8 Foods to Avoid Feeding Fido this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving can be a wonderful time for everyone in your family – including the dogs – because of the delicious goodies and aromas filling our homes. But just in case you are tempted to indulge your pet with a special “treat,” make sure you know which human foods can actually be a nightmare for our dogs.

Published this November in the La Quinta Gem:

8 Foods to Avoid Feeding Fido

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12 Days of Holiday Gifts for Your Students!

It’s hard to believe it’s already almost that time of the year again! I know we are all rushing around preparing for Thanksgiving, but the reality is that Christmas really is just around the corner. It can catch us by surprise because the week we get back from Thanksgiving break, it’s already December. And then the question always comes up: What should I do for my students this holiday season for a gift? Because we don’t want to spend a lot of money – or let me rephrase that – because we don’t have a lot of money to spend – each year, I found myself trying to find class sets of some kind of a little trinket that ultimately probably just ended up getting lost or thrown out in the trash. So finally, I came up with an idea that not only truly demonstrated how much I cared about my students, but also lasted 12 school days, didn’t cost me a lot of money, and really brought back the beauty, joy, and magic of the season. It isn’t about the gift – it’s about the thoughtfulness behind it, and I know my students felt loved and thought of every single day since I began this tradition in my classroom. I hope you enjoy this little gift from me to you! Just click the image below to get access to this video and free template now!

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Univision Featured How Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed!

I’m thrilled that Univsion came to Rio Vista Elementary School yesterday (Nov. 10th) to feature my program on the news. A huge thank you to two of the parents, Aurora and Catherine, who came out to speak about their experience with the program, as well as to teacher Teresa Jacobson and her 2nd grade class for hosting us!

And the best part? Univision is coming back again next week to cover the story of our “Doggone Awesome Reading Celebration and Adoption Ceremony” on Nov. 18th where 120 children will get to adopt and take their little stuffed dogs home to become part of their forever families. A huge thank you to Jonathan, the reporter, for coming out and for demonstrating such genuine care for children’s education.

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How Kids Can Get a “REAL” Golden Bone Dog Tag!

I’m SO excited! Loving All Animals is holding their HUGE Annual Super Pet Adoption Festival soon, and if the kids who are participating in my program come visit me at my booth, they can get their own REAL golden bone dog tag engraved with their little stuffed pup’s name on it! Watch the video below to learn the details:

I hope to see you at this wonderful event!

25 of My Favorite Halloween Dog Costumes of All Time

All right, I know – sometimes – well, most times – dogs HATE getting dressed up for Halloween. But there are some costumes that are just so cute and imaginative that it’s hard to resist dressing them up, if only for a photo op. Here are 25 of my all time favorites!

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The Incredible Surprise Gift My Tango Left Me

My TangoI know that I haven’t written in awhile, and I now realize that it’s because I’ve been so intently focused on caring for my old, sweet Tango the past six months. I have felt at a loss for what to say or how to talk about the depth of my love for her for fear of beginning to cry and not being able to stop because I have been so worried about her every second of every day. Our lives had become a ritual around her many medications. Four times each day I would kneel in front of her with a little syringe filled with her cocktail of drugs, and I would see her eyes glaze over, wanting to turn away from it but knowing she needed it. I would apologize every single time – “I’m so sorry, sweetheart -” I think she knew that I hated to give it to her almost as much as she hated needing it. But we both knew she needed it to stay alive, and we were both grateful for the precious extra six months of what I now know to be borrowed time that medicine gave us. But after nearly 14 years and battling advanced heart disease over the past two years, I finally had to make that awful decision to put my Tango to sleep last Tuesday.

My Tango 3I don’t know how many of you have ever been through something like that, but even when you know it’s coming, you are never, ever prepared. I certainly wasn’t. In hindsight, I remember having all sorts of warning signs and thoughts – “I wonder if this is the last time I am going to take Tango in to get groomed,” or more recently, wondering if I should only buy one week’s worth of dog food at a time or be more optimistic and buy an entire months’ worth (I bought the months’ worth, by the way, and now it’s still sitting in my cupboard because I haven’t quite come to terms with the fact that she won’t be needing it now.) On the day I brought my sweetheart in to see our amazing vet, Dr. Lingareddy, Tango had been coughing almost constantly for several days before. It sounded different this time, and I knew something had changed. I had sent him videos of her during what should have been periods of rest, and part of me expected him to say something along the lines of what I had heard him say every single other time I’d brought her in: “Let’s add this other medication; let’s get some x-rays; let’s treat her for this; let’s…” Part of me would be relieved every time he said that, and another part of me was always surprised. “What? We can still do more for her?” I would think, smiling and amazed by the progress of modern medicine.

My Tango 2But this time his reaction was different. This time, Dr. Lingareddy shook his head and said, “Lori, I’m so sorry, but I think it’s time. I would never say that if I thought I could save her, but we have really done all we can for her, and I’d hate to send you home and then have you both experience the worst night of your life.” I was in shock. He cried and told me heart-wrenching stories about the many times when he wanted, hoped, prayed for an extra week or an extra day with one of his pets, only to have waited one day too long, and therefore gave up the dream of a peaceful passing for his beloved companion.

I had spent the past 14 years protecting my little dog from anything scary, harmful, or dangerous. I had held her close, loved her, spoiled her, put her first in every way possible, and cared for her in every imaginable way as she aged. (Yes, she even had a stroller so we could still go for long walks – though on her last days she didn’t even want to do that). Now I knew that I had to rise to the occasion once again. I knew that I had to gather the courage to ensure that her passing would be as peaceful and loving as her life had been. I knew I had to give her the death that I would want, and I knew that I had the ability to do that. But there’s such a strange – guilt-ridden – horrible dissonance between being her constant care-giver and protector her entire life and now making the decision to end it for her. I snuggled up close to her and she put her head on my hand, resting. I told her how much I loved her, over and over again, and I told her that I would never, ever leave her. I told her how smart and how special and how loved she is and always would be, and I told her that I would always be with her. Within 3 short seconds her little heart stopped, it was so weak, and then my whole world changed.

It was a week of horrible firsts while I waited for her tiny body to be cremated and returned to me.  The first time I came back to my empty place without her to greet me with a tail wag, to see her empty bed, her toys, her untouched food and water dishes, it hurt so much and I cried so hard that I understood for the first time how people turn to whatever they can to numb the pain. It amazed me how such a little spirit had filled my entire home, and I spent hours wondering where she was and if she was ok now that I could no longer take care of her.

IMG_3549When I received the package her ashes were in, I didn’t have the courage to look at it the entire day. But when I finally unwrapped the silk bag around the wooden box, I saw that they had included a clay imprint of one of her little paws. Such a thoughtful gesture, I thought. But then what I saw next made my heart skip a beat.

On the outside of the wooden box was a little key, and beside it, a golden bone dog tag with Tango’s name on it. I hadn’t requested this, and there was no way the person who prepared this for me could have known of the significance of including a little golden bone dog tag with Tango’s name on it.

IMG_3551I don’t know if you believe in coincidences, but I know that this was no coincidence. This won’t mean anything to you if you don’t know about my program, How Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed in the Classroom, but Tango was the inspiration for this part of my life’s work. Each week during this program, the children bring back completed “BoneWork” to earn – wait for it – a “golden bone” sticker. So I’ve been thinking of how cool it would be to arrange for each child to be able to get a real “Golden Bone Dog Tag,” inscribed with their dog’s name on it, at the end of the program.

The person preparing Tango’s ashes could have chosen a pink heart, a purple bone, a silver circle to inscribe her name on – but no – they chose a golden bone.

It turns out that Tango got the very first one. She always was a bit of a diva. 🙂

I don’t know what happens when a dog dies. I want to believe in the Rainbow Bridge, and I want to believe that there is no more suffering and that we are all still connected energetically. Some people say that they sometimes feel like they “see” their pets out of the corner of their eyes; others “feel” their presence, and others have told me that their dogs have found ways to communicate with them. But I was having real difficulty understanding any of it. All I felt was a profound emptiness and loss – until I saw that golden bone dog tag. I still don’t know how to explain it, but I know now that my Tango is not only with me, but is loving and supporting me right back in every moment, in every breath.

Tango and I xxooI sure love you wherever you are, my sweet Tango. Thank you for this incredible gift of letting me know that you are still here.

 

 

 

 

 

I want to extend a profound thank you to Dr. Lingareddy at VCA Animal Hospital for the incredible care, compassion, and genuine love you always expressed for my Tango at every stage of her illness. I will never forget your graciousness and your professionalism. Thank you.

Thank you also to Above and Beyond Cremation Services for the dignity, respect, and special attention you gave to Tango, even after she was gone. 

The Top 10 Ways Dogs Help Kids Learn Kindness, Responsibility, and Safety around Animals

Many people have asked me the question: “So exactly how does your program teach children lessons in compassion, responsibility, and safety around dogs?”

Although my usual preference is to write articles and stories on my blog, I decided that perhaps it was time to create a video that showcases the top 10 lessons children learn about humane education during this program. In this video I share how each lesson is taught, highlighting engaging children’s literature that helps children to learn each concept, and fun and creative activities to reinforce each skill.

But for all of you readers out there who prefer the printed word to a video screen, I’ve also included an overview of my top 10 list below for your enjoyment. Happy viewing and reading!

 

The Top 10 Lessons Children Learn about Kindness, Responsibility, and Safety around Dogs

  1. How to meet a new dog safely.
  2. Behaviors that are ok and not ok around dogs.
  3. How to spend quality time with their pets.
  4. How to read a dog’s body language.
  5. What a shelter dog is.
  6. To think big about how they can help animals.
  7. What a service dog is.
  8. That dogs have special needs, too.
  9. How to love themselves the way their dogs do.
  10. What it means to “foster” and “adopt” a dog.

To learn more about this program and how you can implement it at your school, please visit www.howdogshelpkids.com today!

Warmly,

Dr. Lori

If Your Child Hates Reading, This Could Change Everything

When I was teaching elementary school, parents often asked me two questions:

  1. How can I get my child to read more?
  2. How can I get my child to actually enjoy reading?

My program, How Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed in the Classroom, answers both of these questions. Having taught elementary students for over two decades and completing my PhD in education, here’s what I know for sure about children:

  1. Kids just want to have fun.
  2. When they are having fun, they want to do more of whatever it is they’re doing.

Let’s break this down. What does a child mean when they say an activity is “fun?” Think of the last time your child described something this way, such as playing their favorite game. Often, when children use the word “fun,” they mean:

  1. I feel happy.
  2. I feel confident.
  3. I feel challenged, though safe enough to take risks.
  4. I can be successful and set my own pace.
  5. I have the freedom to make choices.
  6. I feel loved, secure, and connected to others.

So what does that have to do with reading, you might ask? Well, in the most recent NAEP (National Association for Educational Progress) survey, researchers found that children who read for fun read more often and enjoy much higher scores in national test results in reading. It all begins with fun. When we enjoy doing something—whether it be participating in a particular sport or hobby—we find ways to fit it into our lives, and we find ways to practice it and therefore become better at it. It’s really no different with reading. The problem is that too often at school, we have made reading practice feel more like “it’s time to take your medicine” rather than “it’s time to play video games.” When designing my program, I asked myself: How can I help children to enjoy reading, and therefore choose to read more often—to read for FUN—especially when they are surrounded by high-stimulus, exciting options like video games and movies? kids0364-13-13 I created a learning system that allows children to have fun in the way children understand it: feeling happy and confident, being challenged but safe enough to take risks, learning at their instructional reading level while reading text of their choice, all the while feeling loved and in connection with others. How Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed in the Classroom helps the struggling reader re-define their experience of reading. As one parent whose son participated in my program this fall said to me: “Reading with Diego used to feel like pulling teeth. He hated it and saw it as work, something he couldn’t do well and didn’t have any interest in. But now, he brings books to read to me, and has recently asked me to help him read chapter books! It’s all because he sees that he can do it now and that reading can be fun.” – Catherine, Parent Participant 110 children who participated in this program answered survey questions about their experience:

IMG_509698% of the students said that reading with their stuffed animal or pet made reading more fun for them.

94% of the children said that reading with their stuffed dog at school made them feel happier and more confident about reading.

99% of the children said that they enjoyed participating in this program.

IMG_501095% said that the program helped them become a better reader and that reading is easier now for.

87% said that they enjoyed doing the weekly BoneWork (homework) assignments. (When was the last time your child said they enjoyed doing homework in a subject area they had previously struggled with?)

98% said that they think kids in other schools should do this program.

In the next five articles, I will share the five core elements of the program that not only made reading fun, but helped all the children make great gains in their reading progress. In the meantime, click here to read more about what teachers are saying about this program! With joy, Dr. Lori “The ability to read is one of the skills most highly correlated with success in life—yet by first grade, many children already lag behind. Thankfully, Dr. Lori Friesen has discovered an innovative way to get kids interested and excited about reading at the second-grade level, demonstrating the potential to lift our educational system to a whole new level. Improving reading skills and teaching kids how to love and care for animals—Dr. Lori, you’re brilliant!”

—Jennifer Read Hawthorne, coauthor, Chicken Soup for the Mother’s Soul 

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