The Teddy Bear Clinic
Betty Erdman, Rogene Snyder, Karen Bohaboy, G.S. Reginald AKA “BAR”
Henry Doorly Zoo
The Teddy Bear Clinic is held in February around Valentine’s Day each year. I coordinate this event with the assistance of Rogene Snyder and Karen Bohaboy, as well as our mascot, G. S. Reginald.
G. S. Reginald, who I call “Bar”, has greeted our patients and owners for more than five years, but he has his own interesting story. He was rescued from the curb at a garage sale one day. He holds two positions: one as the Teddy Bear Clinic mascot for the children to sit with while their friends are in the clinic, and the other in his owner’s school classroom, where the students can sit with him and read or maybe nap. He is always there for them. He is definitely “one of us.”
The story of Henry Doorly Zoo’s Teddy Bear Clinic goes back approximately 10-12 years. I have been involved about nine years and have loved every year. Each year I have done this program, I have learned from it and improved it for the next year. During this time I have seen a steady growth each year. In 2001, the Teddy Bear Clinic issued “Certificates of Good Health” to 83 patients. The program will grow if it is repeated.
Weather does have a bearing on it, but it is something families can come to during the winter because it is an indoor activity. Our clinic is in the Wild Kingdom Pavilion and takes up one-third of the area and one classroom. Attendance has varied over the years. Since we are educating the public big and little kids we are allowed to include our four hour session towards our Educational Hours. This is just one of the many perks of HDZ.
Today the Teddy Bear, as we know it, is 98 years old and still going strong all over the world. In 1970, an American Teddy Bear fan began the “Good Bears of the World,” to give Teddy Bears to hospitalized children. This international group held annual meetings in Berne, Switzerland, a town it calls the Bear Town of the world. The giving of Teddy Bears to children is still going on today by various organizations, to comfort and reassure the children in whatever situation they find themselves.
Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States (1858-1919), was on a presidential hunting trip in 1902, but the party was unsuccessful in their pursuit of bears. His embarrassed hosts captured a tiny cub for Roosevelt to shoot. Teddy, the avid hunter, refused to kill the small animal. The Washington Star published a cartoon of the incident and a local toymaker sewed a stuffed bear similar to that in the cartoon. He sent the bear to Roosevelt, asking for permission to name it “Teddy.” Roosevelt offered no objections and the first Teddy Bears appeared on store shelves in 1903. That small toymaker eventually became the giant Ideal Toy Corporation.
Bears have been mascots for various events. In the 1980 Summer Olympic Games in Moscow, Russia, the mascot was a bear named Mishka. In the 1956 games the unofficial mascot was the Australian’s koala, Billy Bluegum. Bears serve as mascots for sporting teams: Chicago Bears, Baylor Bears, Vancouver Grizzlies, University of Maine Black Bears and California’s Golden Bears, to name a few.
Our Marketing Department does a fabulous job in getting the Teddy Bear Clinic out to the public. They send worksheets to all television stations and it has been heard on some radio stations. All three local TV stations and one local cable station covered the clinic this year. They took numerous shots of the visitors and the docent attendees at their various stations. The Surgical and Recovery areas were very popular.
I had the pleasure of being interviewed this year with the permission of the Education Staff, thus having a spot on TV along with their coverage of the clinic. One thing we keep in mind at HDZ is the rule that if the media wants to talk to you, first give them your name and what you are doing. All other information must be answered by the staff. Surely you can understand this is merely an ethical position the Zoo has for proper and correct information that would be aired. At the beginning of your “clinic day” be sure you advise your crews of this, to be sure they are all aware of it. This is usually just a reminder thing.
The Teddy Bear Clinic
At the Henry Doorly Zoo, about sixty days before the actual date of the clinic, I pass out a sign-up sheet at our monthly docent meeting and announce the upcoming date. This is such a popular fun day, the sheet is usually over half filled by the end of the meeting. The sheet is then posted on the bulletin board in our docent meeting room. When completed, I take it down and get prepared for the clinic. A copy of the sign-up sheet is available in the handout.
The date of the clinic is set by the Education Office when they prepare the yearly calendar. The Coordinator of the Teddy Bear Clinic is then advised of the date and the time.
To start up, the following items need to be on hand, so that we are prepared for whatever situation we find ourselves in to take care of our patients. This list of supplies, most of which are donated, are used in our clinic:
various fabrics * fake fur material * buttons * lace * bows * grogain ribbon * red ribbon * red felt *
permanent markers to touch up eyes, noses (blue, black, red, brown) * fabric paint * glue gun * seam ripper* stuffing and a funnel for stuffing * iron and table ironing board * hair dryers * extension cords * hair spray to remove sticky residue * 409 or concentrated cleaner * emery boards * masking tape * needles * threads * thimbles * individual sewing kits (sewers bring their own)
Also needed is a scale to weigh the animals and a measuring tape to size them. Over the years we have collected about eight large plastic tubs of material to work with that day. At least one month before the clinic, we take an inventory of our supplies to see what might be needed for that year.
Depending upon the number of volunteers, you can spread the time slots several ways. This year we used a split shift idea so everyone could take part in several areas besides the one they signed up for. However, some may prefer the whole day at one spot, specifically the surgery room that is one very important area to have staffed all day. If slides are available from previous years, they can be placed in a carousel at the beginning of the Admission Table or in the waiting area. We have found that people like to see what is being done behind the scenes.
In organizing a program of this nature, be sure your coordinator is a lead person all volunteers can turn to for direction. You have no idea of what talent you have in the group until you undertake a program like this. Get your people involved, what one doesn’t think of someone else will.
One new thing this year was an attendance sheet so we knew how many attended . It shows the visitors name and animal brought in. This is passed down with the Certificate of Health when the animal is weighed and measured before going to surgery. A copy of this is also in the handout.
At HDZ our fun day goes as follows: The set-up crew arrives about 1½ hours before the opening time to put up the direction signs, banners and overheads (i.e., Admission, Surgery, Recovery Room, etc.), in the space designated for the clinic. Supplies which have been brought out of storage are checked to be sure everything is available to proceed with the clinic. Also the volunteer sign-up sheet is double-checked to be sure everyone is working at a given station. When space is available, a place for crafts or other activities for the children is an added feature.
At this point, work tables are set in place and decorated as necessary with the supplies for each section at hand. The first work place is the Admissions area where the patients are admitted for their checkup. A Certificate of Health is completed and passed on with the animal to the attendance clerk who makes a record of same before the animal is measured and weighed. From there, the runner takes the animal to Surgery along with the Certificate of Health telling the surgeons what is wrong so they can compete the surgery, etc., as needed. Once this is done, they pass the patient on to be cleaned, brushed up and given a heart necklace, a ribbon/bow and sent to Recovery. Here the patient is tenderly wrapped in a receiving blanket to wait for the owner to claim.
We keep the blankets but the expression on the children’s faces is our reward beyond any comprehension. The comments received from the parents is another reward the compliments are awesome!
I might add here that I don’t know who has more fun in any given area, but we sure hear a lot of laughing, oohs and aahs in Surgery. It is amazing that what goes into Surgery is one thing, but what comes out to Recovery is unbelievable. This is quite visible on the owner’s faces when they claim their animal and receive the Certificate of Health signed by one of our veterinarians to take home with them. A copy of the Certificate is in the handout.
After all of this activity in our time period, it is time to close down and put away for another year. All banners, signs, etc. are retrieved and packed away with all other supplies and put in the marked tubs for the inventory next year, enabling us to easily see what needs to be replaced. After everything is down and packed away in storage, we take time to clean the work space and leave it the same way we found it, so no one has to clean up after us.
I find it useful to ask my crew for an evaluation of the day regarding new ideas or suggestions for the next clinic.
If you don’t have a program of this nature and would like one, I suggest you start with your Education Office. This script is intended to give you an outline to follow. Once your program is approved, you can proceed in many ways. I have put together a handout containing a number of tools you can use as a guide for any new or existing program you may have. I am willing to share this with you. A copy of the handout will be mailed to you by contacting the Henry Doorly Zoo with your request.