September 2018 Champion

Teaching people to make healthy choices

Dr. Wendy Ring and Climate 911 are using puppets and stories to promote the message that education about the path to a healthy future is important for mitigating the health threats posed by climate change.

Among the most popular “teachers” are Flash and Diego.  These furry stars of the puppet show Dogs to the Rescue make people laugh as they train their humans to take walks, eat their veggies, and breathe clean air.

Dogs to the Rescue has been to parks, libraries, schools, fairs and farmers markets in 8 states.  This summer Dr. Ring and her puppets toured Maine and upstate New York.

Listen to a 30-minute public radio show about electric school buses from a series Dr. Wendy Ring produces called Cool Solutions

Doctors bring puppet show to Topsham Fair

(Article originally posted in: The Cryer, Maine)

A group of physicians turned puppeteers bring a comic show to the Topsham Fair Saturday about dogs who train people to make healthy choices. Dogs to the Rescue will delight families while educating kids and adults about climate solutions that are good for people and the planet.

Pedaling Physicians and their Puppets Help Families Learn About Climate Safety and Solutions

TOPSHAM, ME   AUGUST 6, 2018  –    Doctors concerned about rising rates of tick-borne illness are introducing kids to giant ticks. Tick puppets, that is. They’re part of the cast of Dogs to the Rescue, a puppet show about climate solutions at Topsham Fair Saturday, July 11 at 12:30 pm.  The show is visiting farmers markets, libraries, and fairs throughout the state.

The doctors hope Dogs to the Rescue will increase tick awareness, but their puppet show is less about climate problems and more about solutions. The main stars of the show are two dogs who use their canine wiles to train humans to make healthy choices for themselves and the planet. The doctors are setting an example by riding bicycles from town to town.

The dogs’ rescue techniques are comic but effective. “Even though we’re supposed to be training them, dogs are quite good at getting us to do what they want,” says Dr. Wendy Ring, the show’s creator. “I just imagined how they could use a repertoire of ordinary dog behaviors to get the message across. It’s a fun way to share all the things we can do locally to lower greenhouse gas emissions and build healthier communities.”  Ring says “After we do shows at schools, we ask the kids what to do about climate change, and they list the solutions right off.”

Health professionals have been outspoken about the need for faster climate action. “We have two big reasons to care about this issue,” says Dr. Rob Byron, internist, and puppeteer. “First, we are already seeing patients with conditions caused or worsened by climate change. Tick-borne diseases are just one example. Second, the things we need for a healthy planet, we also need healthy people: clean air, healthy food, and active lifestyles.”

The doctors chose puppets to bring this message to young families. “Healthy habits should start early,” adds Lori Byron, pediatrician and troupe member. “And parents want to know what they can do about climate change because their kids will have to live in a warming world.” The show is family friendly and appropriate for kids 3 years and up, but the puppeteers say, everyone, from toddlers to seniors, seems to have a good time. All performances are free of charge.

The doctors are part of Climate 911, a national network of health professionals who advocate for healthy climate solutions. Aside from wielding puppets, they have given hundreds of serious presentations on this topic to civic groups, colleagues, and politicians; and are active in a number of health professional groups advocating for climate action. The largest of these, the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health represents 400,000 US physicians.

The doctors suggest one simple thing Maine parents can do right now: ask their school districts to apply for funds for electric school buses. Many children now ride old diesel buses, which leak pollution into the cabin as well as the atmosphere. Maine is getting $21 million from the VW settlement which can be used to help schools retire these old diesel buses and replace them with electric ones, but school districts must apply or the money may be spent elsewhere.  The older more polluting diesel buses last as long as 20 years, so present and future students will be exposed to toxic diesel fumes if districts miss this opportunity to retire them.

Dogs to the Rescue is touring eastern Maine August 1-18, with shows from Wells to Machias. To find a show near you, see video of the puppets, or learn more about climate and health go to:


Kids in a Portland city park powering the puppet show sound system with pedal generators


Learn more here: Climate 911