Perfect Picture Book Friday – Animals as Carers

Animals as Carers 

By Clare Oliver

Published by Franklin Watts, 1999

Themes: Animals that help us, dogs for blind, dogs for deaf, epilepsy, CP, horse therapy, dolphins, monkeys.

Age: 5 and up

Opening/Synopsis:Have you ever wondered why there is often a fish tank in the dentist’s waiting room?”

An inspirational nonfiction book that looks at the many different ways animals can assist children and adults with specific needs in their daily lives. It looks at which animals are better for different tasks. While we all know labradors and retrievers are often the best dogs to help the blind, usually mongrels, often from rescue homes, are chosen to be dogs for the deaf. Did you know the first dogs trained to help the blind were in Germany after WW1, to help soldiers blinded by gas during the war? Most monkey helpers are bred in centers where they are trained for the job, but they still spend their first five years living as part of a volunteer family. Regular anecdotes are given, such as Dan, a young boy with cerebral palsy, who loves to ride: “I love it when I am on a horse. When I sit in the saddle and the horse starts to move, I feel free!” Nikki, born with brain damage, did not speak for the first 8 years of his life, until he started swimming with the dolphins in the Human Dolphin Therapy Centre in Miami. Here he spoke his first word, “in” – because he wanted to be allowed back into the water to swim with his friends, the dolphins.

Why I like this book: We rely on animals in so many ways, and are often unaware it. Many children recognize animals make great pets, but know little about their work in the police force, in therapy, and other caring activities. It looks at the familiar and less familiar animal activities. Children will enjoy discovering that rabbits make great old peoples’ homes visitors, or that fish help people relax. They will love the beautiful photos of the lab pups being trained to work with the blind, or the therapeutic dolphins in Florida. The personal anecdotes are warming. Max, a hearing dog for the deaf, was given an award for hearing next door’s fire alarm go off and alerting his owner, who contacted the fire brigade!  This is a great addition to any teaching unit on animals and their historical symbiotic relationship with humans.

Activities: I suggest trying to find locally a training centre for one of these animals and going on a visit. Children could take a different animal cited and write a story. Families could consider fostering a puppy for the deaf/blind?

Kids Corner has some activities about caring for animals.

Paws to learn has a great teacher’s guide about dog care for preschoolers.

Guide Dogs for the Blind, Dogs for the Deaf, PATH International (Therapeutic Riding) are charities that could be contacted for more information or perhaps to offer your voluntary services.

While not relevant for kids, I just this morning read of a great new initiative of pairing refuge cats with prison inmates. I think this could prove a wonderful project myself.

To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.  Or click on the Perfect Picture Book Fridays  badge in the right sidebar.

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24 Responses to Perfect Picture Book Friday – Animals as Carers

  1. This is a beautiful book Joanna with such a lovely intro for kids to learn about how animals can help humans and the affect they have on us. I smiled when reading your review as it reminded me of when I took my dog and cat… yes cat (she was huge), to an after work drinks, and my dear cat jumped up on one of the guys lap (he was terrified of cats) and just curled up and purred knowingly. While eveyone laughed at his reaction I calmly told him to relax, and by the time I gathered my animals up to go he was happily stroking her. When I think about it, she must have known out of all the people to go to she choose him, obviously knowing he was more scared than she was. (she was smart) Since my animals have long gone I have been asked a number of times to take in training dogs for the blind, but the throught of having to give them back, and the fact we travel a lot, makes it difficult. I love what they do though. *sigh*

  2. Erik This Kid Reivews Books says:

    This seems like an important book! My friends fostered a guide dog until he had to be sent out to be officially trained. It’s amazing what animals can do! 🙂

    • Joanna says:

      I think it is a fun book to find out what goes into their training and how many sorts of animals are involved in these type of ministries.

  3. What a fantastic book! I totally want this. I might have to order it right now! It sounds packed with information. I find it fascinating how much we rely on animals, and how much they help us – even just as pets, never mind when they are trained to help. I think kids would find this book really interesting. Thanks so much for sharing it!

  4. What a wonderful book! My recently-reading five-year-old read a sign the other day about service animals, and I was trying to explain what they are. This book will really help!

  5. Amy Dixon says:

    It really is amazing the effect animals have. I just read an article on horse therapy for kids with special needs and was blown away. Thanks for sharing this great book!

    • Joanna says:

      Amy, I visited a horse therapy center last summer while researching it for a book, it is wonderful what the horses and facilitators can achieve.

  6. What an awesome-sounding book, Joanna! Your activities are great, as well, and I love the thought of pairing rescue cats with prison inmates. Cats are great healers.

    Some time in August, I’ll be doing a couple of blog posts about horse therapy — one about riding therapy for physically-challenged kids, and one about horse therapy as a type of psychological/emotional therapy for adults. Those are off my usual topic radar, but they’re so important.

    • Joanna says:

      Horse therapy is wonderful and I had an amazing time visiting a center what worked with kids with physical needs, last summer.

      Cats are innate healers, I believe, Beth!

  7. I got chill bumps just now reading about Nikki saying “in” to go swim with the dolphins. Animals are a great blessing!

  8. Stacy S. Jensen says:

    We’ve seen more service dogs lately around our community. This book sounds like a great way to discuss this issue.

  9. Really enjoyed your book selection. We traditionally think of dogs being the carers. Had never thought about dolphin (love that story) or rabbits for seniors. I met a woman who trains guide dogs and loved listening to her stories. I would think that kids would love this book!

  10. Sounds like a great choice for PPBF! Dogs are carers at our local children’s hospital. One paid a visit to my daughter when she was in for pneumonia when she was 3, but she was a little scared (wasn’t really in the mood for animal visitors — but the volunteer accompanying was really nice) — as a book lover she probably would have preferred to read this book than to have the visit from a real dog!

  11. Hannah Holt says:

    My six-year-old is learning about “community helpers” (careers for humans) in school. This would be a great book for him right now. He can learn how animals help the community as well!

  12. Joanna says:

    Hannah, this would be perfect. These animals are as much community helpers as the humans!

  13. What a great, inspirational book. Thanks for sharing!

  14. Pingback: Fostering Animals | Miss Marple's Musings

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