Whose Tree Is It Anyway?

Once upon a time in a midsize village in northeastern Illinois dwelt a little dog named Mitchell and Dog-Mom. Dog-Mom dutifully walked Mitchell at least twice if not thrice or even four times a day if the weather was willing. Mitchell always was willing…unless the weather was not.
Mitchell always knew where they were going. Sometimes they would head west toward Auntie Karen’s house. Sometimes they would head east toward a different subdivision with lots and lots of cul-de-sacs. Dog-Mom would find out which way they were going because Mitchell always picked. and Dog-Mom had little to say about the matter.
Anyway, every tree, bush, blade of grass, water hydrant, and mail box bore Mitchell’s dutiful mark, and he would check each one on the various trails as he and Dog-Mom went on their merry way. (If Hansel and Gretl had Mitchell with them, they would never have needed bread crumbs.)


One day, Dog-Mom and Mitchell met a new puppy on their walk, and Mitchell decided to let the puppy know whose neighborhood it was.
A conversation ensued.

Puppy peed on one of Mitchell’s trees.
Mitchell peed on his tree, and then kicked grass in the puppy’s face.
The puppy peed on the tree again.
Mitchell re- peed the tree, and then peed in the puppy’s face.
This pee conversation continued endlessly as the two Dog-Moms watched and laughed their asses off until the puppy finally gave up and rolled over on his back in total submission.


Mitchell was finally happy. It was his tree after all, and puppy learned a valuable lesson. Don’t pee on any tree while Mitchell is around, or you might need a bath.

Overcoming Quakes and Shakes

Once upon a time in a small village in northeastern Illinois, lived a little dog named Mitchell. Mitchell quaked and shaked, and wouldn’t come out from under the chair, or out of his crate, or from behind large pieces of furniture. He was just afraid. He wouldn’t let Dog-Mom touch him..Mitchell was sad…Dog-Mom was sadder.


Finally Dog-Mom got super hero Doctor Vet and the beloved vet-tech Meredith to come to the house and visit Mitchell. They helped a lot. Within two days, Mitchell started taking short walks outside with Dog-Mom…and he allowed her to rub gently behind his ears, and give treats . Mitchell likes a good ear rub, and peanut-butter flavored treats are good too.


Soon Dog-Mom took Mitchell on a great adventure. They went to a small magical summer home nestled in a wooded area. The wooded area was filled with all sorts of wonderful woodland creatures….deer, and turkey, and owls, and rabbits, and coyotes, and…well a lot of wonderful woodland creatures, and lots of human types who walked their dog-friends. The smells were wonderful., the other dogs were ok, the other human types …not so much. Long walks were good because there were lots of opportunities for potential friend encounters. Soon Mitchell was willing to sniff the human types, but they did not and still do not have the privilege of touching him. Mitchell is very personal space conscious when it comes to human types.

Dog-Mom made sure there was a crate for Mitchell at the small magical summer home too…because Mitchell still liked small spaces for hiding when nasty fear got the better of him. He decided it was the perfect place to sleep. One night, Mitchell made a momentous decision. Mitchell decided Dog-Mom might be ok to sleep with. So…in the middle of the night, Mitchell put on his big-boy pants, bravely walked over to Dog-Mom’s bed, jumped in and started snuggling. Mitchell has snuggled every night since, and has never returned to his crate. In fact, snuggling at night, sitting next to Dog-Mom, getting ear-rubs, and head rubs, and nose rubs are his favorite things.. But only Dog-Mom and Beloved Meredith, the vet-tech, are allowed the privilege.

Mitchell and the Weird Wind Demons

Once upon a time in a village in northern Illinois, dwelt a scared little dog named Mitchell. After rescue, adoption, vet care and a lot of reassurance from dog-mom, Mitchell blossomed into the confident little bad-ass he was intended to be. He discovered the joy of playing tug of war with Lamb Chop. (He now has four in various stages of disembowelment). He fell in love with the vet techs who watch over him and spoil him rotten when Dog-Mom has to travel. (They create the Mitch-suite for him complete with comfy bed, toys and a welcome mat…No exaggeration!!!) He accepted the fact that dog-walker Martha is not going to dognap him and is there to help on days when Dog-Mom has an extremely busy day. He learned that long walks in the forest preserve are fun, full of great smells and potential friend encounters. He even discovered that all human types are worth at least a sniff…but maybe not worthy of petting him. (Mitchell is very picky about what human type can rub his ears.)

Today, Mitchell realized that dog-mom needs protection from the evil wind demons that live in trees on windy days and make weird windy noises. (Sometimes the evil wind demons try to gain entrance through the chimney…then they make even weirder noises) These demons deserve to be growled, threatened, barked at and attacked because they threaten Dog-Mom who needs constant protection…

Today wind demons….Tomorrow dust mites.

Again..Dog-Mom feels so safe.

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Research Questions and the Ten-Year-Old Mind

As a school librarian it is my task to teach research skills to my students.  In library circles.the new nomenclature for what was once research skills is now information literacy.  Whether you call the skill by its older more familiar name – or its new appellation, it all boils down to the same thing.  Basically, what’s your question, where do you look for it – not necessarily on the internet – and how do you extract credible information from your chosen sources.  My biggest challenge is to get the idea across that all research begins with some kind of question.  For example, the question “How do you make chocolate chip cookies?” is for all intents and purposes a legitimate research question.  I like it…I like cookies.  Because kids often confuse reporting with legitimate research convincing them that off the wall questions constitute legitimate research  and is far more interesting than mere reporting, true research pursuits often need a little nudging. The goofier the example the better.  Does the light in the refrigerator turn off when the door closes?  hmmmmmm? 

Stories are great ways to nudge kids.  So I told my story which I shall call, “How do toilets flush?”  A legitimate research question, I think.  Certainly worthy of my ten-year-old-self’s pursuit – much to my mother’s despair.  

I was often roped into helping my father with repair work around the house.  “Hold the flash light, and hand me the wrench.”  In many ways I was like the assisting nurse in an operating room.  By the time I was five, I knew the difference between a flat-head and a phillip screwdriver.  I didn’t mind.  I wanted to help.  I wanted to tighten the screws, and pull out the bent nails.  I wanted to do what I wasn’t allowed to do.  I held the flashlight.  And I watched….carefully.  Sometimes too carefully. 

Dad had to fix something in the toilet one day.  I can’t remember exactly what it was, but I was recruited and dutifully handed him the required tools and pointed the flashlight in the right direction.  He removed the lid on the toilet tank, and started fiddling around with the mechanism within. I watched, and took mental notes.  Many mental notes. 

About a week later, a research question hatched…How do toilets flush?  Curious minds want to know.   My best source of information was the trusty set of encyclopedias ensconced in the bookcase in the dining room.  So I crystalized my research question down to one keyword – toilet, retrieved the encyclopedia’s “T” volume, and located the entry.  Lo and behold…not only was there a concise history of toilets (Did you know, that Sir Thomas Crapper was credited with the invention of the flush toilet? Hence the “crapper” came into being. Recent researchers dispute this factoid…more research is needed to verify the etymology.  (I sound like a librarian, don’t I…geesh!)).  More importantly, within the article resided a detailed diagram of the inner-workings of the mysterious tank.  I hit the jackpot!  I think I read the article about ten times…flappers, ball cocks, etc., etc., etc. I knew the history! I controlled the vocabulary! I possessed a detailed diagram! I was ready to rock and roll. 

Vicarious experiences never satisfy my curiosity.  If I read about something, I want to experience it.   Time was of the essence, my mother was in the backyard hanging up the wash.  I wanted to see if what the encyclopedia said about toilets was really true.  So, I snuck up to the only bathroom in the house, locked the door, and began the experiment. 

Step one – remove the tank lid.

 Mom covered the tank and the toilet seat with these fuzzy things that were the rage in bathroom trappings, so removing the fuzzy covers was a must.  That was not as easy as one might think, because she didn’t always buy the user-friendly ones with elastic bands…Oh no…draw strings kept those little suckers in place.  

Once the tank lid was undressed, and the lid was on the bathroom floor, I started playing with the stuff inside.  Chains, and flappers, water, and ball cocks…That part was pretty easy…But it led to another question…How does the water know when to stop filling the tank so that the tank doesn’t overflow?  That wasn’t covered in the encyclopedia article.  More experimenting.  More flushing.  Did you know it takes several gallons of water to flush a toilet?  When a family is on a one-salary budget, the water bill is an important controllable expense.  Multiple flushings for childish experimentation are not appreciated. 

Laundry done, mom returns.  She hears multiple flushes. 

“What are you doing up there?”

 “Nothing!” Desperate attempts on my part to  clothe the toilet tank with the fuzzy things.

“Why are you flushing the toilet so much?”

“I have an issue!”  Working harder to get the fuzzy things back on the toilet without breaking the porcelain tank lid. Breaking out in a sweat.

“Do you need any help?”  (Moms are great, aren’t they?)

“Nope, got it covered!” Literally – the toilet tank had its fuzzy clothes back on.

“Let me in there!  Right now!”  Banging on the door.  Busted!

I was toast…she knew…. The fuzzy things weren’t on in mom-perfect fashion. No more experiments – grounded for the day. 

The good news is…I’m still here to tell the story.  The better news is that my students are beginning to understand that their questions are legitimate research questions.  The bad news is that some of my students are starting to look at those toilet tanks with gleams in their eyes…. It’s a good thing I didn’t tell them about how I eliminated my knee wart.  (Encyclopedias are great, aren’t they?)