Thursday, April 23, 2015

Trouper, the Blind Raccoon Ambassador

My parents just returned from a trip to Florida.  While they were eating outside one day at Fisherman's Wharf, they noticed a baby carriage nearby.  They peeked in expecting to see... a baby...  OR maybe a little dog, since they've seen some little dogs in carriages before. Much to their surprise, it was a raccoon!  Luckily, my parents are friendly and like to talk to people. They started a conversation, learned about this special raccoon, and shared the story with me, which led to a fabulous day in my class!

Trouper is a very special raccoon. He is a survivor of animal cruelty- a real "trouper."  When he was eight weeks old, he was beaten by a golf club  and left for dead on a golf course in North Carolina. But God had other plans for this little raccoon!  Someone knew the perfect person to call, and this is how he came to be cared for by Miss Dot.  She has now been Trouper's "mom" for six years.  He is blind. He can't feed himself, smell, climb, use his hands, or defend himself, but that hasn't stopped him OR Dot! He CAN hear, eat when he is hand fed, walk, stand on his back legs, and feel with his feet,whiskers, and body.

Miss Dot even moved to Florida so that she would be able to keep and care for Trouper.  I would say SHE is quite a trouper!

Trouper is also now a service animal who  helps teach both adults and children how to care for and be kind to animals.

Miss Dot wanted others to know of and learn from Trouper's story.  She found the perfect person to share her story,  a wonderful author  named Kyle Miller.  Kyle  is writing a series of books about Trouper's life.
My mother bought this book for my class and found just the raccoon puppet to go along with it.
We had such a wonderful day learning with Trouper.  It was perfect for Earth Day, too!

After we read the book, we first talked about never, ever approaching a wild animal of any kind because that isn't safe.  Trouper is now a pet that lives with Miss Dot and a safe animal for people to touch. The book has a great lesson about being safe around wild animals and what to do if you see one.
Next, we shared questions that we wondered about Trouper and wanted to ask Miss Dot.  Each child wrote a note to Miss Dot thanking her for saving Trouper and asking a question (or two). 

Then, I found a fabulous site with guided drawing online called Art for Kids Hub. The video was just the right speed for the children to follow along, and they absolutely loved it.   The kids were really proud of themselves for following directions and drawing a great raccoon! Here it is if you'd like to try it with your class.  They have lots of different guided drawing videos.

You can also print out a paper copy for the children to draw, but the video was so much fun.
I found some great videos about Trouper on Youtube that I also shared with the class.  They loved them.  These videos are also at Trooper's website!

This one was great for showing how he listens and feels his way to where he wants to go.

We had to finish up with some "Fuzziest Home Videos"... 10 Funniest Raccoon Videos!  If you want to hear some serious LAUGHTER from five year olds, this will do the trick! (My favorite is the one where the raccoon takes handfuls of cat food from the cat and walks away with it.)

Teaching children to love, care for, and treat animals gently and kindly is so important.  Some children never hear that lesson.  Here is a poem that I found from May Days, Macmillan Seasonal Activity Packs, 1985. I just loved it.

.....................Little children, never give
.....................Pain to things that feel or live.
.....................Let the gentle robin find
.....................All the crumbs you leave behind.
.....................Feed your dog and let him run
.....................Bounce and play and bark in fun.
.....................Pet the kitten soft and small;
.....................She'll come to you when you call.
.....................Let the bunny hop and play
.....................On the lawn at close of day.
.....................Watch the chipmunk or the mouse
.....................Peep out of her little house.
.....................Let these creatures run along
.....................And do not do them any wrong.

I wrote a simple little poem and made a little freebie "Be Kind to Animals" paper (featuring Trouper) if you would like it.

Just click on the picture below!


I explained to the children that sometimes being kind to an animal means leaving it alone, and not going near it- like with wild animals- or even with your friends in line when I keep saying, "Keep your hands to yourself!" (But that's another lesson...)

Teaching children to be kind to animals is such an important lesson that many don't hear enough. We talk about being kind friends to each other a lot, but often don't transfer that lesson to animals.  

I shared this lesson with teachers at my school.  Feel free to share with your teacher friends. It's a great lesson for this time of year. It can be one lesson or expanded over a couple of days. Everything you need for the lesson is right here except the book, that you can purchase here if you'd like.  
If you would like more information about Trooper you can find it at  his very own website

Here are some other books that I love to use to expand this lesson:

I absolutely LOVE How to Heal a Broken Wing.  The illustrations and the message are just the sweetest. Look at these precious illustrations.  I love how he uses the illumination to highlight what he wants the reader to focus on in the picture.  

Here's more about it from Amazon:

"No one saw the bird fall."

In a city full of hurried people, only young Will notices the bird lying hurt on the ground. With the help of his sympathetic mother, he gently wraps the injured bird and takes it home. In classic Bob Graham style, the beauty is in the details: the careful ministrations with an eyedropper, the bedroom filled with animal memorabilia, the saving of the single feather as a good-luck charm for the bird's return to the sky. Wistful and uplifting, here is a tale of possibility — and of the souls who never doubt its power.

I found some sweet pictures to go with this lesson to share with you.  Our class made posters to hang up around the school that said , "Be Kind to Animals," in honor of Trouper and Miss Dot.

Here are some of the posters we hung up around the school.

Thank you to Miss Dot and to Kyle Miller for sharing his story with the world, so that everyone can be more aware of the importance of loving all animals. 


Sweet, sweet Miss Dot wrote a hand written letter back to each of my students.  They were THRILLED!  
First of all, they could not get past the raccoon footprints all over the envelope that meant that Trouper, himself, had seen their letters and helped get this package together.

They read and reread the letters, then shared them with their friends. 

Next, my sweet mother (who introduced us to Trouper in the first place) had a surprise for the kids! She had the restaurant down the street (Gigi's Place) make raccoon cookies!  They were a HUGE HIT!



  1. I just LOVE this! I think it would be great to do a whole unit on being kind to animals (as well as humans, come to think of it!)
    Thank you for sharing this! I'm posting it on my Facebook page on Sunday morning. I sure love your blog! I'm going to have to order this book.
    Do you know of any other books that teach being kind to animals?
    Heidi Butkus

    1. Hi Heidi! I love to use How to Heal a Broken Wing, by Bob Graham- and Tails are Not for Pulling by Elizabeth Verdick ( which is for younger children, but works well for a good conversation starter!). Thank you so much for writing! :)

  2. I wish I could put you in charge of ALL early education programs! Well done!


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