A Note To Parents: We make every effort for Roxanne's blog to be a SAFE site for children. Whenever possible, activities are in pdf format or link to safe sites for children. Please feel free to use the information in these posts for homeschool studies! All rights reserved by author and nature photographer, Virginia Parker Staat.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

That Feels SO GOOD!

Have you ever rubbed your pet's back?  It feels SO GOOD!

When you rub your pet's muscles in a special way, it is called massage.  When you massage your pet, it helps them to feel better.  If your pet is sick, a massage can help your pet to get better more quickly.  Massage helps improve blood flow in your pet's body.  It can help your older pet with stiff joints and soreness.

Every few days, Mom gives me a massage.  She rubs my shoulder muscles.  She rubs my hips.  She rubs the muscles in my back legs.

Theses massages help me a lot.  I feel better now.  I can even walk further.

Massage can help your pet if he is scared.  It can help your pet warm up for exercise.  It can help your pet feel more loved.

Do you massage your pet?  If you would like to learn how, here are two great sites that show you how to massage your pet at home:

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Getting Stronger

Roxanne's swimming exercises
In my last post, I told you how weak I was from my sickness.  My vet told us that I needed special exercises to make me stronger.  These exercises are called rehabilitation therapy.

Because my back leg muscles were so weak, the doctors wanted me to swim.  So Mom and Dad and I went on vacation and found lots of lakes.  I had fun, but it was hard work.  In the beginning, I could only swim for a few minutes.  After a few weeks, I could swim a lot longer.

Mom and Dad felt that I was ready for more.  So we began hiking.  At first, we just hiked a little bit.  Then, we hiked a little further.  By the end of our trip, I could hike nearly two miles!  I can't walk that far every day, and I am a lot slower than I use to be.  The good news is that I feel so much stronger than before our vacation.

Roxanne's first hike on her new exercise program
It was hard work.  The exercises sure made me tired, but I kept trying.  It took nearly two months of exercising every day, and the best part is that it was fun!

Resting after a swim
You don't need to go on vacation to help your dog get stronger.  Many of the exercises that I did can be done at home.  In fact, before we started our trip, Mom and I did a lot of these exercises together in our living room.  The one thing that you do need to remember is this... your dog needs to keep exercising every day to stay strong.

If your pet has been sick and you would like to help your dog to get stronger, ask your vet if exercises will help.  If so, just click on these great websites to get you and your pet started:
Here are some short movies of exercises for your dog:

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Why Can't I Walk Very Far Anymore?

Roxanne at Galveston Beach
I have had a VERY interesting summer.  Last year I hiked seven miles with Mom and Dad.  By Christmas, I could hardly walk a mile.  By springtime, I could hardly walk a football field (100 yards).

We went to the beach.  It is one of my favorite places in the whole world.  But I was so weak that the waves knocked me over.  Mom and Dad were plenty worried.  My vet was worried, too.  He tested me for all kinds of diseases.  He couldn't find anything wrong with me.

My world kept getting smaller and smaller.  Nothing seemed to be fun any more.  I was sad.

Mom, Dad, and my vet decided that we needed more help.  They decided that I needed to go to to Texas A&M University.

Texas A&M has one of the world's best veterinary colleges.  They work with other veterinarians all over the world.  We hoped that they would be able to tell me why I can't walk very far anymore.

The vets at Texas A&M were wonderful.  They petted me and were very kind.  They took good care of me.  They wanted to see how I walk.  They wanted to check my nerves.  They wanted to check my blood and my bones.

Unfortunately, they had to shave a lot of my fur in the process.  They shaved rings above two of my feet to check my nerves.  They shaved the top of my head to check my spine.  They shaved my belly to check my insides.  I look really funny now!!!  (Mom told me that the hair will all grow back.)

After all the tests, the doctors said that I am very healthy... except that I have a nerve problem.  It is called peripheral neuropathy.  Those are very big words.  They mean that the nerves in my back legs are weak.  The doctors don't know why I have it, and there is no cure... BUT the doctors said that I can get stronger.  They said that the best way to make me stronger is to take me swimming.  I was very happy.  I'm a water dog... swimming is what I love to do best!

There is a place in our town that has underwater treadmills for dogs.  The treatments were VERY expensive.  Mom and Dad decided that rather than spend money on treatments that we would go on vacation instead.  They planned to go to as many lakes as they could find so that I could swim.  It sounded like a great idea to me!

We are back from our trip now.  I can walk almost two miles... not every day, but I am so much happier than I was before our trip.

How did we do it?  In the next several posts, I'll tell you how I got stronger.  Maybe it will help your dog get stronger, too!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Skunk Alley

Our neighborhood has been called skunk alley.  Years ago, before any of our houses were built, skunks lived here.  They still do!

We have seen many skunks over the years.  One year, we had a mother skunk and her five babies living under our deck.  This year we seem to have more skunks than usual.  We have seen a mother and her baby, two young skunks traveling together, and two single skunks.  We found the big guy in the photo above eating leftover bird seed in our yard last night.

Skunks are incredible creatures.  They are known for their smelly defense system.  When a skunk is afraid, he will stomp his feet and try to scare you.  If that doesn't work, he will turn around, raise his tail, and spray a foul, horrible musk at you.

I know.  When I was young, I was sprayed twice in ten days.  It was horrible!!!  I couldn't stand the smell.  I raked and raked my face in the dirt, but it didn't help.  Mom had to give me a special bath.  I learned my lesson well and have never gone near a skunk again!

Skunks are nocturnal (they like to come out at night).  They have beautiful coats of black fur with white stripes.  Mother skunks normally have four to seven kits (babies) born in the early spring.

The only problem with skunks (besides their spray... which is REALLY smelly) is that skunks can have rabies.  Rabies is a terrible disease and very contagious.  A rabid skunk is dangerous because if it bites a human or dog, we can catch rabies from them.  If you see a skunk out during the day.  If you see a skunk that looks like he is drunk.  If you see a skunk who doesn't look healthy, then the skunk may have rabies.  You should call your animal control center for help.

While many people don't like skunks, we sure do.  They dig in our yard and eat the grubs and cutworms.  They eat small rodents and snakes.  They are also very smart.  The skunks in our neighborhood know when our porch light comes on that I will come outside.  They hide under our deck until I am ready to go inside.

Why do we have so many skunks in our neighborhood?  Skunks lived in our woods long before people lived here.  Many people in our neighborhood also feed birds, outdoor cats, and other wildlife.  Of course, the skunks enjoy eating birdseed, corn, and cat food, too.  If you don't want skunks around, you must not put the kinds of foods they eat around your yard.

If you would like to learn more about skunks, just click on one of these sites:

Here is a skunk coloring page for you:

  • http://museum2.utep.edu/educate/learninglinks/stripedskunkcolor.htm

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Prickly Porcupine

We found a new, prickly friend in Colorado.  He is a rodent called a porcupine.  Porcupines get a lot of respect.  They can hurt!

Porcupines are covered in over 30,00 sharp quills.  The longest quills are on their tails and rear.  When a porcupine feels danger, he swishes his tail and tenses up his body.  The quills become loose.  If the porcupine's enemy comes too close, the quills stick into his skin.

These quills hurt.  They are sharper than a needle and barbed at the end.  When the quills stick into skin, the barbs make the quills hard to remove.  I have seen photos of dogs covered in porcupine quills.  Ouch!!!

Porcupines are about the size of a beaver.  They like to live in the forest.  They are very peaceful animals and will run away if they can.  Just don't get too close if you see one!

For more information on porcupines, just click on one of these sites:

Saturday, April 13, 2013

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Our new container garden has two tomato and one sweet pepper plant in it.
We planted a garden!  As you can see by the photo, it is a very small garden.  It has two tomato plants and a sweet pepper plant in it.  Yesterday, Mom planted some lettuce seeds in between the three larger plants.  When everything grows, we can make a salad!

One of our tomato plants already has baby tomatoes growing!
Our garden is called a container garden.  The blue bag is a special bag made just for gardens.  But you can plant a garden in all sorts of things.  You can plant your garden in a flower pot or a bucket.  You can even plant your garden in an old boot or wagon.

Plants need three things to grow:  dirt, sunshine, and water.  Before you plant your garden, you need to find a place that gets plenty of sunshine.  Most plants need about six hours of sunshine every day.

Where do you have sunshine at your home?  You can grow a container garden on your patio.  You can grow a garden on your porch or balcony.  We have friends who grow a tiny garden on their kitchen windowsill!

If you would like to start a garden, here are some wonderful gardening guides:  
You can also check out some great books about gardening at your library:

  • Green Thumbs: A Kid’s Activity Guide to Indoor and Outdoor Gardening, by Laurie Carlson 
  • Grow Your Own Pizza, by Constance Hardesty 
  • Roots, Shoots, Buckets, and Boots, by Sharon Lovejoy 1999 Workman Publishers
  • The Kids Can Press: Jumbo Book of Gardening, by Karyn Morris 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Pollen Alert!

The pollen is so thick that you can write your name in it!
Spring is here in Texas!  We are surrounded by beautiful flowers.  The trees are sporting new leaves.  It is beautiful!

As much as we love springtime, there is one problem.  Dad is coughing.  Mom is sneezing.  My eyes are watering.  What causes these symptoms?  Pollen!!!

Pollen looks like a powder.  Pollen is very important in the plant world.  It helps plants make more plants.  Pollen must move from one plant to another.  Sometimes the wind helps.  Most of the time special plant helpers move the pollen around.  These helpers are called pollinators.  Pollinators can be insects like bees or mammals like bats.  For some great information on pollinators, click here:  ftp://ftp-fc.sc.egov.usda.gov/MT/www/about/PollinatorActivityBook.pdf  

Pollen may be great for the plant world.  Unfortunately, it is not so good for some people.  Some people are allergic to pollen.  When your body doesn't like something, it has a reaction.  This reaction is called an allergy.  A person who is allergic to pollen begins to sneeze.  Then their eyes itch.  Then they begin to cough and sniffle.  Pollen allergies can make people feel pretty miserable.  

Almost everything that is blooming right now has pollen.  The flowers have pollen.  The trees have pollen.  Weeds and grasses have pollen.  When the wind blows, the pollen flies in the air and looks like dust.  Some people are allergic to pine pollen, others to oak pollen, others to weed or grass pollen.

Because we live in the Piney Woods of Texas, we are surrounded by pine trees.  Every spring the pine trees dust our world yellow with their pollen.  

When the wind blows, the pine pollen begins to fly.  Our cars turn yellow from the pine dust.  Our decks and porches turn yellow.  Our sidewalks and driveways turn yellow.  It only lasts for a few weeks, but, during that time, EVERYTHING turns yellow!  (To show you how much pollen we have, the picture at the top of this post is from our front porch!) 

Today we are on a high pollen alert.  That means that anyone with pollen allergies should be careful.  They should not go outside.  They should keep their windows closed.  If they do go outside, they should change their clothes when they come inside.  They should take a bath and wash their hair.

I hope that you don't have pollen allergies!  

If you would like to know more about pollen and allergies, here are two great activity books that you will enjoy:  
Some people have REALLY bad allergies called asthma.  Here is a great activity book about asthma:

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Problem with Cats

My cat friend, Red.
We heard a big THUMP against the kitchen window today.  We rushed to see what had happened.  A little American goldfinch had crashed into the window.  He was on lying on his back.  His body quivered, and then it went still.  We thought that he was dead.

His little mate hopped near him.  It was such a sad scene!

Then, we saw the culprit.  A black and white cat was in our yard!  He had frightened the poor little birds.  They had both flown into the window.  Now the cat was stalking the birds.  He was ready to pounce!

Mom flung the door open and snatched the little bird up into her hand.  Dad and I chased the cat.  He hopped over the fence and into our neighbor's yard.

THAT'S THE PROBLEM WITH CATS!  They are hunters.  Researchers believe that cats kill at least 4.4 MILLION songbirds in the U.S. EVERY YEAR!  They also kill lizards and other reptiles and rabbits, squirrels, other small mammals.

I am happy to tell you that our little bird lived.  Mom put him high in a roosting box so that the cat couldn't reach him.  We watched and waited.  His little mate sat in a nearby tree.  She watched and waited, too.

It took several minutes for him to wake up.  It took nearly 30 minutes before he was able to fly again.  We felt lucky that we were home to help save his life!

Now we are working hard to keep the black and white cat out of our yard.  Dad put out our electric fence.  If the cat touches it, he will be zapped by electricity.  (Don't worry, it won't kill the cat, it will just shock him.)

Mom also ordered a new product that is suppose to keep cats away.  It has fox and coyote urine in it!  Cats hate fox and coyote.  Once the cat smells this stuff, he should run away.  We hope that it will keep the cat from coming back into our yard.

It's not that we don't like cats... we do.  In fact, I have a good cat friend named Red.  Red and I are almost the same color.  He has been my friend for many, many years.
Me and my friend Red (and no, Red doesn't hunt my yard!)
Red and Roxanne taking a stroll together.
The problem is that we have a VERY bird friendly yard.  We have six bird nest boxes in our yard and five bird feeders.  We have LOTS of birds visiting our yard every day.  We also have many squirrels and lizards.  We don't want the cat to kill our friends!

Many believe that cats have become a real problem.  Researchers say that there are over 77 million pet cats in the US.  They also believe that 55 million of these pet cats live outside and hunt songbirds and small mammals.  A single cat can kill over 1,000 birds and small animals in one year!  We need your help to keep our wildlife safe!

What can you do to help save our songbirds, lizards, and small mammals?  The best and easiest way is to keep your cat indoors!  Just click here to read about some fun ways to keep your cat happy inside:

If you would like to learn more about the danger of domestic cats to songbirds and small mammals, please click one of these sites:

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Backyard Bird Count

Collage from the 2013 Big Backyard Bird Count
Wow!  We had a great time counting birds during the Big Backyard Bird Count!  On Saturday afternoon, we counted 42 birds in just 15 minutes!  We had a flock of 17 Egyptian geese fly over our house and 11 Cedar waxwings roosted in a tree above us.  In addition, we had yellow American goldfinch, black and white chickadees, red cardinals, blue jays, doves, downey woodpeckers, and a robin redbreast.  It was great!

The photo collage at the top of this post shows some of the birds that we saw in our yard.  We saw birds at our feeders.  We saw birds flying overhead.  We even saw a bird taking a bath in our birdbath!

American Goldfinch taking a bath
The biggest bird that we saw was a marsh hawk soaring high overhead.  The smallest bird that we saw was a tiny hummingbird.

After we counted the birds, we entered our numbers online on the Big Backyard Bird Count website.  Our numbers will help scientists to learn about birds that come to our yard.  We try to be part of the Big Backyard Bird Count every year.

We hope that you learned a lot about birds during the Big Backyard Bird Count.  If you would like to learn more, we found some great sites for you to enjoy.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Getting Ready for the Big Backyard Bird Count

We're getting ready for the Big Backyard Bird Count!  You can join, too!  The bird count begins on Friday and ends on Sunday (February 15-18).

It's very fun and simple to do.  You just count birds!  You can look at the birds in your backyard, out your apartment window, at the park, or someplace else you like.  For at least 15 minutes, count the kinds of birds that you see.  Then, count the number of birds in each group.

We're using today as a test.  Right now Mom and I are looking out our kitchen window.  Our feeder is full of birds.  We see three mourning doves, one Carolina wren, one downy woodpecker, two Cardinals, a Chickadee, seven American goldfinch, and eight house sparrows.  There are three gray squirrels in the yard also, but they don't count!

If today were one of the Big Backyard Bird Count days, we would go to http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc/ to enter our list of birds.

We are very lucky to live on the central flyway.  Our home is a place where birds like to come in the winter.  Right now the beautiful Cedar Waxwings are migrating through our area.  Sometimes it is hard to count them.  So many fly in at the same time to eat the berries in our yard.  They also keep flying around!  If that happens, Mom takes a photo so that she can count them all!

I hope that you join us and enter the Big Backyard Bird Count, too!  Here are some tools to help you get started...

If you would like to join the Big Backyard Bird Count, click on this link for instructions:

Here's the checklist to make your bird count:

Don't know the names of the kinds of birds in your yard?   Here's a great poster with pictures of common birds:

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Sky-diving Gannets

Gannets soar near Cape Saint Mary in Newfoundland
We found another amazing seabird while we were in Newfoundland this summer.  They are called gannets.

Gannets are big, beautiful birds.  They are known for their diving.  They fly high over the ocean until they see a fish.  Then they fold their wings and dive straight into the water.  They dive so fast that they make a BIG splash when they land.  They dive into the water to fish for their next meal.  They can dive almost 100 feet deep and can travel over 50 miles per hour!

The colony that we saw at St. Mary's Cape in Newfoundland had over 50,000 birds in it!!!  The birds were nesting on the sides of a very rocky cliff called Bird Rock.  

Cape St. Mary in Newfoundland overlooking gannet colony of 50,000 
Because gannets come to this rock to nest, the colony is called a rookery.  The rookery covered a tall, flat-topped, craggy cliff.  The cliff was filled with nooks and crannies.  It was covered in mud, grass, birds, and an enormous amount of bird poop.  

Gannet colony on Cape Saint Mary in Newfoundland 
Approximately 50,000 birds nest in the rookery at Cape St. Mary.  Scientists believe that 15,000 breeding pairs, 7,500 chicks, 5,000 juveniles, and another 5,000 seniors live on this rock during breeding season.  
Adult gannet pair on Cape Saint Mary in Newfoundland
When baby gannets hatch, they have white fuzzy feathers.  Older babies turn grey and white and look just like the poop-covered cliffs around their nests.  
Baby gannet on left with its parents on Cape Saint Mary in Newfoundland.
The beautiful adults sure don't look like their babies!  Adult birds have white feathers, blue eyes, and black-tipped wings.  Their wings span over six-foot wing wide.  It can take nearly five years for a gannet's feathers to turn white.

These birds have an odd dance.  They shake and bow their heads.  Here's a video that we took of a mother gannet feeding her baby.  At the end of the feeding, they do a short dance.  You can also hear how noisy it was at the rookery!

Gannets have no external nostrils.  They breathe through their mouths.  Their skulls are built like crash helmets.  They also have special air sacks around their necks and chest to keep them safe when they dive.  Gannets are among the largest of all seabirds.

We were very lucky to see these gannets in Newfoundland.  In North America, they only nest in six different colonies, all in Canada.  

If you would like to learn more about gannets, click on these sites:


For more information about all kinds of seabirds, click here:

Monday, January 21, 2013

Atlantic Puffins

Atlantic Puffins in Elliston, Newfoundland
When we visited Newfoundland this summer, we found a wonderful bird called the Atlantic Puffin.  These funny birds are often called sea parrots. 

Puffins are sea birds.  They are very special in the bird family.  They are one of a few birds that have solid bones.  This makes them great divers.  It also makes it hard for them to fly. 

Because their bones are heavy, they fly close to the ground.  Puffins must flap their wings 300-400 times per minute to fly.  They don't land very well either.  Most of the time, they crash or tumble onto the grass or into the sea.

We saw many young puffins practicing flying when we visited Elliston's Puffin Viewing Site.  They flapped their wings until they were airborne for a few minutes.  Then they would hover back to land.  Here's a short video of some of the puffins that we saw:

Puffins may not be good fliers but they are very strong swimmers.  They dive deep into the water to catch fish.  They normally catch 10 fish per dive.  Sometimes they catch as many as 60 fish in one dive!  Puffin teeth point backwards and that helps them to catch lots of fish.

Puffin Colony near Elliston, Newfoundland
Puffins nest in colonies on rocky islands.  They dig burrows into the cliff side.  They lay one or two eggs in their burrow.

The mother and father puffin care for their baby for about six weeks, until the baby fledges (learns to fly).  After the young puffins fledge, the flock flies out to live at sea for the rest of the year.  They may live at sea for eight to nine months each year.

Puffin burrows in Elliston, Newfoundland
More than half of all Atlantic puffins breed on the eastern shores of Newfoundland.  A small colony also lives in the United States, off the coast of Maine.  

For more information about Atlantic puffins, just click on one of these two sites:
Here's a a puffin picture for you to color:  Color a Puffin

You can also check out these great books about puffins from your local library:
  • Atlantic Puffin:  Little Brother of the North, by Kristin Domm
  • Project Puffin:  How We Brought Puffins Back to Egg Rock, by Stephen W. Kress

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

My Doctor Is Called a Veterinarian (Vet)

I really like my doctor.  He is called a veterinarian (or vet).  A veterinarian is an animal doctor.  He has been my only doctor for my whole life!

I go to visit my vet at least once a year for a check up.  I also visit him when I am sick.  I visit him when I need a vaccination.

Are you afraid when you go to the doctor?  Sometimes I am!  Sometimes I am afraid that my doctor might hurt me.  I hide my head between Mom's knees so that he won't see me.  It doesn't seem to work very well.  He always finds me!

Have you ever taken your dog to visit a vet?  This site will help you to learn what will happen when you take your dog to an animal doctor:
Would you like to be an animal doctor when you grow up?  If you would like to become a veterinarian, here's a great activity book:

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Feeling Better

Roxanne in her new no-skid booties.

Dear Friends,  Wow!  It has been a long time since I posted.  I want to tell you why.  I hurt myself while we were on our vacation this year.  I ran down some slippery stairs.  I made a fast turn and did the splits with my back legs.  Ouch!!!

Since we came back home, I have had trouble walking.  It hurts when I stand.  It hurts when I sit.  It hurts when I lay down.

I have been very sad because I can't do all the things that I want to do.  Mom and Dad have been very worried about me.

Mom took me to my veterinarian (or "vet").  A vet is a doctor for animals.  My vet said that I needed to do some special exercises.  He said that I needed to get strong again.

He also said that I needed to work.  I am a therapy dog and working makes me happy.

Because my back feet keep slipping out from under me, Mom found some new booties for me to wear.  They are red!  I wear them on my back feet.  They have special bottoms.  They keep my feet from slipping when I walk on tile and wood floors.

Last week Mom put my service jacket on me.  She took me to visit a group of twelve young people who were very sad.  They loved on me, and I loved on them!  When our time was up, we all felt much happier.  I will go to see them again today.  I know we will have fun together.

Mom is also helping me to do some special exercises.  She is taking me for short walks.  We walk once in the morning and once in the evening.  We use to go for one long walk every day, but I think that I'm beginning to like taking two short walks!

When we get home from our evening walk, Mom rubs my hips.  Then she gently stretches my legs.  I am beginning to feel much better and much stronger.

Mom is also helping me to keep mentally active.  Here is a video of me playing with two of my puzzles.  I find the hidden treats.  With one puzzle, I have to move the puzzle pieces to find the treats.  The other puzzle is a ball with treats inside.  When I roll it down the hallway, treats fall out of it.  Have you ever played "hide the treat" with your dog?  It's a great game!

Do you have a dog who needs to get healthy?  Maybe you want to keep your dog active.  Here are some great sites to help you.  Just click on the links below to learn more!

These websites give some great exercises to keep your dog fit:

This website will help if your dog is overweight:  

This website has great ideas to keep your dog active... even on a rainy day: