Thursday, March 14, 2013

GIVEAWAY & Being Perfectly Imperfect: What a Chicken and a Dog Can Teach You

This book is a visual delight for everyone to see
and the story of Percy's struggle for perfection is touching
We are all well aware of the standards of perfection that are impressed upon us on a daily basis.  How we measure up, quite literally and figuratively  from our newborn days til the last of our lives somehow become an unnecessary definition of who we are.  These concepts have lead to increased incidents of bullying in our schools, lowered self esteem and higher rates of depression and anxiety.  In short, we are so worried about being perfect that we are letting it control our lives.  But what is perfect?

I had the opportunity to examine this exact question from a unique and unexpected angle after visiting the Ohio National poultry show in November.  No, it wasn't the striking plumage of some rare breed or the shining display of trophies that put my mind in action.  It was a chance meeting there with a wonderful man who has accomplished many things.  While pursuing the vendor tables and club displays, a table set up caught my eye.  A book, but not just any book.  A brightly colored, vividly illustrated children's book beckoned to me from a few stands away.

Roo relaxes with a young reader and enjoys hearing a great story
I simply adore books and couldn't resist straying that way.  I am one half of a registered therapy team and, along with my partner Roo, together we do something we truly enjoy.  As a Pet Partner therapy team and a Reading Education Assistance Dog team, we visit our local elementary school several days a week.  While we are there, we work with students one-on-one in a safe, supportive environment where they do something truly special: they become a storyteller to a canine friend.  The young student reinforces literacy skills by reading aloud a story to Roo, who listens to them without judgement of their possible hesitations or mistakes.  They find a love and support without limits or conditions from Roo, and a friend to offer assistance from me.  We call our little group Read to Roo, and we love our time at the school.  (please visit Roo's facebook page, Roo's blog or Read to Roo's website to learn more)

The children get to read along with the book via projector
A few moments after approaching that table, in meeting Rick Rieser and learning more about his wonderful book, I knew I wanted him to come to our school.  In a kind and professional manner, Mr. Rieser spoke to me about Percy Learning Farms and his experiences with children's advocacy and his efforts to help strengthen anti-bullying efforts employed by schools.  His book, Percy the Perfectly Imperfect Chicken, takes a message that so many have tried to help instill to children today and puts a new spin on it.   

Percy is born into a flock of hens who are obsessed with perfection - so much so that they threaten a pecking to the newly hatched chick if he is found less than to their standards.  What's a youngster to do?  Afraid that he will not look just right for them, he hides away while he grows.  Soon he finds that he is far more different that they had ever imagined and the hens begin to gang up on him.  He flies away in fear and finds that from that birds eye view (see how that works?) things with the hens are not quite as they would like it to seem.  They too are hiding little flaws from the others and Percy tactfully points them out to them one by one, allowing the reader to draw personal comparison that perhaps bullies are hiding something of their own which makes them insecure.  The story ends in a most heartwarming way, with the coop learning a lesson about acceptance and love.  My favorite lines of the entire book are that of the last page:

"Mama what's perfect?" Percy still did persist.
Mama said, "Percy, it's nothing.  It doesn't exist." 

Roo's Lucky Foot
and his stylish brace
This really resonated with me, because my wonderful therapy dog is often viewed as being imperfect.  Allow me to explain, because at quick glance you might never see it.  He is a healthy, beautiful example of a dog who is intelligent, kind and gentle.  His manners are exceptional and he is as friendly to a stranger as he is a life long friend.  In watching him walk however, you would begin to see his differences.  Rather than the graceful fluid movements of a collie, his gait is bouncy - more like that of a horse's trot.  You see, Roo was born with a deformity in his front left leg and paw.  The leg itself is narrowed through to the foot, and his paw only has three toes.  They aren't sure why this happened to him when the rest of the litter was unaffected.

People often pause and ask "what's wrong with him" when they see Roo walking toward them.  Some days his differences are made even more obvious when his arthritis flares and he needs to wear his leg brace.  When I hear people question me with that all familiar phrase, I usually respond in the same way: absolutely nothing is wrong.  He is just right.

He may walk differently, lay down differently.  His left leg and foot might appear quite different when it's compared to the right.  But nothing, nothing is wrong with this remarkable dog.  In fact, I'm grateful he is so unique.  If not, he might have ended up in the show ring, a show dog like his parents were, instead of doing what we love to do so very much.  What makes him special has brought him to this time and place he's in today and sharing his life with the children he adores!  I will forever be grateful for his differences and embrace them as something to be celebrated.  His left foot has even earned the nickname of "Lucky Foot", because we feel it was very lucky for us that he came into our lives.

...and you simply cannot deny that it bears a strong resemblance to a rabbit's foot, a long-believed superstitious charm.

Please visit the Animals for Life Foundation
for more information about this amazing organization
Over the summer I wrote and applied for a grant through a wonderful foundation called the Animals for Life Foundation.  This organization strives to educate the public and supports the many ways that animals play a positive part of our lives.  I was honored to be one of their grant award recipients and their grant has helped fund our 2012-2013 school year supplies, activities and events for Read to Roo.  Because of this wonderful grant from the Animals for Life Foundation, I was able to host an event in which we could have Rick Rieser come in and share his book with our school.  

Rick helps explain to the children why we should all be proud
of the things that set us apart and make us unique
On March 5, our students in grades K-3 all enjoyed grade specific assemblies in which Mr.  Rieser shared Percy the Perfectly Imperfect Chicken via projector.  During the assemblies  the students were involved in the story, being asked questions about how they thought different characters were feeling and if they had ever felt the same way.  They were encouraged to go to a trusted family member or school official if they ever felt like they were being judged harshly or bullied, like Percy had been.  We all had a wonderful talk (see Roo's interview with Rick)...then, the feathers really began to fly...

Rick and Little Percy (left); Sprinkles calmly stands & watches (center); Hershey meets friends from the audience (right)

This was, of course, all in the best of ways!  Rick brought along three of his own chickens for the children to meet, each one looking strikingly different than the next.  Sprinkles the Silkie, Little Percy the Serama and Hershey the Chocolate Orpington all were fun and entertaining to show the children that we can all look different and beautiful in our own special, unique ways.  Everyone had such a wonderful time meeting Rick and his friends and sharing in the special message that Percy's book has for us all.

I would love to share that message with some of you as well.  I'm proud to announce that I will be hosting my very first giveaway!  Two Grand Prize Winners will receive an autographed softcover copy of Percy the Perfectly Imperfect Chicken and a Percy Learning Farms T-Shirt.  Three additional winners will receive a Percy Learning Farms T-Shirt.  (only sizes XS and XL are available)

Follow the link below to enter for your chance to win!  The contest ends March 20th and the winners will be announced on March 21st.  Good Luck!

Click HERE to Enter!


  1. So inspiring. It made me tear up. Thank you.

  2. I love your page! My daughter is 10.5 and in involved in 4h . She shows our chickens at fair each yr. We have 3 Cochin hens that are almost 2 yrs old. Everything was peaceful......until.......Spike came along! She brought Spike home from the barn where she rides horses. He was 3 wks old and sweet as could be. He is a mottled Houdan and is a beautiful bird. However, he has recently found his voice and is quite impressed with it! We...are...NOT!! We love him but he is so loud. I fear we may have to find a home for him soon. My daughter really wants to show him so I guess we will try to wait it out. Fair is in July. We are not allowed roosters here so I have to keep him as quiet as I can. Susan

  3. Most days I like my 4 cats and 3 dogs more than I like people. They are so uncomplicated. I'm happily greeted with kisses and tail wags when I'm gone all day or just a few minutes. They calm me, make me smile and giggle and keep me warm at night. I love my crew.

  4. wow this is realy fantastic sharing on fb thanks!

  5. We have 2 bulldogs, 2 cats, 9 chickens and 2 roosters. Every day we receive unconditional love from all the animals. If we are luck we also get eggs!
    Having chickens has taught my daughter about where her food comes from( not the grocery store). Having pets has taught her responsibility for others.

  6. Our animals (53 chickens, 3 indoor cats, many outdoor cats) are all extremely friendly. They are used as therapy animals for 2 handicapped children and a disabled adult. They are very calming and that reward can be felt by all of us. The chickens provide us with a better quality protein source, maintain our yard, and destroy any bug that makes the ill decision of coming into our yard! Our animals are truly amazing!

  7. Last year we dove into CHICKENS! It has been a wonderful experience for our family, especially my little girl who is now 5. One thing the chickens have done for us is to slow us down! We "walk" the chickens in the evenings. It is so nice to just BE outside for a couple of hours in the evening when the weather is permitting. My little girl relates so much in her life to chickens. She especially loves drawing many, many pictures of chickens and coops.

  8. All my animals bring something to my life. I have 4 dogs, 4 cats, a cockatiel, a desert tortoise and 11 chickens. I can't imagine life without them.

  9. What an amazing story! I was curious about your story when Farmhouse38 mentioned it in her blog. This so fun, I can't wait to hear more about what you do at the schools!

  10. awesome project

  11. Love this, very well done. Raising chickens has added so many learning opportunities for our family but in particular has taught my son the miracle of life.

  12. That is really cool. I want to meet Roo. :)

  13. My daughter loved reading to our cat when she was learning how. I guess he is a great listener!

  14. I always had pets growing up and now have a flock of chickens that I love! After living in the city for years, the country is the place for us!