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Thursday, 6 May 2021

"Do nothing for nature" and help bees to thrive

Tempting as it is to bring out the lawnmower on the first warm days of spring to trim the lawn and weeds that pop up, the charity Plantlife is asking us to “do nothing for nature” this month.

The ‘No Mow May’ campaign is encouraging gardeners to let plants traditionally seen as weeds, such as dandelions and daisies, thrive to provide much-needed food for pollinators. These vital creatures struggle to find food in spring and early summer, and rely on the early wild flowers that bloom, as well as blossom. By cutting our lawns, we are depriving bees, wasps and butterflies of nutrition. Coupled with fewer green spaces and natural habitats, it is increasingly difficult for them to find sufficient food.

                                                                   A bee on an aster. Picture: Alamy/PA.

There are almost 100 different species of pollinators that rely on wildlife-friendly environments to thrive. An ideal garden offers a mix of both ‘wild’ flowers together with cultivated ones, shrubs and trees. Plantlife is encouraging not only gardeners, but park keepers and schools to alter their frequency of mowing to allow lawns to flourish and benefit wildlife.

For more information about No Mow May, visit https://www.plantlife.org.uk/uk/discover-wild-plants-nature/no-mow-may.

A lawn with wild flower borders, shown below, can be just as attractive as a closely mown one, and allows bees to thrive.

It’s fascinating to watch the different species of visitors to flowers, as butterflies and bees emerge to visit.

You can encourage bees to live in your garden by positioning ‘bug houses’ in sheltered sunny places (see an image of one below). Many bee species don’t live in hives, but are solitary and seek small secluded places to breed and shelter. A bug house provides the ideal environment and encourages them to stay local to your garden.

So think twice before mowing the lawn, and help our insect friends to thrive!

To find out more about how to make your garden ‘wildlife friendly’, get yourself a copy of ‘Wildlife Garden – Create a home for garden-friendly animals, insects and birds’ by Ursula Kopp, published by Hubble & Hattie and pictured below. It’s available at https://www.hubbleandhattie.com/shop/HH5600/.

                                                                      copyright Jax10289/istock















Thursday, 1 April 2021

Oodles of doodles, shnorkies and puggles! The rapid rise in popularity of the crossbreed

No, we haven’t invented a new language, although it does sound like the cast of characters from the next Harry Potter film. These are just a few of the names for crossbreed dogs, a growing trend in dog breeding and ownership. It is where two established breeds are crossed to make pups with the characteristics of both breeds in one dog. The results combine, for example, the coat and build of one dog with the temperament of the other. 

                                          The popular Labradoodle crossbreed © Purely Pets


There are now many crossbreed dogs, from the popular Labradoodle (Labrador/Poodle) with its distinctive soft curly coat and friendly, gentle temperament, to the rarer Chorkie (Chihuahua/Yorkshire Terrier), and even the exotically-named Cavachon (Cavalier King Charles Spaniel/Bichon Frise).

                                        This cute chap is a Puggle, a Pug/Beagle cross © Purely Pets


However, if you are thinking of taking the plunge and owning a crossbreed puppy, it is worth reading up carefully to know what to expect. Many crossbreeds, whilst undeniably cute and attractive dogs, may inherit characteristics or hereditary health issues that are less desirable, and may put the dog at risk of unnecessary suffering. As with any decision about a new puppy, check out breeders very carefully, research first, and ideally see the puppies with the mother in their own home before parting with any money. Be wary of puppy farms, and try to avoid importing a dog from a breeder abroad. 

Sadly, with the increase in popularity of dogs, including crossbreeds, unscrupulous breeders will try to make fast money at the expense of the dog’s health and well-being.


Which crossbreed is right for you?

Think about the characteristics of the breed of dogs that combine to make the crossbreed. For example, the Puggle (Pug/Beagle cross) has the Pug’s chilled personality, but also his squashed face that can give rise to breathing problems. The Beagle characteristics make for a livelier dog who will require more exercise, and they can be stubborn.

The highly-popular Labradoodle, with his usually golden curly coat, teddy bear appearance and good-natured character, can have hereditary health problems, even though this is a well-established crossbreed. The Goldendoodle (Golden Retriever/Poodle cross) can end up matted due to the combination of a coat that is both long and curly, so will need regular grooming.


                                               The Goldendoodle, undeniably appealing, but prone to matting

© By Gullpavon - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=56182661


Carefully consider both the pros and cons of a crossbreed dog. Talk to owners if you can, do your research (there are many online forums and reputable websites), and find the best and most reliable breeder before taking the plunge. It’s easy to be swayed by big brown eyes and a silky coat, without thinking of the longer term responsibilities of crossbreed ownership.

Monday, 29 March 2021

World Autism Awareness Week

Did you know that this week is World Autism Awareness Week?

Autism, autistic spectrum, neurodiverse; it’s likely that you’ve seen these terms popping up more and more over the last year or so. But what do these terms mean, and who has it … and why are we posting about it?

March 29th to April 4th is World Autism Awareness Week, and we’d like to do our bit to raise awareness. In the UK alone, there are around 700,000 adults and children who have been diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD); in the US the number is close to 5.5 million.

As with most things of this nature, the term is firmly rooted in the medical model, so can be a little misleading. Symptoms of ASD are broad – hence 'spectrum’ – affecting communication, anxiety levels, and sensitivity to stimuli, among other things. But it’s not a disease – you can’t catch it, and it’s not something to be cured. There is some debate as to whether it’s a disorder at all, or simply a set of behaviours that are naturally part of the broader spectrum of human behaviours.

Some people’s brains work slightly differently to others (no surprises there), and this causes the symptoms – yes, medical model term again – that’s collectively known as ASD. Neurodiversity is a more inclusive term for people with ASD, and covers a range of conditions, not only autistic spectrum. Whatever term you use, the genes responsible for ASD aren't 'negative'; they have also been linked to increased creativity and heightened problem-solving; many of the things we take for granted today, from technology, to art, and the sciences, were only made possible because the inventors – knowingly or otherwise – had ASD genes or were neurodiverse.

Awareness of neurodiversity and the issues faced by neurodiverse individuals is growing all the time, helped in part by the number of celebrities revealing that they, too, are on the autistic spectrum – from actors including Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah, to tech icon and philanthropist Bill Gates, and trailblazing scientist and activist Temple Grandin (a name many of you will be familiar with, and who has an excellent video describing her experiences living with Asperger Syndrome on YouTube) – but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. As is often the case, it seems creativity and neurodiversity are natural companions. There are also more and more adults being diagnosed with ASD, as people recognise their own signs and symptoms.

Depictions of autism, both in literature and film, are also becoming more common, and this has partly helped raise awareness on social media, and levels of discussion. Not only does this mean that there is a much better understanding of the day-to-day challenges faced by people on the spectrum amongst non-neurodiverse individuals, but also that sources of help and advice for neurodiverse people, their families and friends, is more accessible than ever. And that’s a very good thing.

At Hubble & Hattie Kids!, we have a very special neurodiverse friend who you may have seen in our social feeds and website recently – Alice the Aspiesaurus. Alice is the fictional creation of Lucy Martin, and is the world’s first and only known autistic dinosaur, and a leading character in Lucy’s books Different is Good and Helping a friend. The ethos behind the books is to provide neurodiverse children with a way to better understand and cope with their own feelings by learning how Alice deals with situations that she finds difficult or anxiety inducing.

Lucy has drawn on her own experience of living with ASD, sharing the methods and techniques she has developed to deal with challenging situations. All kids, not only ASD children, can relate to Alice and her friends’ situations, which cover school, home life, navigating social environments, and friendships. Lucy’s stories are intended to show that whilst being neurodiverse makes us different, it’s these differences that make us good – and, as the title says, Different is good!

Books aren’t the only way Alice is helping with neurodiversity awareness; Alice has her own facebook page dedicated not only to providing life skills and tips for ASD children, but also to providing genuinely fun, educational, and entertaining content that everyone can enjoy. It’s a fantastic resource for children, adults, and educators, and covers pretty much every topic you can imagine. But don’t take our word for it, see for yourself, and 'follow the dinosaur.'

If you’d like to find out more about Autism Aspergers, and other autistic spectrum conditions, the following organisations can help;

National Autistic Society (UK) https://www.autism.org.uk/

Autism Europe (EU) >https://www.autismeurope.org/

Autism Society (US) https://www.autism-society.org/

Autistic Spectrum (AUS) https://www.autismspectrum.org.au/

Autism New Zealand (NZ) https://www.autismnz.org.nz/

Find out more about Alice the Aspiesaurus, and get help and advice with a big dash of fun, on Alice’s facebook page.

Find our more about Alice’s books, and download some fantastic FREE dinosaur fact sheets at https://www.hubbleandhattie.com/kids/Alice-and-Friends.html

Thursday, 4 March 2021

Say "hello" to Alice …

Today is World Book Day, and we'd like to introduce you to a very special dinosaur … say "hello" to Alice the Aspiesuarus …

A DINOSAUR? Yep. But not just any dinosaur. Alice is the world’s first – and only – known autistic dinosaur, and features in a series of books by Lucy Martin that are particularly relevant and helpful for children with autistic spectrum disorders, or neuro-diverse students.

Alice, and the Aspiesaur species to which she belongs, are the fictional creations of author and illustrator Lucy Martin. Drawing on her personal experiences growing up with autistic spectrum disorder, and wanting to provide children with a positive message about autism, Lucy combined a love of art and creative writing, with a first-class degree with honours in Zoology, to create Alice, the Aspiesaur species, and an entire dinosaur world. Being autistic, Alice is the perfect literary 'avatar' that children can directly relate to, enabling them to see and understand their own experiences through her.


Different is good is Alice’s first book, soon to be joined by Helping a friend, in a series of heart-warming illustrated tales for children, featuring Alice and her real-life dinosaur friends. Lucy’s books are highly relevant to neuro-diverse children, exploring the emotions and feelings they may experience, and aiming to help kids understand why they may feel how they do via stories that every child can relate to. It also helps children to understand that it’s our differences that make us who we are – after all, different is good!
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No; it's Ozzy the Ornitholostes!

As well as offering children a relatable and engaging way to understand their own emotions and responses, the world that Alice and her dino friends inhabit is underpinned by some deep scientific research. Each of Lucy’s hand-drawn illustrations is based on the very latest paleontological research. From which dinosaurs had scales or feathers, to what their habitats looked like, and even what each species ate, Lucy has represented each dinosaur to accurately reflect our current understanding.

For a dinosaur-sized chunk of tips, education, fun and DINOSAURS, make sure you follow Alice's facebook page!

Alice’s facebook page is a must-follow, and offers some truly helpful posts covering a huge range of subjects. From educational and interesting news snippets, to 'Alice’s Aspie Tips,' regular posts created specially to provide neuro-diverse children with easy ways of understanding and dealing with social and life scenarios, and providing clear ways to cope and minimise stress and anxiety. And, of course, there are DINOSAURS! Head over to her page now, and follow Alice the Aspiesaurus to keep up-to-date with Alice’s latest news, tips on dealing with ASD, and plenty of fascinating and fun facts.

Above all, Alice’s world is colourful and fun for all kids, and a great way to stimulate interest in neuro-diversity and develop social awareness, and also in dinosaurs and natural history. 



SO, to introduce you all to Alice, and her dinosaur friends Bryony the Brachiosaurus, Caitlin the Camptosaurus, Ozzy the Ornitholostes, and Stella the Stegosaurus, we have teamed-up with Lucy to create FIVE FREE FANTASTIC FACT SHEETS! Each sheet reveals fascinating insights into a species of dinosaur, from when they live, to who they lived with – even what their footprints looked like!

You can download the fact sheets here: https://www.hubbleandhattie.com/kids/Alice-and-Friends.html


Delve into the dinosaur world of Alice the Aspiesaurus this World Book Day and use our STAYINANDREAD discount code to get 35% off and bag a bargain!

Different is good - Alice the Aspiesaurus

ONLY £6.99 plus P&P

Paperback • 18x23cm • 32 pages • 25 colour pictures

BUY NOW!


And don’t forget to Follow Alice for all the latest dino delights

Thursday, 11 February 2021

The aftermath of lockdown puppies – sadly, many are now for sale or have been returned to shelters as owners realise the full responsibility of dog ownership

During the first lockdown because of the pandemic in the spring of 2020, many people sought the companionship of a new puppy, thinking it the ideal time to welcome a dog whilst at home for weeks that became months.

However, sadly, in the midst of another long lockdown in early 2021, we are seeing the fallout from the sometimes hasty decision to acquire a puppy without considering the full responsibilities of what owning a dog really means, financially and in the time required.


                                                An example of a Staffie for sale on Gumtree

The media reports many sad cases of dogs and puppies (and cats, too) either being returned to shelters, abandoned, or advertised for sale on social media or selling sites such as Gumtree by irresponsible owners who have tired of the novelty of their adopted companion, who offered the opportunity to get out of the house for walks. 

Prices for puppies increased rapidly last year, and people were prepared to pay huge sums for an ‘instant’ companion. Many shelters also stopped or reduced adoption during lockdown, making puppies more desirable. The other downside of this was an increase in ‘dog-napping’ as unscrupulous thieves sought to make quick money through the theft of desirable dogs.

It’s heartbreaking to see still-young dogs being re-advertised for sale, just months after they have settled into their ‘forever’ home that turned out to be anything but ... 

Adoption from shelters is to be commended, and shows the requirement for full understanding of what welcoming a dog into the household really means: it isn’t a decision to be taken lightly. Dogs can live for 15 or more years, require ongoing vet appointments, daily walking, training, feeding and toys. 
We hope that all of the rejected dogs and puppies find the kind and understanding homes that they deserve, where they are not a commodity but a loved and loyal member of the family.




                                            Scooby was abandoned in December © Daily Mail


Thursday, 21 January 2021

First dogs (and first cat?) to return to The White House



Have you heard of DOTUS? It stands for ‘(first) dogs of the United States,’ and there will soon be two new canine residents in The White House. Of course, there are two important new human occupants, the dogs’ owners, President-in-waiting Joe Biden and First Lady Dr Jill Biden, who are due to move in from late January, and they will be accompanied by their pair of rescue German Shepherds, Champ and Major.

 

Champ and Major are the first four-legged occupants for four years, as Donald and Melania Trump did not have any pets. Such is the anticipation of these welcome new arrivals, that they already have their own Instagram account, first_dogs_usa, with 66.8k followers! Here’s a recent post featuring both of these very photogenic dogs:

 


 Copyright Instagram and first_dogs_usa

So what do we know about these new canine residents? Well, firstly, Champ is 12, and Major is two. Champ was adopted as a puppy from a shelter after Biden was elected vice-president in 2008. Younger Major was adopted from the Delaware Humane Association. Both are clearly very loved family members. Biden tweeted in October 2019, “It’s time we put a pet back in The White House,” no doubt knowing the power of winning round animal-lovers!


Copyright Instagram and first_dogs_usa

 Dr Jill Biden, pictured with Major and Champ on the dogs’ Instagram page.

  Interestingly, the first dogs may not be the only animal residents once the Bidens move in. Jill recently stated that she “loves having animals around the house,” and would “love to get a cat.” So we will watch with interest to see if there will be a new first cat (COFUS?), too!


Socks, pictured below, was the Clinton’s cat. Will there be a successor to follow in his feline footsteps? In the UK, we have Larry, the number 10 Downing Street cat, and Dilyn the Prime Minister’s rescue dog, who are no doubt hoping to see their US counterparts in position soon.

 


 Socks, the ‘first cat’ during the Clinton presidency in 1994

© ASSOCIATED PRESS / MARCY NIGHSWANDER


Larry and Dilyn, the current residents at no 10.