics of art and writing.  I like writing the Examiner articles, with their tight focus and style, they are a good exercise in getting “write” to the point!

My next two Examiner pieces will cover some Fundraising events.  The Point Pleasant Animal Welfare Committee’s Spring Festival, and Babette Haggerty’s  “Bark this Way” walk for the American Cancer Society Bark for Life event (both taking place next weekend).  To sign up for that, or make a donation, visit Babette’s site at  www.haggertydog.com Babette is the daughter of the late, great Captain Arthur Haggerty, the legendary dog trainer who was also a big fan and supporter of National Dog Week.

In my “absence” I forgot to wish all of you pet lovers a happy Responsible Pet Owners Day on April 18.  Keep up the good work.

According to book marketing guru, John Kremer, yesterday was, among other things, International Moment of Laughter Day, and Go Fishing Day.  On a beautiful day like yesterday, it was easy to do both, although it is not quite fishing season here yet (too cold for me anyway).

Laughing is something I do a lot, something that has gotten me in trouble throughout my life.  At home, in school, church, elevators, at corporate meetings, I mean no harm, but paired with certain individuals, (like my sister and some close friends) it is a recipe for disaster.  Many a seating arrangement has been changed to prevent prolonged outbursts from occuring.  I used to think this was a bad thing, something that might require a stint at LA, Laughers Anonymous.  But now I see laughing as a great way to get through the times when  things just aren’t going my way.  As an artist, and a writer, constantly subject to the whims and opinions of others, laughing at my own mistakes, and occasionally the bizarre comments of others, is very therapeutic.

This ability to laugh at myself comes in handy when I do dopey things.  I recall, about seven years ago, entering my first short story in a writing contest sponsored by Calliope: A Writer’s Workshop by Mail, titled, The Rabbits Who Saved Christmas. Imagine my surprise when upon going to my PO Box, I found that not only had I received an Honorable Mention for that story, but one from the Writer’s Digest Competition for a story called, Forty Anyway.  But my excitement was briefly squelched when I saw that the word “Who” in the first story had been crossed out, replaced by “that” with an editorial comment, “Who is for humans.”  I was mortified! 

The story has a happy ending, as the Rabbit Story was published, along with two others in the course of two years. Editors Sandy, and Cynthia over at www.calliopewriters.org are two reasons why I stuck to my writing.  With their helpful insight, and editing, they gave me, a novice writer,  my first audience.  Calliope offers a writer’s workshop by mail, and on-line, creating a forum where writers of all levels “can learn about their craft and see their work in print.”  I highly recommend them. If you use google or Bing and type in my full name, I believe you can still read a short story I wrote for kids titled, I Blamed it on the Birds, that was published on their site.

Last week, my six-year old niece Mia came to stay with us (Mia turned seven yesterday) for a few days.  Mia is a kid after my own heart, crazy about dogs, and she loves to write.  She promptly filled up a Manuscript Pad I purchased for her on her arrival.  The first short story she wrote for me of course was titled, The Dog Who Ate Too Much (you know the ending of that story).  You know I had a private moment of laughter.  When I told her that the title should be The Dog That Ate Too Much, she frowned and said it didn’t sound right, and didn’t change it.  Good for her! She’s right, it really doesn’t sound right, especially if you are an animal lover.

Later that day, as we walked (Who)ooper – whoops Freudian typo- for her third walk, we came upon a neighbor of mine who told us she had just returned from Colorado where she had the pleasure of hearing Temple Grandin speak, and had the author sign her copy of Animals Make us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals. Just briefly, if you are not familiar with her work, Temple, diagnosed with autism as a toddler, went on to become a scientist and writer, ultimately improving the conditions at slaughter houses across America, advocating for the more humane handling of livestock.  Temple credits her autism for allowing her to understand the way animals of all kinds navigate their environment through the use of visual clues.  I haven’t read the book yet, but a reviewer noted that in this book, Ms. Grandin does address the care of dogs stating, “too many dogs are alone all day with no human or dog companions.”  That is something I witness in my own neighborhood daily.

Yes, animals do make us more human, in many ways, and sometimes you can’t blame those people who try to make animals more humans (although I don’t think they are the better for it).  With all the money we spend on them with toys, parties, food, etc., all they really want is us.  Even Will Judy, founder of National Dog Week confessed back in 1949 that he talked to his dogs.  Judy even believed the only thing that kept the dogs from “talking” back was their lack of “an alfabet and thumbs.” But Judy did appreciate the times when he sat and communed silently with his canines. Perhaps more people should take his lead.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of subbing for a Fifth Grade class (ah, 10-year olds in Springtime). At recess, I asked one girly why she had received five minutes off her recess time, or as I often put it, “What are you in for?”  She replied, “for laughing too much!”  I could relate, but I wisely resisted telling her that it was International Moment of Laughter Day (they really don’t need more ammunition).  A shout out to all the good work those teachers, para professionals, and the administration do over at Midstreams School in Brick, New Jersey, a place I have come to know well over  the past few years!

Additional note: Happy Birthday to my nephew Gabe up in Cambridge, NY.  Gabe turns twelve today and he is quite the writer, too.  A talented lyracist, I hear he writes some mean hip hop verses (there’s one about shopping at a thrift shop, I believe) making him the hit of his class.  Rock on pal!

William Lewis Judy ruled his Dog World Magazine Empire with a telephone, and a typewriter.  Back in the late 1920s, when he established his National Dog Week Movement, this pioneering publisher and editor-in-chief could not have visualized how the ability to communicate thoughts and ideas about the welfare of the nation’s dogs would be revolutionized in the Twenty-First Century.  Will Judy would have loved the Internet, his magazine, with its pages crammed with classified ads, dog-friendly information, testimonials, cartoons, and editorial content, was the equivalent of the World Wide Web.  One can only imagine what he could have accomplished with our modern technology.

Today, twenty-four hours a day, we have access to all kinds of information on all sorts of topics, including man’s best friend.  In fact, there are so many of these sites, I thought it would be useful to write about some of them, in a feature I’ll refer to as “Site Hounds.”   To get started, in this post I am highlighting a great site for dog-loving humans known as www.Dogasaur.com.

Launched in 2008, Dogasaur is the brainchild of Josh Abrams, inspired by his life-long passion and concern for the welfare of dogs.  According to Josh, “Dogasaur was originally meant to be like a Zagat’s for dogs and dog owners, with only the best products and businesses represented.”  Josh soon noticed, however, that his viewers really valued the interactive aspect of Dogasaur, including postings of photos and videos, wall postings, and the “back-and-forth” transactions of a feature called “Ask Dogasaur.” 

A visit to Dogasaur is like a visit to an on-line dog park filled with friendly humans and their four-legged buddies, a place where every day of the year is Valentine’s Day for dogs.  On a recent trip to Dogasaur, I enjoyed features like  “Charity Updates”  focused on fundraising being done on behalf of dogs in the United States and in other corners of the world.  On their Blog, I enjoyed a review of Jean Donaldson’s classic book The Culture Clash: A Revolutionary New Way to Understand the Relationship Between Humans and Domestic Dogs.  This book relays the timeless message that many enlightened dog owners underdstand there continues to be “a need for a good education and concern for their [a dog’s] overall well-being.”  Reading the review of this book sent me searching for my copy purchased at the urging of a dog breeder when I was “acquiring” a Portuguese water dog eight years ago.  I am guessing that Will Judy would have deemed this book as good “enuf.” (See post of January 4).

As Founder and CEO of Dogasaur, Josh has final approval over all product, marketing, and design decisions and strives to market Dogasaur as one of the fastest growing dog-centric communities on the Internet, “Serious on quality of life and socially conscious, yet fun, light-hearted, loving with lots of flavor.”  Josh also has plenty of “paws on experience” when working with canines.  A graduate of Drew University, he spent ten years working in the book publishing, sales, and media/public relations fields.  But when Josh sought a more personally fulfilling way to use his talents to help others, he pursued his longtime interest in dog training.  Working under the tutelage of legendary dog trainer Steve Diller, Josh earned a certificate from Mercy College in Westchester, New York, at the time the only professional dog training program offered by an accredited university.

Josh went on to work with Canine Companions for Independence, a national non-profit organization that trains and places service dogs with people with physical disabilities.  While affiliated with CCI, Josh trained nearly one hundred of these very special dogs, instructing participants on handling skills, and ways to integrate service dogs into their lives.  Josh also served as the CCI Participant Coordinator for the entire Northeast region of the United States, managing the applicant, candidate, and graduate program.

The logo for Dogasaur features a Harlequin Great Dane hovering over a little green dinosaur, and fittingly, large dog breeds have always inhabited this dog loving entrepeneur’s life.  His first dog was a Golden Retriever, followed by a Lab, then another Golden, a Husky mix, and a Gordon setter.  These days, a much smaller 12 lb. Silky terrier named Indigo is taking up residence in the Abram’s household.  But Josh notes that with her “Napoleane-esque” personality he still has a big dog living with him.

As Josh concludes, “I feel Dogasaur is a true community of canine connoisseurs.  As our user base builds and people begin to get to know one another on the site, they can answer (or ask) questions on the “Ask Dogasaur” page, review products or businesses; search our huge breed database; see our adoptable dogs through our Petfinder link; gather information from some of our professional bloggers; share their updates with their Facebook friends-all with the goal of making our dogs’ lives better, even if only by a little each day.” 

And speaking of days that make the lives of our dogs better, you just can’t let something as great as National Dog Week fall off the calendars of America.  This seven day salute to dogs launched by Will Judy in 1928 is now more relevant than ever.  I am willing to bet that dog-loving viewers of Dogasaur.com would love to share their plans for this National Dog Week in September, or to share ways that they, and their pooches, have honored this week in the past.  What could be better than seven full days that give us all  “paws” to think about the special ways dogs enrich our lives  in so many ways?

Become a Dogasaur fan on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dogasaur.

If you know of, or have a web-site that is all about dogs, please feel free to contact me at pst39crd@aol.com to be part of an upcoming “Site Hound” feature.

In honor of April Fools Day, I greet you with that wishful, but false headline!  Hooper, unfortunately did not win the lottery during our stay in Florida, and we can still only admire and wish for our dream house in Key West.  Not only is it April Fools Day, it is also a “Rabbit” Day.  According to an English superstition dating back to the mid-1950s, if you say “Rabbit, Rabbit,” to someone before noon the first day of a month, you, and the recipient of those words will be granted good luck for the rest of the month (of course there are different versions of this custom).

And as I had written in previous posts, Big Pine Key, when it comes to animal-life, is always full of surprises.  On my last afternoon there, I looked out the window and was surprised again by an interesting scene.  A woman on a dapple gray horse trotted down our street, with a goat the size of a Shetland pony in pursuit.  “Rich,” I called out.  “There’s a horse and a goat running down the road.”  Since it was too early for Happy Hour, he believed me, and we ventured out to get a better look.  Woman, horse, and goat turned around, heading toward us.  “Watch your back,” I warned my husband, having had run-ins with goats before.  “Do you have a cigarette, and a snack for my horse?” the woman inquired.  By this time, my animal-loving neighbor, Donna, had joined us, and disappeared into her home obligingly returning with both.  The woman, lit up, and the horse, a beatiful Arabian, chomped on a carrot, but the goat backed off, not wanting any part of us.  “He’s very shy,” the woman explained in what sounded like a french accent.   The goat stuck close by the side of its horse friend during their entire visit.  When it was time to leave, all three took off, disappearing around the bend.  I guarantee you, we won’t be seeing anything like that again, anytime soon.

The worst part about this trip is the long ride home, which we try to do in two days (although we know people who drive straight through).  We stopped in Savannah, Georgia last night, and enjoyed another meal at Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House, which is owned by chef Paula Deen’s brother.  Great food, and we actually got to meet Bubba on a previous stop, and he was very friendly, and solicitous of his customers.  Today, we are dealing with so many who are heading back up north, many returning to Canada, where, unfortunately, the snow is probably not quite over.  Fortunately for us, we are returning to a much warmer New Jersey than the one we left.

My trip to the Keys this year was especially rewarding.  I have made so many contacts with dog-lovers, and professionals from all parts of the country, and will be sharing the personal stories of those individuals involved with making the lives of dogs better, every day, and during National Dog Week.  You’ll meet obedience trainers, people who run great web-sites just for dog-lovers, those who develop unique products that make our pups healthy and happy, and much more.  And of course, I’ll be getting back to the final stage of writing my soon to be “officially” named book (well, it’s the name I would like, anyway).  My thanks to all who have responded so generously to my requests for interviews, and information.  It’s what makes this process so enjoyable, and keeps me going.

Wishing a very Happy Easter, and spring season to all.  Remember, never give chocolate to your dogs no matter how much they beg, go and fill their baskets with all-natural treats from a doggy bakery, and then take them out for a long walk to burn off all of those calories taken in at the holiday table.  Then, “relax” by the tv, and watch the Yankees-Red Sox game, which happens to be a very volatile event for some of  my family members!