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In March, it was announced that National Dog Week 2016 had a new theme and logo! Today, on this blog launched to promote NDW, we present “Readers Unleashed: Promoting Literacy with K-9s.” We hope you love its logo, too, and will share with those groups and organizations that will help to promote this initiative.

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This logo was inspired by an original drawing attributed to Will Judy

 

As many are curious about these programs, we invited our friend Bocker Labradoodle to share his experience through a dog’s-eye-view. For more about “Reading to the Dogs” and National Dog Week, please visit the Today Show Parenting Team Site: http://community.today.com/parentingteam/post/national-dog-week-2016-will-have-kids-pawsing-to-read

Can any dog wander into the library and be read to by a student? If not, what special training does a dog need to be part of reading programs in libraries and schools? No, a dog just can’t walk into a library or a school. A dog has to be certified with a therapy dog group in order to take part in reading programs whether they are in a library or a school.  It’s not so much training, but the dog must pass a certification test with a therapy group in order to act as a therapy dog.  Dogs need to be calm, gentle, not easily frightened by noises or sudden movements.  There are certain rules to be followed by both dog and handlers.  Of course, there is the matter of insurance and the therapy dog organization holds insurance for their dogs who visit certain facilities.

How long have you been listening to student readers? I passed my therapy dog certification test when I was about three years old. The first read program in which I participated was called Tail Wagging Tutors, in 2008.

How do you get your reading “jobs”? The therapy group that I have been certified with had a Tail Wagging Tutors group. A local elementary school made it part of the school day for these certified dogs to come and be read to once a week for an hour. The young people that wanted to take part were excused from their regular class for that hour.  The classes were held in the school library.

Are some students afraid of you and your reading dog friends? If so, how do you help them overcome their fear? In therapy visits to schools, I have come across children who have been afraid of dogs for one reason or another. We have tried on occasion for the teacher to approach me with the child and almost always by the end of the session, the child is petting me and feeling like they made a huge step forward. It’s so rewarding for the child, the teacher, and of course me.

What happens if a student is allergic to dogs? There is no such thing as a purely hypo-allergenic dog, although some dogs have less dander. I’m sure it would be at the discretion of the family if a child has allergies.

Do you see children improve their reading after a few visits with them? It’s very easy to spot children who improve with their reading after a short time. We pups are non-judgmental and children are at ease reading to us, so they are more apt to enjoy reading and think of it as fun.  By reading more, they obviously become better readers. Studies have been done and show how reading scores increase.

Do you have a special story or moment you can share about your work? Yes, the children would usually bring their own books to read and on one occasion one of the boys just came in with a notebook. We asked where his books were and he said someone at home had gotten ill and he had to go stay with a grandparent at night and he didn’t have his books.  He said because he didn’t have the books he usually reads, he had written a story for me. It was a story about how much I meant to him and how much he loved reading with me.  Very special to say the least.

How can schools and libraries find certified dogs to visit them? Therapy groups usually have lists of schools and libraries in their area that wish to take part in reading programs.   Otherwise, schools/libraries can find out what Therapy groups work in their area and contact them.  The elementary school I went to had an actual approved program that took part once a week during school hours in the school’s library.  That was terrific.

What are your favorite books? I love anything that is read to me. So much fun to find out the different interests of each child I read with. So I get a great mix…stories about friends, animal stories, superheroes, science, sports.

Have you ever written any books of your own? Yes. My book is Chasing Bocker’s Tale.  It’s about my early life and how I got involved in so many different things and found so many ways to help others.  I have been invited to Libraries so children can read my book.  It’s so much fun and I usually give them copies, pawtographed, of course, to take home.

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We thank Bocker and his mom, Marie, for taking time to share with us!

If you wish to share your “Reading to the Dogs” story with us, please comment or send an e-mail to pst39crd@aol.com.

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Newtown, CT student Glenn and Bocker share a special bond

Newtown, CT student Glenn and Bocker share a special bond

“Dogs are doctors and psychiatrists as well as teachers” Will Judy, 1949

As of today, it is reported that in Ocean County, where I reside, 107 young people have died of drug overdoses this year. That is a staggering figure.I know that a complex mix of factors have brought about this tragic loss of life, but I do sometimes wonder if the stressful circumstances experienced by many families here over the past year have not somehow played a part in this sorrowful trend in an effort to escape some harsh realities. That would be a matter for a mental health expert, I suppose.

I watched news coverage of drug-sniffing dogs deployed in the halls of a local Ocean County school the other night. The hope was that this would serve as a detriment for drug use, at least on school grounds. These highly trained dogs have an amazingly accurate success rate at drug detection.

Watching, I also recalled how dogs were used here after Hurricane Sandy, for the purpose of Search and Rescue, once again serving us in dark times.

As the nation recalls the terrible tragedy of Newtown, Connecticut, we find a dog connection, too. Dogs like Bocker-the-Labradoodle, have become an important part of healing and recovery for the residents of this traumatized community.

This got me to thinking. Why do we often only “bring in the dogs” after things have gone so wrong. In the cases of Ocean County and Newtown, am I naïve to think that perhaps if the care of dogs, and other pets, were part of an educational and therapeutic curriculum, perhaps there might be a decrease in mental illness, isolation, and subsequent drug use? I know there is no sure way to solve all these problems, but I think that many places, including schools, might “turn to the dogs” as they search for ways to detect and treat many who need help, but slip through the cracks, and in doing so, keeps us in the dark ages.

The following is post written by Marie Shelto, a great supporter and friend of National Dog Week. She and her lovely dog, Bocker, have always been there to lend a paw, in good times and bad. We need more of them in this world.

Thank you, Marie, and Bocker.

There has always been something very special about Bocker. Even as a very young pup, Bocker the Labradoodle pondered on where his life would lead, what was his purpose in life. Whether it was his human eyes, head tilt or calm demeanor, he was packaged with love and with the ability to make people smile. A friend wrote about him saying, “Bocker never gets his curls in a knot.” Children always comment on how big he is, but I think because he is tall, he can look the children in the eye and a certain bond is created. Bocker is very huggable and he is a great kisser. All of these attributes make him the perfect candidate for therapy work. It just seems like it is his nature and it came built in.
Young or old, whomever Bocker visits, he is able to make a lasting impression and surely brings lots of smiles. Bocker can sense if the person he is visiting wants big loving kisses or would rather he just stand next to them and provide support. He has worked as a “Tail Waggin Tutor” helping children improve their reading skills and actually help them think of reading as fun. He is invited to schools where he visits classrooms and is most happy to pose for photos and give his famous “Bocker head tilt” when smiling for the camera.
Through tragedy great friendships are born and so was the case when Bocker was asked to visit Newtown, CT after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. He was invited to the C. H. Booth Library in Newtown to have children sit with him and read their stories as well as his book, “Chasing Bocker’s Tale”. What a wonderful day. Bocker’s book is his own tale of his amazing journey and how he has touched the lives of so many throughout the world. It has now been made into a DVD for younger children and had its debut in Newtown.
After Bocker’s initial visit to Newtown, he has been invited to almost every event that goes on in the town and has developed many lasting friendships. He makes everyone smile and spreads lots of love. Now when he walks down the street, he is sure to hear someone say “That’s Bocker.” Even The Toy Tree store in Sandy Hook has a poster of Bocker, as well as selling his plush toy, book and DVD. A very lucky doodle for sure. Bocker no doubt makes a difference and that makes me very proud.
Bocker is always ready to lend a helping paw. He is very much an advocate and activist for animal rights, being the SpokesDog for NYS Animal Advocacy Day. He is also always on hand at fundraising events for shelters and rescue organizations. Yes, he has done movies, appeared on tv and in fashion ads and has friends all over the world, but his most important work is with children and in helping those less fortunate than he. I am very lucky to follow in his “paw” steps. He is definitely leading me down the right path.
http://www.bocker.tv
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@bocker on Twitter
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Working Dogs at rest Working Dogs at rest

Happy Labor Day. This holiday, with origins dating back to 1882, was initially, “dedicated to the social and economic achievements of the American Worker.” Today, with so much economic unrest, and the rapid development of technology, many of us feel fortunate just to have a place at which to labor. However, in many of these cases, most are doing much more work, for far less pay, and dealing with conditions that prey on the fact that there are too many workers vying for too few jobs.

I used to work full-time under some of the best working conditions imaginable. But upon turning 30, I realized that corporate life was not my calling. I became a full-time fine artist instead, and during the good years made a decent living. When times got a little “ruff” I became a substitute teacher to fill in the gaps. I loved working with the kids, and as it turned out, during this time I became inspired to write. This summer, I said farewell to the classroom and now work part-time as the manager of a church as a way to create more structure in my life to allow more time for writing.

My husband is a proud member of the ALA (Amalgamated Lithographers of America) Union. When his company moved their operations to other locales, he chose to “retire” early. Coincidentally, his last full-time job in his field was spent at a company that published Pet Care and Dog Breed books, although at that time, I had not started writing about dogs. Rich, who served our nation as a Navy Corpsman, has happily found labor as a house painter, maintenance manager and now as a Bar Captain at our local American Legion post.

I write all this because life is uncertain. We make choices, but often, choices are made for us. We must be open to change and ready to adjust. At this rate, neither of us will probably ever really retire, but that is okay with us. Work keeps us mentally and physically active, and there is always some good experience to be derived from each “job stop,” along the way.

Will Judy, the founder of National Dog Week, truly understood this. As a youth, he was trained as a minister and was the school teacher for his small rural community in Western Pennsylvania. But he had a larger vision and a need to get out in the world. His restless and inquisitive nature lead him far from home. He served his nation during WWI, became a lawyer, and when he had the opportunity, he purchased Dog World Magazine and served as its publisher for several decades.

Long before the concept was widely-embraced, Judy saw the value of the dog in the workplace. He wrote about their use in military and police work and their value as therapy dogs in the treatment of patients in VA hospitals. He knew that dogs labored in a union powered by loyalty, love and devotion to their humans no matter what the circumstances.

I thank you to all of you who have supported me during the writing of Will Judy’s story. I am now writing my 200 word “marketing description” for its publisher and bandying about titles. This has truly been a labor of love (i.e. no advance), but I hope that someday a copy of this book will be found on the library shelves of municipalities and schools across the nation. Judy was a complex and articulate man. A man of his times, yet one who foresaw how important dogs would become to the nation’s huge population of dog owners, and wanted to ensure all who “owned” them would do so responsibly.

I am now fortunate to be working on my next true-life story and will share that soon. I love writing about little-known people and obscure histories, it is so rewarding to see all of them, “have their day,” and receive credit for their labors. I hope their stories inspire others to explore the path not so clearly marked.

May all of you find a way to make your labor your love, and your love, your labor.

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Please join us in welcoming award-winning author and advocate for dogs with IVDD (disc disease) and dogs in wheelchairs, Barbara Techel. Here Barbara shares her poignant journey that lead to what she calls her, “authentic self,” with the help of a little dog named Frankie. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Barbara’s new book, Through Frankie’s Eyes: One woman’s journey to her authentic self, and the dog on wheels who led the way.

Although companion animals are at the core of this story, you don’t necessarily have to be an animal lover to appreciate the book’s message. However, you will most likely come to love and value them after reading Barbara’s story. Barbara is currently enjoying a walk in the “blog park,” to promote Through Frankie’s Eyes and answered some questions for the National Dog Week Blog. Please scroll down to find a list of Barbara’s books and Links.

This year’s theme for National Dog Week is K-9s and Kids: Celebrating the Bond between Youth and Dogs. As you have written on this topic, can you share any experiences you have had that exemplify this theme? Kids and dogs are just such a beautiful combination! And yes, I can speak to this having had done 400 school and library appearances with Frankie, my little dachshund who was in a dog wheelchair. While all dogs have wonderful lessons to offer kids in so many ways, the fact Frankie was in a wheelchair added a special facet to it.

One story that I’ve told oodles of times and which is also in my new adult nonfiction book Through Frankie’s Eyes is about a little boy named Jackson who has a form of Cerebral Palsy. His mom had happened upon my children’s book Frankie the Walk ‘N Roll Dog and bought it hoping it would help her then three-year-old son.

He wore braces on his legs during the day, but had recently gotten a night brace and was having a hard time accepting wearing it. She wrote me to tell me that after reading Frankie’s book to him, he took to understanding that his brace would help him, like Frankie’s wheelchair helped her. From that moment on he began calling his brace, his “Frankie brace.”

We were able to meet Jackson a few weeks later as I happened to be traveling with Frankie to the state of Illinois where he and his family live. To this day he still talks about Frankie. They have a very special bond.

Visiting schools with Frankie was always so special too. Kids loved seeing that a dog can be happy in a wheelchair. They accepted her as she was. Frankie taught many kids to be positive, be brave, and to be happy no matter what their obstacles. I have a huge box of notes and pictures that children have sent me over the years telling me how much they love Frankie and what they learned from her.

I’m hoping my new little love dog on wheels, Joie, will follow in Frankie’s paw prints and tire tracks and enjoy doing some school visits to carry on Frankie’s legacy of helping kids be positive despite challenges they face. We are scheduled to present at a school on May 10th so this will be the big test!

Tell us a little about National Walk and Roll Dog Day, which occurs the first day of National Dog Week this Year! I love that National Dog Week begins on the day of National Walk ‘N Roll Dog Day (NWNRDD)! It does not get any better than that, now does it?

NWNRDD honors and celebrates dogs in wheelchairs who teach us to embrace each day with love, hope, and joy. I founded it in August 2012. I came up with the idea in April 2012, as I knew Frankie and I were in transition. She was getting older and beginning to slow down. I set a date to fully retire her from her work in June 2012. For six months prior she was semi-retired and doing limited appearances. But I wanted to be able to carry on her mission that dogs in wheelchairs can live a long, happy, quality life when the day came she would no longer be here.

At the time I was taking a course on building my author platform. I loved the class because it was all about being authentic and leaving a legacy. I was struggling through the course because I knew my work with Frankie, as I knew it, was ending. It was a hard place for me to be because I truly enjoyed everything we were able to accomplish and do together. During one of the sessions the idea of this day came to me. It helped ease my mind.

Though I had planned to begin the day while she was still living, that was not meant to be, as she passed away one week after I retired her. When her fans heard of her passing I had an outpouring of love and support–so many wanted to honor her and her work. So I first established the Frankie Wheelchair Fund. This fund helps dogs who need wheelchairs that are either from a family that is in financial stress or dogs in rescue. To date the fund has helped fourteen small dogs get a wheelchair.

The Frankie Wheelchair Fund and NWNRDD were a natural fit, so I officially announced NWNRDD in August of 2012. The day is celebrated every September 22. Our first celebration last year had LoveyLoaves Special Needs Animal Sanctuary in Florida and a Veterinary clinic in Puerto Rico embracing the day and celebrating in their own locations with special events.

Can you share some of the events that have celebrated this day or plans for this September? Our first year in bringing awareness to NWNRDD and the Frankie Wheelchair Fund, I had special t-shirts created that I sold through our website so people could wear them in honor and help spread the word on September 22… as well as all year long when they wear their special NWNRDD t-shirts! I also ran a photo contest and had people enter their dogs who were either in a dog wheelchair, or supported NWNRDD. Each dog had to pose with a special sign I had made and they could print from their computer. A winner was chosen at random, as it was too hard to pick just one cute photo! A prize was given to the winner donated by LoveyLoaves and myself. You can see everyone who entered on our special Pinterest board.

This year I’m still in the thinking stage and giving thought to ideas in which we can celebrate the day. But I do welcome any veterinarian clinic, rescue, dog organization, etc. to jump on board and help spread the word in their own unique way on September 22, which was my hope when I established this special day. Anyone interested can follow along on our Facebook page for updates, as well as some adorable and fun dogs in wheelchair photos that I love to share. And if you have a dog in a wheelchair, by all means, please post on our wall as we would love to see them!

Joyfully,
Barbara Techel
My New Book Is Here! Through Frankie’s Eyes: Sign up for my newsletter and receive my ebook for free: For the Love of Animals, A Collection of Short Stories

Become a fan on Facebook of National Walk ‘N Roll Dog Day & help us honor and celebrate all dogs in wheelchairs and the lessons of love, hope and joy they teach us.

Adult nonfiction
Through Frankie’s Eyes: One woman’s journey to her authentic self, and the dog on wheels who led the way

A portion of all my book sales goes to the Frankie Wheelchair Fund.

Children’s nonfiction
Frankie the Walk ‘N Roll Dog
Frankie the Walk ‘N Roll Therapy Dog Visits Libby’s House
Frankie the Walk ‘N Roll Dog Coloring and Paper Doll Activity Book

http://www.joyfulpaws.com
http://www.nationalwalknrolldogday.com
http://www.facebook.com/joyfulpaws
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https://twitter.com/walknrolldogday

In the next posts, meet Styles, a rescued pit-mix, the newest four-legged member of our family and Denver-based author, Tracy Aiello as she travels the nation talking about some Miracle Dogs of Portugal, plus a holiday round-up of dog-inspired gifts and books…

“Try to be the god on earth, the all-powerful and all-mighty your dog thinks you are.  Never let him learn his mistake.”  Captain Will Judy, 1949

Facebook is a great way to find out how fellow dog-lovers in all corners of the nation tap into the pawsitive powers of man’s best friend in so many ways. When I saw a post about Anat Hayon Cunha’s personal journey, I wanted to share it with all those who love to read about the healing powers of our canines. As we give thanks this Thursday, remember to be thankful for all the ways our pets give us their unconditional love every day. Each day in the United States, countless numbers of dogs are destroyed in shelters. This is such a silent tragedy, a sad waste of life, and a loss of an undervalued natural resource for teaching and healing.

Here, Anat tells about her very special dog named Mika, testament to the potential of the paw….

Welcome Anat!  Please tell us about events in your life, and how  you “went to the dogs.”I was born in Jerusalem, Israel and immigrated to the United States with my parents at age five. As a child I had dreams of becoming a veterinarian but quickly realized that I was way too sensitive to deal with animals that were hurting, so I did the next best thing and became a Paramedic with Life Flight New England and a Respiratory Therapist for 20-plus years. I have always been a caregiver and can’t recall not having a pet or two throughout my entire life. I was the kid that brought home hurt squirrels, birds and anything else I could rescue. My mother is the biggest animal lover I have ever known and definitely fostered this caring spirit in me.

Ultimately, however, I found dealing with human patients far more palatable than animal patients. Most people don’t quite understand when I tell them this but I guess the fact that animals can’t speak for themselves and must rely on their human counterpart 1000% for their care and well-being was just more than I could handle.

Please talk about the Portuguese water dogs in your life. We got our first PWD in 1990 due in part that my husband, Michael and our three children, Max, Madison and Mason, are highly allergic to animals and the fact that my husband is Portuguese made it a perfect fit! From there, a life time love affair with the breed quickly developed.

My next Portie came at a very difficult time in my life. I had been diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease for which there is no cure. It quickly robbed me from being a first class athlete, mother of three, wife and the career I loved. It crippled me for over five years.  Now, being on the other side of medical treatment, I REALLY understand why it’s called PRACTICING medicine! I underwent many treatments and surgeries to wrangle the disease and in doing so I was forced to spend a lot of time alone. Of course I have a wonderful husband and kids and even extended family and friends, but when you are severely chronically ill it takes its toll on everyone. My kids still had to go to school and my husband had to work more than ever.

When I found this precious Portuguese water dog puppy for my husband I thought this would be great for him and the kids, but what happened next was truly just miraculous. This puppy would stay at my bedside constantly, not wanting anything but to be with me. Slowly, she started to “rehabilitate” me if you will. I was in constant pain and very fatigued from the treatments but she really forced me to keep moving and Pico became my best friend.

Tragically at only six-months old, Pico was fatally struck by car in front of my house which my entire family (except for me) witnessed, as I was too sick to be out. It was a horrible accident that rocked me to the core.  My husband and children were so moved by the extraordinary relationship I had with Pico and how much she was doing for me both physically and mentally that they set out to find another PWD that would ultimately become my Service Dog. That dog is Mika! Truthfully I didn’t want another dog ever again; at the time the loss was so devastating to me and I didn’t think another dog would ever be able to do what Pico did….. I was wrong. 

Mika, which my youngest son Mason named, means gift from God in Hebrew and that she truly is! Mika slowly found her way directly into my heart and much to my surprise did exactly what Pico had done.  I now believe that this breed is extremely keen in sensing, or perhaps even smelling illness and they have a hugely sensitive and loving spirit. My husband helped me train and reach the appropriate bench marks needed to put a Service Dog Title on her and in doing so I began to remit. I have been in remission now for over two years and I believe in my heart and soul that it is because of Mika.

In the process of training Mika, I decided to go ahead and get a Therapy Dog Title through Delta Pet Partners, because I already knew she was way too special to keep all to myself, and if I could help another person through Mika, that was a way I could give back.  We started out by going to nursing homes and assisted living facilities, but my real desire was to work with children.

How did Mika become a “teacher” in your local school system?When I was training Mika for service I had to take her everywhere with me; doctor visits, shopping, restaurants even hospital stays and the reaction from the public at large was always a big smile and “oh can I pat your dog?” But no reaction was more magical than that of the children. With their eyes so large and smiles so big, it just helped to heal me in a way I had never intended or expected. 

When I began to have more good days than bad, I contacted my local school volunteer director and we hatched a plan to have Mika visit all of the community’s lower schools. Sometimes we would visit special needs classes where the students took turns reading to Mika and sometimes we would work one on one with an autistic child where Mika would just lay quietly while the child brushed her long, soft beautiful hair.

Most recently we were invited by the Fifth Grade Art Director to come in and pose for an art project. Together we collaborated and hatched a contest for the best rendition of a PWD. The winner will have their rendition put on a Tee-shirt which we will sell and share the proceeds between the school art department, Humane Society and the Portuguese Water Dog Foundation.

Mika and offspring, "88," pose it up for some young artists

How do the students react to a dog in the class room?Whenever I go to a new class, I start by talking to them about this breed; what they were bred for, why Mika has a funny Lion’s cut and since she speaks on command they get a real kick when they think she is talking to them. I think one of the things they all love the most is that Mika knows how to open and close doors on command.  And their expressions….. well, they are priceless!  It’s really hard to put into words how the children react.  Most are so very excited and want to share their own dog stories, some are afraid, and with them I really take the time to help them feel safe to explore a dog that I trust with my life. One of the most important things I do is teach children about dogs in general. I explain that not all dogs are friendly like Mika and to never approach a strange dog and to ask a handler if they may pet a dog and then how to do that properly.  I also take the time to explain about how special Service Dogs are.

Was your schools system open about the idea of having Mika in the classroom?Living in Rhode Island where there is a strong Portuguese community, and having a sitting President with a Portie, definitely opened the door for me to approach the school, however Mika sealed the deal when they met her. Now she is somewhat of a regular and a bit of a celebrity in the schools and the community.  I see kids all the time whether it’s at the market or the pharmacy and they very nonchalantly walk by and say “Hi Meek” and keep walking because she has her red vest on which means she’s working and it’s not social time. I feel like I’m really doing my part in educating our future pet owners. I wish every school, Nursing Home, and any organization where there are people of all ages who could benefit from the power of pet therapy would embrace having a wonderfully trained animal visit their facility! 

Some artwork inspired by a pair of picture-perfect Porties!

Just as an added footnote: Mika (aka CH. Wayfarer CnSand Pure Karma RN, CGC, TDI) is not just a working dog she is a beauty, just recently crowned a Champion and soon to be a Grand Champion!

Thank you Anat.  I wish you, Mika, your family, and all who have been following a long, a very Happy Thanksgiving. To learn more about Anat and her Portuguese water dogs please go to www.karmapwds.com.

Hooper

"Is it dog week yet?"

"Is it dog week yet?"

Michelle Mongelli and Wheezey

Pike, at Geiger Key

Hooper in the Keys

Hooper in the Keys

“Two Culprits” by Steven Hall

Logan & Koda

DJ

DJ Goes to Westminster

Zac and Cooper

"Look daddy, I can fly!"

“Hooper” – Best in Snow

Pita in Matt’s Garden

Hooper with cousin Roxy, Summer 2009

Me and my “Hoop”